“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” Matthew 3:1-3
A few years ago as I drove home a couple of weeks before Christmas I and couldn’t help but notice all of the beautiful lights on the houses and trees. I thought to myself what John the Baptist would have said if he was sitting next to me on a heated leather seat while it was 17 degrees outside and looked at all the lights shining brightly on this dark winter night. His message would probably have been the same, ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven is near’. This is still the appropriate message for us, for the children attending Lutheran schools in Haiti and for this world that we live in today. Until Christ Jesus lives in our hearts by faith and our hopes rest on the forgiveness of sins from Him alone then Christmas is a phony, shallow, sentimentality and only make-believe. We must see Bethlehem’s manager in the shadow of the cross and completely understand that the Christ child was stretched out on the cross for our sins. I close today with the words to the hymn ‘Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel’ that was written by an unknown servant around 1100 and was later translated by John M. Neale, 1851.
“Oh, come, Oh, come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. Oh, come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan's tyranny; from depths of hell Thy people save and give them victory o'er the grave. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. Oh, come, Thou Dayspring from on high, and cheer us by Thy drawing nigh; disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death's dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. Oh, come, Thou Key of David, come and open wide our heavenly home: make safe the way that leads on high and close the path to misery. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
Dear Heavenly Father, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.
May God be with you…Jay