Pastor McCarty's Sunday Sermon
Christ Lutheran Church, Staunton, VA
December 6, 2015 Luke 3: 1-6
2nd Sunday of Advent
Tags: Luke 3
The world is messy, you understand that reality. In the midst of this messy world, God has provided this worship service to remind you of his affection for you. I will return to that point.
First, I encourage you during this advent season to sit down and read the gospel of Luke from beginning to end. You probably can read it in two to three hours.
You know the best way to start studying the Bible?
This is a joke by the way. I tell you that so that when I give you the punch line you know you have permission to laugh.
My younger son brought home from school a random acts of kindness calendar for the month of December. Wednesday was “Tell a person a joke and make them laugh.” So we sat around the table for breakfast Wednesday morning and told a bunch of light bulb jokes. (How many charismatic pentecostal missionary children does it take to change a light bulb?) I will save those for Epiphany.
This joke is appropriate for today. What is the best way to start studying the Bible?
You Luke into it? You (Look) into it?
So again (anyhow, I will work on my delivery) I encourage you to break open your Bible during your preparations for Christmas and read the Gospel of Luke in the next two weeks. As you read the Gospel of Luke, you will get this sense that even as God works in the world, something bigger is about to happen.
God is at work setting something up and building anticipation.
The first chapter of Luke begins with the Angel Gabriel appearing in the temple to Zechariah and telling Zechariah that his and Elizabeth's prayers have been answered and they will have a son, who they will name John, and John will be great in the sight of the Lord. And then next Gabriel goes to Mary and calls her blessed by God, and she to will conceive a child. Then the pregnant Mary and the very pregnant Elizabeth get together and the child in Elizabeth leaps at the arrival of the mother of our Lord. And Chapter 1 of Luke ends with the birth of John and Zechariah's song of praise that we read in the place of our Psalm this morning.
A lot happens in Chapter 1 of Luke, 80 verses, 4 different scenes, three ordinary people that God chooses to work through—Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah. One extraordinary person, John the Baptist who leaps in the womb upon the arrival of Mary. And even this extraordinary prophet, pales in comparison to the one who is to come. A lot happens in Chapter 1 of Luke, but we have this anticipation that something even bigger is about to happen.
This brings us to Chapter 3, the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry. Chapter 3 begins with a litany of names of almost extraordinary people, almost extraordinary except for the fact that they behave in less than ordinary ways. And behaving in less than ordinary ways, they have made a bit of a mess of the world in which this story takes place. Almost like the start of a joke: an emperor and four governors were lost in the dessert. Or a father and a son went to church one day. (Annas and Caiaphas, the two high priests were father and son in-law. The story is that Annas was forced into retirement by Tiberius.) If this is the start of a joke, it is the start of a bad joke. The Emperor of Rome, the Governors, the high priest of the temple and the former high priest had the power and position to do something incredible. They had power to save lives. Instead the word of God comes to John in the wilderness, in the middle of nowhere and that gives start to something incredible. His words and the prophet's Isaiah words prepare the world to receive the Messiah.
And you and I know if the word of God is active in someone, something great is about to happen. When I set up the joke at the beginning of the message, you may have had this sensation, anticipation, that you were going to be either mildly disappointed or somewhat amused. When God sets things up, when you see God active, when God is active in someone and you know something great is about to happen, we call that hope. The hope of God acts as a powerful force in the world.
The world even two thousand years after Tiberius, Pilate, Herod, Philip, Annas, and Caiaphas, (the world) is still messy. We can no longer blame that on them anymore. We find ourselves waiting for the next explosion or gunshots or frightening medical diagnosis. In this world God acts for good. His word is on the lips and in the hearts of thousands and millions of men and women. They gather for worship because they know God cares, and we refuse to live in a messy world without hope. This worship is a reminder that hope is for you as well. His holiness, his affection is for you. The coming Savior is for you. With everything going on in the world, be reassured that God is there sharing his love and offering his hope. And yet still, God is here with his hope and his affection for you today and always.