Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
For many people, Christmas has arrived. However, here we are in the season of Advent, of the anticipation and preparation for the Christ Child. According to custom, we have here figurines of Joseph and Mary, but the Baby Jesus has not arrived. Of course, the Savior has already arrived since two thousand years ago, but this season we remember the anticipation of Old Testament believers. They had the promise of the Savior, but they did not know Him by name. How do we prepare for the first coming of the Lord?
The prophets of the Old Testament called the people Israel to repentance before the day of the Lord. The last of these prophets was John the Baptist. John, the cousin of Jesus Christ, was born six months before the Lord and began his public ministry before the ministry of Jesus. In fact, Jesus began His public ministry with His baptism by John in the Jordan River.
Therefore, our text for today. "The word of God came to John, son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. And he went all over the land around the Jordan preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. "
The Jews practiced baptism for specific sins, as a rite of purification. In this way they expressed their repentance to receive forgiveness for specific acts. John called all the people to be baptized in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, the Promised One of Israel. They had to repent not only of specific sins, but for all their selfishness, their rebellious attitude and their lack of faith. That's why the Pharisees did not like John. They thought that they did not need to repent because they are pious and religious men.
There was also a difference between the baptism of John and that of Jesus Christ. Some people asked John, Are you the Christ? And John answered them, I am not the Christ. I baptize only with water, but He who comes with water and fire. What does that mean but water and the Holy Spirit? The Spirit was not present in the baptism of John, nor was the Word of forgiveness. His baptism was only a rite of repentance before He who was to come. He came when Jesus appeared to be baptized by John. John told him, "I am not worthy to baptize you," also, "This is the Man, the Lamb of God."
John prepared the people for the coming of Jesus. Thus our text says: "As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah that say: The voice of him that cries out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; Straighten your paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be lowered; and the crooked will be straightened, and the rough roads will be leveled; and all flesh will see the salvation of God. "
Jesus had no sin and did not need to repent. It did not matter, He was baptized by John to show the pattern of our baptism. All the persons of the Most Holy Trinity were present at the baptism of Jesus: Almighty God the Father in the voice from heaven; the Son in the person of Jesus; the Holy Spirit in the visible form of a dove. So it is in the baptism of each one of us, minus the visible manifestations of the Trinity. But, all three are present when we baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
With the baptism of Jesus, John turned over his ministry to Jesus. Later, John was imprisoned and killed by King Herod. Before his death, John sent his last disciples to Jesus. In His ministry, then, Jesus proclaimed his death and resurrection. This is the good news for us, that in Christ Jesus we have the promise of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
But, before receiving the gospel, the Holy Spirit has to touch our hearts and call us to repentance. We preach the Law of God before the gospel, because the work of the Holy Spirit is first to call us to repentance. After repentance, we are ready to receive the gospel, the good news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist symbolizes the Law, the will of God for us to live as His children. The summary of the Law is to love God first and our neighbor as ourselves. It's simple, but it's not easy for us. Therefore, we need a Savior.
Jesus was born for this purpose: Live a perfect life, according to the Law of God, but in the end to suffer the punishment of our sins. He also came to overcome the devil, sin and death in his resurrection. We anticipate all this in the season of Advent, also in the Christmas season.
In the anticipation of Christmas, we have joy. But this season we focus on reflection and repentance. Every Sunday we confess our sins to receive absolution. We believe in the need for confession and absolution, less the enumeration of all specific sins.
This season is a special season to reflect on our lives, because repentance is a change of mind, it is not a show of mercy. The gift of eternal life is the most precious gift. In this gift and that of faith through the work of the Holy Spirit, we have hope and peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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