Prepare Your Hearts for a Real Savior (Matthew 3:1-12)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Second Sunday in Advent + December 4, 2016
Text: Matthew 3:1-12

John the Baptist’s appearance is jarring.  There’s no getting comfortable around a man who wears camel fur and eats nothing but bugs and honey.  John is not someone you would want at your holiday party.
There’s also no getting comfortable with John’s message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  A spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, but there’s no sugar-coating the preaching of John the Baptist.  It’s offensive.  It’s invasive because it exposes our hearts.  It’s necessary, too.
God’s Law comes into our heart and demolished any sense that we’re good enough for God.  It exposes our hearts and shows none of us to be righteous.  It shows us how comfortable we’ve been in ourselves and our sins, brushing them under the rug and making excuses for them.  All the while, the Master of the house is near—at the very gates![1]
This is the way God prepares the way for the Christ, and how we ought to prepare ourselves for Christmas.  While the world is hanging “holiday balls” and droning on about the “spirit of the season,” Christians are watchful, hearing the Word of God and taking a true spiritual look in the mirror.  What we find is not good, and that’s why we are glad that God sent a Savior.
There’s a push right now to “put Christ back in Christmas” and while that’s admirable, there’s a better way to do that than just saying, “Merry Christmas.”  Christmas is about salvation, and Jesus only comes for sinners.  “He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)  Anyone who is not a sinner need not look forward to Christmas.
There were many who came out to hear John preach, even “Jerusalem and all Judea.”
In a similar manner, there are many who will come on Christmas to witness the spectacle and be lifted up by warm, nostalgic feelings.
But this Christmas, don’t just be a good Christian (or Pharisee/Scribe).  Be a real sinner.
Be a real sinner who hears the call to repent and be saved.
Christ’s coming is a warning that the axe is laid at the root of the tree.  Every tree that thinks its fruit is lovely will be cut down and burned.  Everyone who says they have not sinned deceives themselves.[2]  But the one who truly bears good fruit is the one who has heard the spiritual message of Christ’s arrival: You are all sinners; I have come to die for you.  You are all unrighteous; I have come to be your righteousness.[3]
This Christmas, above all the other preparations that you make, prepare your heart for Christ’s birth.  As we sang in the hymn:
Then cleansed be every life from sin;
Make straight the way for God within,
And let us all our hearts prepare
For Christ to come and enter there.[4]
So, rejoice in Jesus, the Savior of sinners just like you and me.  That is a truly merry Christmas.  Amen.
[1] Matthew 24:33
[2] 1 John 1:8-10
[3] Matthew 3:17
[4] On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry (LSB 344, v. 2)