Dear Believers in Christ, Baptized of God.
Unfortunately, those in power do not always use that power for good. Clearly those leading our nation are more concerned with being politically correct than with facing our real enemies, the terrorists. So we pray, ďLord, if it be Thy will, grant us new leadership, willing to face our real enemies, willing to take the necessary risks to overcome those enemies Ė leadership willing to be politically incorrect if need be, for the sake our safety.Ē
Yet, God also urges us not to fear or worry. His constant message in His word is that He still rules all things. As we pray in the Lordís Prayer, His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever.
Yet, Godís ways in using that power are not always easily, or immediately understood. Sometimes He allows evil rulers to remain, but only for a time, only for a higher purpose (one that we may not understand for years to come). But we can always trust that it is the best way for us, the way that best serves our eternal soul.. His promise is to continue to make all things work together for our good.
This was exactly the atmosphere in which Jesus, the Savior of the world, was born. The religious and political leaders of Jesusí day were evil. Herod the Great pretended to want to worship the newborn Savior, but He really wanted Jesus gone. Later, his son, King Herod, puts the greatest prophet, John the Baptist in prison, and has him executed. Later, Pontius Pilate sentences Jesus to the cross even though he knew Jesus was innocent. Yet God allowed all these rulers, to remain in power, yet only for a time, to accomplish His higher purposes. This is how God brought salvation into the world. His ways are much higher than the ways of the world.
So as we celebrate Advent, and prepare for Christ once again to come, we remember that His ways are higher. We can always put our full trust in Him even though we donít always understand His ways. He will never let us down.
So much of our world is run by power, rulers of power. Even the idea of peace on earth includes rulers using their power for our safety. For example, rulers putting criminals in prison for our protection.
But wait a minute: John the Baptist was not a criminal. John the Baptist, as Jesus clearly says, was the greatest prophet of all. And yet how could he wind up in prison? How could that be a part of Godís plan?
John faithfully preached repentance. Repent ye, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Imagine John approaching the leaders of our day, the Pope, a very powerful religious leader, or our current President, a very powerful political leader, saying, Repent ye. You must change your ways. Imagine the uproar in the media. ďYou canít say that!Ē Yet, John did say it, and he was absolutely right.
John cared more about being Biblically correct, than being politically correct, and that is what landed him in jail. He wasnít afraid to tell King Herod he sinned by taking his brotherís wife. He wasnít afraid to judge righteous judgment.
But is this really what the world wants for Christmas? Preachers like John who tell us we must repent, we must change our ways, to be ready to receive Christ with humble hearts?
Yet this is the way of Christís kingdom. And Jesus says, ďblessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.Ē
His way is the way of sending John, with His Almighty power hidden behind His lowly word. His way is also the way of the cross. Instead of showing outward strength, Christís power was hidden behind His suffering and death on the cross, and behind the gentleness of His Word of forgiveness. His way included the greatest prophet, John the Baptist, winding up in prison. His way included the King of all kings and Lord of all lords, getting captured too, and spit upon and crucified for bringing peace and forgiveness to the world. But that is the way in which Jesus saved the world.
Jesus didnít come to impress the world with glamor and hype, and earthly power or force. Jesus sends John the Baptist, wearing camelís hair and eating locusts and wild honey Ėwith the message of repentance and faith, and Baptism for the remission of sins.
And by all appearances it seems like John failed. From prison comes that question, Jesus ďArt Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?Ē Sometimes we too can feel that way when things just donít go the way we want or expect. Is Jesus even hearing me? Is Christianity even worth it any more? ďArt Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?Ē We donít use those exact words, but we might say it in our hearts when bearing a cross.
But Godís strength is made perfect in our weakness. His power is hidden behind the cross, not only Jesusí cross, but ours too. That is how God creates deep patience and how he strengthens our faith in Christ.
And so this becomes the perfect teaching moment for Johnís disciples and for us. There are signs connected with the coming Savior. The lame would walk, the deaf would hear, the blind would see, the dead would be raised, and most of all: the poor would have the Gospel preached to them. Everything was going according to Godís plan. The signs of His coming were being fulfilled, He was fulfilling them.
But it just wasnít the kingdom many were hoping for. Jesus didnít come to get rid of everything that bothered Israel, He didnít come to overthrow the evil King Herod, the evil Pontius Pilate, the evil Romans Ė Jesus came to overthrow the devil and the power of sin and death. He came with forgiveness, grace, mercy, the promise of the resurrection. But none of that is possible without His cross. Without His Almighty power being hidden behind the weakness and suffering of His cross. And He says we must take up our crosses too.
This is the way of His Kingdom, the way of hidden power and glory. Power hidden behind His Word, but through that lowly Word, the poor become everlastingly rich in the forgivness of their sins.
Through that lowly Word, the spiritually blind begin to see and understand with the light of Godís Word. Through that lowly Word, the spiritally deaf begin to hear and know Godís forgiveness. Through that lowly Word the spiritually dead are raised to faith and knowledge Ė all through the power of Godís Word and Spirit.
That is the way in Jesusí kingdom. May we continue to treasure His way, the way of the cross, the way of the lowly Word, the way of sending John the Baptist, with the message of repentance and faith, Baptism for the remission of sins. Jesus says, ďblessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.Ē In Jesusí name. Amen.
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