Sermon Text: Advent 2B – This is Comfort?

December 6, 2020 Church Blog, Sermons, Sunday Message0
Sermon Text: Advent 2B – This is Comfort?

Advent 2B: This is Comfort?

  1. This week we return to our OT lesson and Isaiah
    1. Isaiah is the OT book that most clearly portrays the ministry of the Messiah
      1. In the first 35 chapters he preaches to Judah and Jerusalem against the backdrop of the Assyrian threat that would topple the Northern Israel
      1. Then he briefly prophesies about the rise of Babylon over 100 years in the future.
      1. But from chapter 40 until the end of the book the focus changes from condemnation to comfort and the eventual deliverance from Babylon
    1. This week we hear God speaking through Isaiah, Comfort, comfort ye my people Speak tenderly (to the heart) to Jerusalem,
      1. Isaiah is prophesying about the eventual end of the Babylonian captivity after the Israelites would have lived for 70 years in exile in a foreign land,
      1. Isaiah was prophetically delivering a message of peace and restoration to a people who had not yet been born.
    1. But there was a greater restoration to which the prophecy referred, the deliverance of the world from its bondage to sin
      1. Isaiah writes, A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
      1. In the ancient world of the OT, when an important message was about to be delivered a herald was sent before the Good News, to prepare the way, to make sure people were paying attention.
      1. All four Gospel writers recognize that this prophecy referred to the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah, John the Baptist
      1. And Mark writes, John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
    1. But John’s message was not one of comfort at least not for everyone
      1. To those who had been told by the religious leaders that they were sinners beyond hope: tax collectors and prostitutes, his message as good news.
      1. They had been crushed under the law, they had been told the Temple was closed, but God was saying that the gates of heaven were open to them through repentance
      1. But for those like the Pharisees and Sadducees who believed in their righteousness John had no word of comfort as we learn from Matthew’s Gospel, You brood of vipers who warned to flee from the coming destruction… (Mat 3:7) This is comfort?
  2. Looking at Isaiah’s words you’d think that John’s message would have been softer and more inclusive – “Comfort, comfort…speak tenderly…”
    1. But in a sense, it was a tough love approach, sometimes a person has to be brought to the end of their rope before they can be saved.
      1. True love doesn’t always affirm someone in what they’re doing
      1. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the reality intervention programs
      1. Drug interventions, hoarding interventions etc all with the same theme the loving family confronts the person in order to stop them
      1. Which usually provokes a conflict but it is through that conflict, painful as it is, that they recognize that drastic change has to happen
    1. That was John’s message, to lay bare the truth about the peoples’ nature that there could be repentance and change.
      1. That’s what the preaching of God’s Law does, like the extreme interventions on TV, the preaching of the Law reveals the need to change
      1. The religious leaders of John’s time were comfortable that they kept the Law down to the minutest detail.
      1. But they had forgotten that the meaning of the Law was love – love for the Lord and for your neighbor – they missed the forest for the trees
      1. Their job was to make God’s love and mercy open to those who were trapped in sin, not shut them out of the Kingdom of God
    1. In our day people aren’t much worried about God’s Law they assume the God is only tender and affirming
      1. Hell is for bad people: bigots, murderers, rapists, etc
      1. People who are “good” even though they don’t go to church; don’t acknowledge any god; who are spiritual but not religious; but do their best to keep the golden rule – they go to heaven.
      1. Like the Israelites of John’s day, most people today are “comfortable”
  3. The job of the preacher of God’s Word is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable
    1. We are still called to preach like John with the full force of the Law to afflict comfortable sinners and the sweet Gospel to comfort those afflicted by their sin.
      1. As Paul tells us in Romans, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Rom 3:20)
      1. And what does the Law tell us about ourselves, “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:10-12, 23)
      1. Harsh words especially for people who aren’t accustomed to think of themselves as “bad” – we don’t kill, rape, or steal we don’t even usually take the Lord’s Name in vain – we must be good!
      1. But what Scripture reveals is that our sin is not measured on a scale of good vs bad deeds but in the heart and mind which are naturally turned against God as Paul says in Eph, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:1-3)
    1. But the Gospel assures people that One has paid for their sins, that through faith in the One perfect sacrifice of Christ your sins are forgiven – this truly IS comfort!
      1. When we are brought to the realization that no matter how “good” we are compared to others that we are still far away from God we are ready to receive the full comfort of the Gospel…the true comfort of the Gospel
      1. The Gospel is NOT the cherry on top of a pretty good life that gets you into heaven it is the restoration of God’s righteousness through faith in Christ
      1. Notice that whenever God bears full witness to the Law, as we just heard in Rom and Eph, He immediately gives the Gospel to comfort us!
      1. In Rom 3 He says, But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (Rom 3:21-22)…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1)
      1. And in Eph He says, But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Eph 2:4-6)
    1. Here the full pardon of the Gospel is given – this is Good News…this is Comfort!
      1. And from the fertile ground of sins freely forgiven good works follow – not because you’re adding to your salvation but because the Gospel creates in you new desires and impulses that delight in the will of the Lord
      1. To love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself – the essence of the Law
      1. That you love and serve the church where the word of God preached and His sacraments of life and forgiveness are given regularly
      1. Because it is here in His house that you drink deeply from the well of life, of sins forgiven, this is the place of true comfort!
Pinnacle Lutheran Church Advent Christmas