Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we continue our walk to Your manger, instill in us the spirit of honest repentance and also accountability for our actions. Move us not to shy away from the responsibilities You place before us, but to take them on and carry them out. And always hold before our eyes the truth that the eternal salvation of our souls was all the result of You taking on the responsibility of saving us. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE COMING CHRISTMAS KING!
TEXT: Luke 3: 1-6
Fellow Redeemed Sinners Waiting On the Christ Child:
I can relate to John the Baptist. I’ve always had an affinity for him. Not because he ate simple foods, or dressed in an austere manner, but because as far as humans go, he epitomizes Christian responsibility. I’ll give you a current example of what I mean.
Wednesday morning we all woke up to a hard, pounding rain which was weird. Usually storm centers don’t slice through New York state, but this one did. Thus the heavy, wind-driven rain came out of the southwest and an extreme angle. When I came over to church about 7:30 and checked the organ pit for water, I didn’t find any. Instead, I found something worse! One of the roof valleys on the backside of the church apparently had a small leak and it was dripping on the carpet. Considering we have a 9 year old roof and considering it is rated for about 50 years, this was disconcerting to say the least. Well, I attended to the water dripping, checked the back valley to make sure it wasn’t caused by a leaf dam, (it wasn’t) and then pondered how my day had totally changed. Since the rain soon quit and it was to be 65+, I thought: “There’s no time like the present.” So, I made a run to Lowe’s and two to the hardware store. I bought roof crack filler and later that afternoon, with my neighbor spotting me, I crab-walked up that valley 4 separate times to treat the area. (My guess is the weird wind drove some water uphill, it wicked along, found a spot and dripped down.) It shot my whole day. My leg muscles still scream a bit at me when I walk stairs. But, I was on hand and someone had to take responsibility.
Seminary teaches young pastors a lot about taking spiritual responsibility for the souls under their care. But, looking back over 25 years, I have to confess that it seldom addressed the nuts-and-bolts of assuming responsibility for those countless daily things that crop up in any parish. And those little things often tend to outnumber the spiritual ones.
Yet, there is an inextricable connection between both. For the spiritual side of faith will always show itself in the physical side. It rubs off and influences it. Likewise, not shirking earthly responsibilities is a barometer of your faith. Since John the Baptist combined both elements in his work of preparing hearts to meet Christ, today we should briefly consider:
THE RESPONSIBILITY FACTOR AND YOU
We all know that John’s birth was quite miraculous considering his parent’s old age and the circumstances surrounding it: God’s angel appearing to his father, announcing John’s conception, and outlining his amazing work and life. In our lesson, Luke quotes from Isaiah the prophet through whom God foretells John’s life’s work: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’”
Obviously this prophecy is spiritual reality couched in earthy terms. John wasn’t ordained to drive a bulldozer and contour the physical landscape. No, his task was to preach repentance, salvation and responsibility to sinners who needed their hearts contoured and landscaped by the coming Savior. Since repentance and responsibility go hand-in-hand, in John’s life we clearly see the responsibility factor played out. He was chosen by God for this task. His wasn’t to question: Why?, and say: “Let someone else do it.” God called him to take charge of the situation, and so he did to the best of his abilities. And remember, John was very successful at this. He gathered many disciples, including some who later became members of the 12 Apostles. Likewise, of John, Christ once accorded the highest compliment ever given to a human being when He said of him: “No one born of woman is greater than John the Baptist!” Even after being imprisoned by the incestuous king Herod, John still preached repentance toward Herod for his sins. Ultimately, it cost John his life and his head (literally), but John didn’t take a pass even then. He was the model of responsibility, even in death.
So, what about you and me? Are we willing to take on the responsibility of being Christians and showing it? Children, do you love your parents? Then why do you do things to grieve them and make them sad? Be responsible for your actions and take their criticism of those actions without whining or complaining: “It just isn’t fair.” Parents, do you realize that the patterns of behavior you set for your children right now will show up in countless ways throughout their lives? I’ve had parents whose children reached their teens and were thoughtless and out-of-control tell me: “Pastor, what did I do wrong?” Often my answer has been: “Well, you didn’t bring them to Sunday School and church regularly. By your actions you taught them God was an afterthought and not that vital to you. So, take responsibility and tell them you were wrong, you’re sorry, and you’ll work together to start a new chapter in their lives.”
I’m always amazed at listening to conversations among workers. It amazes me the lengths people will go to get out of work, adopting the saying: “Well, it’s not my job, let somebody else do it.” As Christians, that should never, ever, be our motto! If the house is dirty, clean it up. If bills need to be paid, get another job to do it. If the meal isn’t ready, pitch in and cook. If the roof needs to be attended to, eyeball it and get it done. If the trash needs to be hauled out—take care of it. God gave you eyes to see such things and a brain to process it. He also gave you hands and legs to accomplish it!
I said earlier that repentance and responsibility go hand-in-hand. That’s because they do. This Advent season is about you, one-on-One with God Almighty. It is about you being honest with your life and the condition of your heart. It is about you preparing your soul for His coming by smoothing out the rough patches. If you shirk this responsibility, your Christmas celebration will be as empty as a brightly-wrapped box with nothing in it. So, take on the responsibility of getting ready to meet the baby Jesus. And as you do so, never forget that the responsibility of repentance, of sweeping your heart clean of sin, pales in comparison with His responsibility of willingly suffering and dying to save your eternal soul! Amen