Advent 2 – December 8, 2019
Matthew 3:8 – “Repentance!”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
How is your Christmas shopping going? Now is the time to get those presents bought or made before the stores get really busy and you run out of time to go shopping. Have you done shopping on Christmas Eve before? It’s not really fun; especially when you want to get just the right gift for the right person.
A husband who buys his wife a new power drill for Christmas usually doesn’t get the greatest response. Or a wife who buys her husband a new sweater he will never wear but she wishes he would. When you think about a gift selflessly, you give a gift that has thought put into it for the other person and you know they will use and enjoy it.
We’ve been talking about gifts that you wrap up and put under the tree; but what about gifts that cannot be wrapped up because they are gifts of service? The kind of gift that’s written on a little card which says “this card entitles my sweat-heart to thirty back rubs. One for each year we’ve been married.” Or a card that says “I will wash the dishes every night for one week that you choose, mom.” These gifts of service can be very valuable too.
How about a different kind of gift that comes as a gift of service? What about putting fruit under the tree this Christmas? Not a banana or pineapple. Not that kind of fruit. But the fruit of repentance. The fruit of repentance is what results when a person sins, is forgiven, and then stops that sin.
Let me clarify here quickly before we decide to string our pastor up and get rid of him as a heretic for saying we can “stop sinning.”
Let me start with an analogy. We are like a small twig-like apple tree trying to grow in the cracks of a meridian in the heat of a dry summer. Fumes from the cars passing by are constantly are puffed into our face. When it does rain (rarely) the water flows in a channel a ways away from us so the only water we get is what comes from the sky or what drizzles out of exhaust pipes. No way are we going to produce fruit like that. We won’t even survive like this.
Only God, the good gardener, taking us and grafting us onto Jesus (who is both the stump and branch of Jesse as our OT reading says) are we even able to have a chance to bear fruit.
God prunes us with His Word, waters us with our baptism, and nourishes us with His body and blood. His body and blood is the very tree we’ve been grafted onto in baptism, in order that we might bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Fruit of Repentance
It is through the very gifts that forgive and sustain us that we also are shown our failures. Baptism only cleanses you from sin because you have sins to be cleansed of. Your sins are forgiven in the Lord’s Supper because you have sins to be forgiven.
The Augsburg Confession, which is a core document explaining the Gospel in the Bible which makes us Lutheran, says in article XII:6 that the fruit of repentance is improvement. The fruit of repentance is refrain from sin. It is not that you cease to sin at all, for we are till very much sinners in need of Christ, but that we may work in our life of sanctification, in our life as forgiven children of God, to put off works of darkness and to stop sinning in a certain way because of the power of the Gospel.
You are kept alive by God! Any improvement you can make is not to your own credit but the credit of the Holy Spirit who is at work in you.
The warning in verse 10 of our Gospel reading this morning is to not fight that fruit which God is working in you. Do not reject your source of life itself! Verse 10 says “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
God will bear fruit in you. You are His child and you cannot help but produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Just the same as when you see a pulse, there must be a heartbeat behind it. Or when you see exhaust coming from a tailpipe there must be an engine running. Or breath must have a living creature behind it. Do not hold your breath but breathe the breath God has given you! “Be breathed” by God.
Bear the Fruit of the Gospel
This Christmas bear the fruit of your repentance. Do you have other gods? Throw them out! Stop calling on them. Instead, love and trust God above all things.
Do you hate hearing God’s Word? Learn to love it. Gladly hear and learn it any chance you get.
Are you stealing in any way? Stop! Help people protect their possessions and income.
Not fulfilling your vocation as Father? Mother? Child? Employee? Bear the fruit of a Christian and refrain from sin.
Through it all, knowing it is God’s gift of forgiveness and life through Jesus which is the only thing that makes our repentance, and its fruit, possible.
We simply live out the life that God has set before us. He is our God, loving Father, Saviour from our sin, and the very Spirit which works in us to live as we will live forever after Jesus comes again.
May that peace of Christ, that God is forgiving you and bearing fruit through you, keep you in His peace and love this Advent season.