Advent 3 “The One Person To Get It All Done”
December 13th, 2020 – John 1:6-8, 19-28
Edited from LCC’s Written Sermons:
May you receive from God the forgiveness you do not deserve, not get the bad you have deserved, and may you have peace with God through Jesus’ blood.
John 1:6-8, 19-28: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
A lot is riding on one person in many a household this time of year. And no, I do not mean the jolly fellow in the red suit. He does not do it alone after all. He has got a whole team of elves, eight tiny reindeer, Rudolph with his nose so bright, and according to J.R.R. Tolkien – the North Polar Bear “to get’er all done.” No, even Santa Claus, does not do it all – unlike that poor person in many a home who at this time of year is wishing that there was an app on their iPhone for magical elf-help . . . or express reindeer service . . . or a red-nose GPS.
One person to do all the gift buying, the gift wrapping, the cleaning, the cooking, the baking, the decorating, the hosting and attending of an endless series of events – or deciding if they should or should not go to these events. One person who has got to do all of that . . . while still working, getting the kids off to school, taking them to hockey, dance class, and various other activities. One person who has got to do all that and then have to clean up after the dog who messed on the kitchen floor.
One person who has got the whole weight of Christmas resting on their shoulders. That is the way that it is in many a household. “Even when two people are trying to do it all together?” Well, at one time or another one of them will still feel like they are carrying it all. You can tell which person that is by just cheerfully telling them how many days there are until the big day . . . and you will be about as popular as the dog who made a mess on the kitchen floor.
Some deal with this by simply shoving all the hoopla out the door. They refuse to let Christmas be about all of that, which has a certain profound truth to it . . . something all of us need to remember, even as we piously try to highlight the true greatness of this season whether it be with a little or a lot of hoopla. “The Word was made flesh” after all – and that is something worthy of a little celebrating and hoopla. A Saviour was born for us who is Christ the Lord . . . that event is certainly worthy of a little merry-making and feasting. Others handle it by getting going early – having all their presents bought and wrapped by July and the tree up and decorated in November. And, yes, there is a certain wisdom to that, as much as others might roll their eyes at it.
Regardless, however, there is one person in the household who has got to carry it all. One person who has got Christmas riding on their shoulders. One person who throughout the year can often feel that way about the rest of life as well. And yes, it is easy for us to become that one person, whether it be at home, at work or even at church. It is easy to feel like it’s all resting on us. It is easy because sinners are good at trying to be that “one person.” It is the lie that we bought into in Eden . . . and have been living under its crushing burden ever since. The lie was Satan’s. The crushing burden, however, was, in effect, God’s gift. The lie turned us away from the One on whom everything really depends. The crushing burden was given… to turn us back to Him. And yes, God can even work the late December panic for our good as He helps us see that we cannot carry it all, that our shoulders are not broad enough to carry all of Christmas or any other part of life for that matter. One person who must carry it all. One person who has got Christmas riding on His shoulders alone.
One person who throughout the rest of the year has got to do it all, too. And in His mercy, God sends John the Baptizer to us today in order to turn our eyes to that One person. And no, it is not John; for as he even says himself, “I am not the Christ, not Elijah, not the Prophet.” To be sure, John had a lot to do. He was sent to prepare the way of the Lord – to make His paths straight. He had no team of elves or eight tiny reindeer or bright-nosed Rudolph either. And there was no North Polar Bear in the wilderness of the Jordan that is for sure. But John did not need all of them for the work that he was sent to do. Not because he was fully up to the task. No, not even as “the greatest man born of woman” could he do it. No, John, did not need elves or reindeer because He had the Holy Spirit who came upon him when he was still in his mother’s womb. The Holy Spirit kept him in the truth that he was not the One, not the Light; but only sent to bear witness to the Light.
And John did only what he was sent to do – to “baptize with water.” There was, after all, another One coming after him, a mightier One whose sandal he was not worthy to stoop down and untie. This One coming, He was the only one who could and who would do it all – atone for sin, destroy the works of the devil. And the Spirit kept John in his vocation – his calling as “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” John does not take up what is not his to carry. He lets the coming Lord be the Lord; and simply pours the water that he is given to pour and preaches the Word that he is given to preach. With so many pointing the finger at him, it would have been a great temptation to turn his finger to his own chest and let it become about him and what he had to do. But no, in and through the Spirit he keeps that finger directed away from Himself and towards Jesus. Yes, it all rests on Jesus – Jesus and no one else, the one person to get it all done.
And that same Spirit who came to John in his mother’s womb and kept him in the truth comes to you today. He comes in the Word that is read and proclaimed – so that you, too, might be kept in the truth. He calls you to repent of all those times when you have let the devil’s lie turn your finger toward your own chest and have allowed the weight of the home, work, church, or even Christmas to rest on your poor shoulders. Not only is this a great impiety toward the Lord, but it is also a cruel thing to do to yourself. It is a lie. And the Holy Spirit points it out to you, that it is in you, so that you might repent of it and be set free in the truth of Christ’s lordship over everything – your home, your work, your church, and yes, even Christmas.
All we can do is, like John, pour the water that we have been given to pour and, with the Spirit’s help, keep our finger pointed at Jesus whenever we are tempted to turn it toward ourselves. To be sure, such is not the easiest thing in the world to do. There always seems to be something we must do, things we worry about and our preoccupied with – a tree waiting to be cut down, brought into our home and decorated for Christmas; Christmas gifts to be bought and wrapped; cookies and cakes baked for the holiday season, plans to make and then worry about being un-made for us. How hard it is to simply let God be God. It was Martin Luther who once offered this word of advice: “Pray and let God worry.” To be sure, stuff still needs to get done. But how much better, how much more joy in it all when you have got your eyes and heart fixed on Jesus – the One, the only One, who gets it all done.
And which is why our Lord comes to us still today in His flesh and blood. Present among us to draw our eyes and hearts to Himself, to direct our finger away from ourselves to Him. At the altar, He proclaims to us again the truth that His shoulders alone have carried it all for us –home, work, church, and yes, even Christmas. Carries all of life for us even as He carried the burden of all our sins and failures on the cross of Calvary. “I was made man,” He says to us today, “in order to have the shoulders so that I could do this for you – so that I could carry it all for you. I know how weary you are. I know how heavy it is because I have already borne it all. Now, just hand it all over to me. Let me bear it for you now. Let me be the One who does all that I want to do through you. It is not your burden to bear, but mine. Let me be who I am . . . your Lord and Your God, Your Saviour, the One who gets it all done.” Amen.