“The Voice Still Crying in the Wilderness”

The 2nd Sunday of Advent (C)
“The Voice Still Crying in the Wilderness”
December 9, 2018

Sermon Text: Malachi 3:1-7b, Luke 3:1-14

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from our Advent King, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

Amazingly, it will still catch people by surprise… the vast majority of men, women, teenagers and children who happen to be living at that time… carrying out their lives… carrying on as if this will all continue on.

It is no overstatement to say that the world will be in shock at the second coming… our victorious King, Christ Jesus, coming down from heaven at the sound of the trumpet… on the last day… with legion upon legion of His angels and all the company of heaven singing and giving glory to God in the highest.

All of this was foretold… spoken about by the voice crying in the wilderness which has resounded throughout time… right up until the end.

At that time, it will be too late. The time will have passed to repent… to believe… to confess that Jesus is Lord. Indeed, the time will have passed to listen to the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord… to prepare one’s self for the coming of their King.

Sure glad that we heard and heeded that voice. Right? Yes, I pray so. But if we think that such is all in the past, we are sadly mistaken. It is still very much a today thing… literally, an everyday thing… here… now.

And this refers to the voice still crying in the wilderness as well what we do with the message that is delivered to us… the urgent injunction that is set before us… yes, before you and me.

The Lord spoke through Malachi, the last of the prophets of the Old Testament era about the one to come… the “preparer” … saying, “Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me.” (Malachi 3:1)

But what many do not understand is what “preparing the way” really means… what it entails – namely… true contriteness, fully confessing and repenting.

Still others know what it means… what it involves… and quite frankly, do not like it one bit. They do not like the message or the messenger. They do not like the voice of the one crying in the wilderness and they do not like what that voice cries out. In fact, they loathe it. They turn a deaf ear to it.

Again, looking to our Malachi text, the Lord God foretells the coming of his messenger… the coming of His forerunner… John… and also His own coming as He adds, “And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.” (Malachi 3:1) He will come to us… tabernacle with us… be in our midst… He who is the very King of the Universe.

Great! Wonderful! Yes, most certainly… but look what the Lord says next. He asks, “Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” (Malachi 3:2-3a)

The fact is, my friends, as the people then… and throughout time… so too now… to the end of time… have some “cleaning up” to do. We who, by nature, are sinful and unclean. We who, by nature, are filthy… covered in sin… that which so clings to us and entangles us.

And we would come into the presence of the Holy One like this? It would mean death… certain death… immediate death… eternal death.

The fact of the matter is, there is no cleaning and cleansing on our own. If that is to be done, it is the Lord’s doing… through His means and by His Spirit. Such took place for us in Baptism where we were “refined” … “purified” made clean and holy.

Well, then we are good right? Good to go. Yes, but having been cleansed and being perpetually washed all of our days… we are still called to repentance… daily.

We still observe the two penitential seasons of the Church Year – Advent and Lent… and this, more and more earnestly as the Day of the Lord gets closer and closer.

Oh, how we need that voice that still cries in the wilderness of this world and our sin-filled lives… calling us to repentance.

The voice that has never, will never, beat around the bush. The voice that has never, will never, mince words. The voice that calls it like it is… that calls us as we are… sinful… unclean… so apt to stray.

You know about John the baptizer. His rough and gruff outward appearance was matched with his words… because THAT is exactly what the people then needed to hear… the truth… straight out… not diluted… not sugarcoated.

To them… to all… to all his fellow Jews and others… John laid it on the line because everything was on the line… where a person would spend eternity.

John broke down every form of self-righteousness… every prideful heart and all boasting… calling them all, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 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.” (Luke 3:7-9)

Those words didn’t set well then and they do not set well today… especially in our day and age of hypersensitivity where one dare not say anything that might offend someone else… even if it is for their eternal good… even if it is exactly what they need to hear.

But thankfully, even with such opposition, the voice continues to cry in the wilderness. The voice that lovingly, but oh-so firmly tells you and me to repent!

Repent for not trusting the Lord. Repent for not seeking the Lord… for not reading His Word and praying to Him regularly… faithfully. Repent for being so all wrapped up in yourself. Repent for being so petty. Repent for not putting the best construction on things and always thinking the worst about people and situations. Repent for being unkind in word, action or thought. Repent for every impure thought. Repent for not being patient with your brothers and sisters, kind, tenderhearted and understanding. Repent for not forgiving them for any and all things that they may do against you. Repent for not hearing people out… for not listening… for not showing proper concern… for not showing proper support… for not giving words of encouragement, while never being at a loss for being critical and judgmental.

Repent… and the list of things for us to repent of is endless. How true it is that we daily sin much and in a myriad of ways.

Behold, the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord who soon comes in glory to judge the living and the dead.

Behold, the voice calling you to repentance.

But here is the thing… the voice that has done this throughout time… he who has been the Lord’s messenger in every age… has also faithfully spoken words of peace… words of comfort and consolation… words of forgiveness to God’s people… forgiveness in Christ Jesus.

That is still the case today… right now… here and now… as this called and ordained messenger… one of the voices crying in the wilderness… declares to you that the precious blood of Jesus covers all your sins… that He has paid the full price for your iniquity and mine… and this on the cross.

We are free… free to love… free to worship and adore the Lord in this season and every season… free to serve Him and our fellow man… as is our good pleasure… our joy. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

“The Voice Still Crying in the Wilderness”  12/9/18  The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL