Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are three-in-one.
For today’s sermon we go back to the very beginning of time. God had created the heavens and the earth. The darkness had been separated from the light, the land had been separated from the water, vegetation had begun to sprout, sea creatures had filled the waters, birds had filled the air and living creatures had inhabited the land. Yet God wasn’t finished. His greatest earthly creation was yet to come.
Now was the time for mankind. A creature created after God’s own image. Both man and woman together to rule all of God’s creation. This last creation was His most treasured and His love for them would have no limits. Everything was perfect.
But pure love is not love if there is no choice. To have no choice would be akin to being mindless. True love has to be given through a conscious decision or it is no love at all. So, God gave His most treasured possession a reasoning mind and the ability to have the choice between good and evil.
To His great dismay, man decided to go against the will and guidance of God so that he himself could be his own God. Man chose to know that of which he had been strictly warned not to tamper with. He no longer wanted to be ruled by God, he wanted to have the knowledge of God.
So, out of love, God let them make this decision, one they would soon come to regret. Now that they had chosen to know the difference between good and evil, they had no other choice but to experience good and evil. They would have to make this choice, over and over again, for the rest of their time on earth. Sin and evil would be a constant reminder of their mistake. Grief and pain would now be a part of their everyday lives as they learned that which they wished to learn.
God grieved as He watched His most prized possession make the wrong choice over and over again, yet His love for them would never lessen even as He watched them go to other gods for relief. Because He loved His creation so much, from the beginning of time, He had an escape plan. One day, after so many hard lessons had been learned, a Savior would come.
Now, because evil was so powerful in the earth, the people expected this coming Messiah to come with vengeance and with fire. They expected this King of kings to rule with an iron fist to vanquish all of Israel’s evil enemies. After all, this is all they knew, that to overcome you must be the stronger one, the more violent one.
Even the Savior’s own cousin expected this. It was He who introduced the coming Messiah saying He would cut down every tree that did not bear fruit. One mightier was coming with winnowing fork in hand to clear the threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn, but burning the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Yet, the Messiah that came was anything but the angry and vengeful person the people expected. This Messiah was gentle and loving. His message was to love your enemies, not to hate them. His requirement was to think of others before yourself. Where was the vengeful heart? Where was the mighty victor?
This could have been what John was wondering about as he labor in prison. It seemed all that he had expected wasn’t happening. No King David look alike to overcome the enemy. No angry soul whipping up a frenzy of righteous retribution. Just a man preaching love for all mankind. How could evil be overcome if not by force?
So, in his confusion he sends his own disciples to ask Him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” In answering, Jesus stays true to His message. Instead of telling them He had not yet begun to fight he tells them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have Good News preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
He wanted John to know that he wasn’t overcoming evil with anger but with love because only love can triumph over hate. He was fulfilling prophecy just as expected but in a way that wasn’t. Adoration would win the war, not hatred. New life would be given. A path to heaven would be laid out for all who believe, even to those who were once their enemies.
Jesus wasn’t born to overcome hate with hate. He came to conquer evil with good. This person born so humbly in Bethlehem was here for all mankind, not just a chosen few. He would come to fulfill the law not to rule by it. The Savior had come with only tenderness in His heart.
Christmas is just around the corner and we are already being reminded of the fulfillment of God’s greatest promise to send a Savior. And as we are reminded we are given the same choice Adam and Eve were given. It’s also the same choice that John was forced to make. Will you live with doubt, or will you be like the shepherds looking to find the Christ child? Will you choose to win your battles like Jesus Christ with love, or will you be convinced that anger and vengeance are your only choices.
Just as our forefathers, we are given a choice to fully trust in God or to try to be our own God’s. Will we live in darkness or in light?
Years ago a little girl was spending the night at her grandmother’s house. Grandma put the 5 year old to bed, but it didn’t take long before Grandma heard her name being called. Investigating, grandma was asked: “will you turn on a light? I’m afraid of the dark.” Turning on the light, grandma replied, “Honey, you don’t sleep with the light on at your house. You sleep in the dark there.” The little girl replied, “but grandma, that’s my darkness.”
Unfortunately, we have become too comfortable in our own darkness. Our choices have been faulty just as all people before us. Yet Christ continues to love us still, His patience never ending. As our Savior He emulated His Father by separating the dark from the light. He wanted us to see clearly that love, and only love, can rule the day.
Because of the choices that have been made, our faith can no longer be a comfortable faith. No more can we all live in harmony with each other because too many are still searching for their own answers just like Adam and Eve.
So, just like John we have been called to usher the Christ into those hearts that only have darkness. Just like John we have been called to lay down our lives to the one who gives light. Because only light can penetrate the darkness. The Holy Spirit brings the light of the Father’s love into every willing heart, the joy which comes from sins forgiven.
On Christmas Day, our heavenly Father gave us the gift of a Savior and, as our Savior, Jesus allowed us to see our God who, until His birth, could not be seen. All the fullness of God dwelt in the one who was born to save us from the bad decisions of our past. All the deity of God dwelt within Mary’s child so that, one day, he could bring back all people from darkness. By His death and resurrection, the greatest promise would be realized.
There are many who still look to be their own god, who feel that their decisions will always prevail over evil. Knowing full well that this could never be done, the Son of God was sent to be the Savior that had been pledged since the dawn of sin entering our world. He would come to save even those who, as yet, would deny Him.
This baby born so humbly and killed so cruelly, has come for you too. His invitation to you is the same as it is for all mankind who have been created in His image. Look unto me. Follow me. Trust in me and I will bring you back to where you belong. Savior we come to you now. Amen.