Sermon for Rorate Coeli, the Fourth Sunday in Advent, AD 2020

John 1:19-28; Deuteronomy 18:15-19

God sent a man named John to bear witness about Jesus. He was not Jesus, but he came to bear witness about Jesus. God sent John into the wilderness to preach and to baptize. John preached, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” Many came to John. They repented of their sins and were baptized. John gained a following. He preached and baptized. He did not waver in his mission.
           
The leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem sent men to investigate John. The Levites and priests were the experts on religious rituals. They were the leaders of the nation and representatives of the people. After 400 years of silence from the prophets, perhaps John was legitimate. Even better, maybe John was the Christ, the Messiah who had been promised to establish his kingdom. The Levites and priests would need to question John, and maybe anoint him king if needed.  
           
God sent a man named Samuel centuries before to anoint other kings. He anointed the tall, handsome Saul as king when Saul was searching for runaway donkeys for his father. Samuel anointed small, unremarkable David as king when he was called back from shepherding in the fields. With the first two anointed kings of Israel, the first Messiahs, found in such strange places, certainly it would not be odd for God to send his new Christ as a preacher in the desert.
           
God sent a man, a preacher in the desert, to confess he was not the Christ. He made the good confession to the Levites and priests. John was not the Christ. This is the confession of all Christians. You are not the Christ. You are not the world’s savior. You are not the center of your life. Do not let yourself get in the way. Repent of selfishness, of seeking the best for yourself first. Like John, turn down the accolades of the world, and make a good confession. “I am not the Christ, and everything in my life should show who the Christ truly is.”
           
God sent a man named Elijah, a great prophet, to convict God’s people of their sin. They had turned to serving themselves and serving other gods instead of the one true God. They would worship in the temple one day and sacrifice their children to a false god to help their harvest the next. In a nation of double-minded people who thought they were fine with God, Elijah stood out as a preacher calling them to repentance. He was persecuted for it, chased down, hunted. The king and his followers made sure Elijah lived badly so they could live comfortably. God preserved Elijah, and he never died, but was carried to heaven in a chariot of fire. Many thought Elijah would return.
           
God sent a man, John, who was not Elijah, but also called people to repentance. Greater than Elijah who raised the dead, called fire down from heaven, and outran a chariot, John prepared the way of the Lord. John was to be the forerunner of God himself, coming to us. While Elijah preached to Israel to repent so they would not be destroyed by other nations, John preached to repent so that they could be ready for the coming of their gracious savior, a man right then in their midst.
           
God sent a man named Moses to save His people from slavery in Egypt. With a mighty arm, God used Moses to deliver his people from the mightiest empire in the world and bring them to the promised land. Even more, God came to Moses on a mountain, and gave him the law which His people were to follow. Yet God on the mountain in the midst of the people was a terrifying thing. As God thundered His law, the mountain thundered and shook and the people quaked with fear. Later Moses would promise another prophet would come, The Prophet. He would speak everything God commanded, but he would not speak with great fire and thunder. He would be one of them, from their own people.
           
God sent a man named John, who was not this prophet, but who came to point out the Prophet. The frustrated Levites and priests get tired of John’s answers. They have important men to report back to. They are tired of John’s games and need to know the purpose of John’s ministry. Why is he baptizing? Note John’s answer – he doesn’t say for forgiveness of sins, for repentance, for purification. Having baptized Jesus already, John knows why he was baptizing. To identify Jesus. To point out the Prophet, the new Elijah, the Christ. All of John’s work came down to the point where he poured the water on the man Jesus to fulfil all righteousness. Thus John completed what the Father sent him to do.
           
God sent an angel named Gabriel to the virgin Mary, to tell her that from her would be born a son. He would be named Jesus, God saves, because He is the one who would save his people from their sins. He would be called the Christ, because He would be rule over heaven and earth. He would be named Emmanuel, God with us, because He would be God not booming from a fiery mountain but walking among His people.
           
God sent His Son to become man. He was born of lowly means and laid in a manger. He was raised by his parents without any publicity or notoriety. He came with the crowds to hear the voice crying out in the wilderness “Make straight the way of the LORD!” He was baptized by John, and the Spirit descended on Jesus as a dove, and John knew and confessed that Jesus was the Son of God.
           
God sent a man named John to make straight the way, but God sent a man named Jesus to be the Way.

Only Jesus, God and man, could fulfill all the laws God had given in great thunder and power to Moses on that mountain. Every other man would sin, every other man turns away to himself, to his other gods, to fortify his own comfort. Jesus would follow God’s Word perfectly. Only Jesus would appear on the mountain of Transfiguration with Moses and Elijah on his right and left, testifying to his divinity. Only Jesus, God and man, could be the Prophet who speaks every Word of God, who was testified by the voice of John the Baptist. Only Jesus, God and Man, could die for our sins as a man, and take all of God’s punishment for our guilt. Only Jesus, God and man, could rise from the dead three days later.

God sent His Son to become man, suffer, die, and rise again. God sent a man to rule over heaven and earth. God sends His Holy Spirit to give us Jesus Christ, the God-man, and all his gifts. Hear the testimony of John. He is not the Christ. You are not the Christ. Jesus is the Christ. Show through your life that you believe that Jesus is the one who rules heaven and earth. Depart from sin.

God sent His Son as a man among us who knows our temptations and sufferings. He suffered too. If sin oppresses you, if you cannot get rid of it, cast it on the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Pray for forgiveness. This makes straight the way for Jesus to come and do what He was sent to do – forgive, make us new, and give us life everlasting. God is with us no longer as thundering from a mountain, but as one from among us, a man.

God sent a man here to preach and tell you this. God wants you to know. He wants you to know that in Christ he has forgiven every sin and wants to forgive you. Just as surely as Christmas comes every year, and we remember when the Father sent His Son as baby, He also wants to send His Son to you in Word and Sacrament. John prepared the Way, Jesus is the Way, and to be a disciple of the Way is to believe and follow Jesus. Clinging to Jesus, we shall not waver in our confession – You are not the Christ. Jesus is the Christ, and He is your Savior. Amen.

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