A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on December 16, 2007 by Pastor Dale Raether What Do You Expect for ChristmasMatthew 11:2-11Even as a kid I always thought the time before Christmas was more fun than Christmas Day itself. Before Christmas a kid looks forward to the tree getting put up, to Grandma’s cookies, to parties, and especially to presents. On Christmas Day, however, all the anticipation is over for another year, and what’s left is the joy of Christmas itself. Now, how much joy that is will vary, depending on what we were hoping for. For example if you’re a kid and you were hoping for this really cool game, and you get it, Christmas Day will be great, because you’ll finally get to play it, as long as your parents don’t stand around too long after church. Still, even you kids already know this – after a while you’ll get tired of that game, and then you’ll be hoping for something new again. When it comes to earthly things, that’s the way it is for adults too. It’s fun having things. Yet what’s really important to us is not those things, but it’s our family and our health and having inner peace and contentment. However, here’s where we might start thinking like kids again. At Christmas we look forward to being with family. Or, we look forward to the New Year being better than the old year. And if things seem like they’re falling into place, we might say, “I’m having a great Christmas.” Or if not, we might say, “I hope next Christmas will be better.” If the events of our text were happening around Christmas time, John the Baptist would be saying, “I’m having a lousy Christmas.” God had especially called him to urge people to turn from their sins. Somewhere along the line, John also urged King Herod to repent. But Herod didn’t like it, and so he had John put into prison, and there he sat. This was NOT how John expected his life to go. Anyway, while in prison he heard some of what Jesus was doing. And so, he may have wondered, “Why isn’t Jesus getting me get out of here? Is He even really the Savior? What about us? Are we getting what we expect from Jesus? A clue to that answer is how we feel about Christmas after all the anticipation is over. If on Christmas Day we have a quiet, deep joy in our heart, we have expected and we have received what Christmas is truly all about. On the other hand, if on Christmas Day we feel empty inside, because now it’s over and we got this mess to clean up, we might be expecting the wrong things. So, on the basis of our text this morning, let’s explore this – What Do We Expect for Christmas? 1. From Jesus. 2. From His Word. We read, “When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”The Book of Matthew was first written for Old Testament believers to show them that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies. This was important, because if we had lived then, how could we know for sure Jesus really was promised Savior? Granted, He performed lots of miracles, and so that was one clue. On the other hand, when Moses stood in front of Pharaoh, he turned his staff into a snake, but so did the Egyptian priests by the power of Satan. So, how could the people in Jesus’ day be sure he too wasn’t performing miracles by the power of the devil in order to deceive them? And actually that was what the religious leaders then were telling everyone. However, Jesus’ miracles weren’t the only evidence that He is who He said He is. Over the centuries God gave hundreds of prophecies about the Savior. And so, when John asked Jesus through His disciples, “Are you the one?”, Jesus answered by pointing to some of the prophecies of what the Savior would do, which He in fact was doing. There’s also something very comforting in Jesus’ answer. According to the Old Testament ceremonial laws, people who were blind, lame, had leprosy, or had touched a dead person, could NOT enter the temple and could not worship there. The American Civil Liberties Union would probably have had problem with that. But what God was teaching His people in a symbolic way was that to be in His presence, or to have His joy and peace in one’s heart, a person has to be holy – no exceptions and no stain of sin on him. But now by healing the physical ailments of being blind, lame, leprous, or dead, Jesus was demonstrating that He is God, and that He, the Temple of God, had come to man in order to make all men holy in His sight and to wash away everyone’s sins. So, then, what can we expect from Jesus for Christmas? We can expect to receive righteousness from God Himself, which He credits through faith to all who believe. We can also expect that in our life here and on the day we die, God will remember our sins no more. As a result, in some ways, God might not make our life better, just like He didn’t make John’s earthly life better. Nevertheless God will bless us. He will strengthen us. And when we have completed our time of service, He will give us the eternal inheritance, which He has prepared for us, since before the creation of the world. That’s what we can expect from Jesus for Christmas. Sometimes before Christmas children might snoop around the house looking for where their parents hid their presents. If they find them, isn’t it that the parents have to take all the presents back to the store? Well, God WANTS us to snoop around in His Word to catch glimpses of His spiritual and eternal presents for us. Also, each time we find another one, rather than that spoiling our surprise, may it increase our joyful anticipation! However, there’s a danger, that after we’ve been a Christian for a long while, God’s spiritual and eternal presents will seem less and less exciting to us. Instead we may get more excited over something that comes in a Best Buy box. Why does this change happen, and will happen in us? Jesus answers that in our text. “As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces.”’ When John the Baptist first came on the scene, wow, was he popular. Everyone wanted to see and hear him. Now, what attracted people to John was that he was NOT politically correct. He told it like it was. Also John was not a hypocrite. He really lived what He preached, and that was so refreshing compared to the politicians and religious leaders of his day. Reading on in our text, “Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: "'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'” By telling it like it is and proclaiming God’s Law, John did prepare peoples’ hearts for Jesus’ Good News. However, now that Jesus was among them and John was in prison, the people had the idea that it was time to move on from John. However, they still needed John’s message, and so do we. Here’s what I mean. God does expect us to be holy. Jesus did live a holy life for us and suffered death in our place. But if we ever get a “been there, done that, heard that before” attitude, that’s very dangerous for our soul. For one thing, it won’t seem like that big of a deal to us, if we give into little sins, except sin always progresses, it always gets worse. Another problem is then true Christmas joy will decrease, more and more we’ll look to earthly things for our joy, and ultimately be disappointed in Jesus, if He doesn’t give us what we want. Still another problem with getting that “been there, done that, heard that before” attitude is our joy and excitement in worship and Bible Class will decrease, and then we’ll stop coming as often, which will hasten our spiritual spiral downward. But here’s the prevention of that and how we can be truly ready for Christmas. Live your faith each day, instead of letting your faith just be about something that happened 2000 years ago. For example when you sin, ask yourself, “Does that sin cause God to be angry with me?” The answer is “Yes.” Isaiah writes, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” But someone might argue, “That’s from the Old Testament.” That passage doesn’t apply to us anymore. Well then here’s a New Testament passage. Peter writes, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Did you catch how serious God is about husbands obeying the 6th Commandment and loving their wives? God’s anger at each of our sins is real, and it’s today. However do not despair, because God’s forgiveness in Christ is also real and it’s today. Through me, your pastor, He announces forgiveness to you, when you confessed your sins. And in a little bit He will announce forgiveness to you again when you receive the Lord’s Supper. When we live our faith in the present, and not let it just be facts from an old book, we will want what we can expect for Christmas. Jesus will give us righteousness and forgiveness and the gift of Himself to live in our heart. And then no matter what our earthly lot might be, whether it’s like Job’s was, when his faith was being tested, or whether it’s like Job’s was after he was tested, we will have deep, inner joy on Christmas. Furthermore this deep inner joy will last through out the year and will also show in everything we say and do. As a result, we’ll become even better at pointing others to Jesus than was John the Baptist. We read, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” “The least in the Kingdom of God” are all, who have a mustard seed size, child like faith. That’s describing us when we take God’s Law to heart each day and try to be as truthful and dedicated to God as John the Baptist was. And then whenever we realize we haven’t been, don’t despise God’s Law and tell yourself it doesn’t apply anymore. Instead look to God’s Christmas present. Open God’s Christmas present. Believe that Jesus came for your sake to bring you to God and then cherish God’s Christmas present in your heart. Amen.

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