Wednesday, December 7, 2011

“Prepare the Royal Highway” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

S-1282 2SIA/3B 12/04/11 Hymns: All from LSB (O) #344; S#343. (C) #338

Text: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:18-14; Mark 1:1-8

Theme: “Prepare the Royal Highway” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Question: “Are you prepared for Christmas?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 2nd Sunday in Advent is the O.T. lesson: “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken
.’ (Isaiah 40:3-5).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Saints in Christ, the voice of the Prophet Isaiah has echoed throughout the centuries calling upon Christians to hear the voice of the one speaking in the wilderness to prepare the Way of the Lord. This voice calls upon every follower of the God of the universe to prepare rightly by making straight in the desert a highway for our God. Everything in the way must be removed for this heavenly visitor who is about to come upon the scene of humanity. The voice has spoken and speaks even today—Prepare the Royal Highway!

This voice in the wilderness is none other than the voice of John the Baptist who came calling upon sinners to prepare for Christ’s arrival. He called the rich and poor, learned and educated, men and women, boys and girls. And He calls you today to Prepare the Royal Highway. PAUSE.

It is evident that many in our community, county and country are busy preparing for the celebration of the Savior’s birth. Last Tuesday, some of the saints of Redeemer met at the Miller’s garage to prepare the Church’s float for the parade of lights. After we were done, it looked beautiful and had a lovely message—THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL!

If you took the time on Friday and stopped at Todd Vogt’s garage for lunch, you would have seen all of the work he and his crew went through to prepare the building for the 20th year Grand Re-Opening. The garage looked clean as if no one had worked in it. Certainly lots of hard work went through to bring it to this point.

Throughout the whole town preparations have been going on. You see the evidence of lights, Christmas trees, backed goods and the like. It is so nice to drive around and see the many preparations that have and are taken place.

We see all the external preparations that have been made for this season. But of more importance is the preparation for the reason we exist and move and have our being. It is to welcome Jesus as the Savior of the world and to make our hearts His manger.

Therefore, today, I would like to share you with a couple of points that I believe are of the utmost importance in our preparations. The first is the heart—yours and mine. As I mentioned before so many preparations are going on. Homes are cleaned and decorated, stores are filled to the brim with all kinds of gifts, and ads are sent out via radio, TV, newspapers and cell phones. But what of the heart? Is your heart prepared? Or are you distracted by all of the buzz?

During this time of the year my heart and yours can easily be distracted and diverted with all of the things we need to accomplish. We can go through the motions, we can even be in Church, but our heads are a million miles away. We are here, only because we feel obligated and as soon as the 60 minutes are up, we begin to prepare to leave and leave everything we heard behind.

At times our hearts are not filled spiritually. Our hearts are dried up as a bone. We go through the liturgy without thinking of what it is we are saying. We are here, but far from being here. So close, yet so far away. Our lips sing His praises, but our hearts are far from Him. Oh the preparation of the heart is so hard to do, but a necessity for us to be blessed.

And the second point is of repentance. True repentance of sins we have committed and do commit daily. This is more than just general sorrow over getting caught. This is being cut to the heart that we have sinned against a God that has given us so much! You know your heart, and I know mine and the truth is we are filled with sin. The odor of disobedience, despair, dejection and death hang heavy in the air. Ever since Adam and Eve have sinned we have been doing the same. We see the evidence of it in the personal hurts people go through. It is during this time that many people commit suicide, (this morning at 4:00 a.m. I got a phone call from a dear friend whose son took his own life), others have a terrible attitude and still others don’t care what happens to them.

Certainly the odor of disobedience, despair, dejection and death hangs heavy in the air and over our hearts, but we don’t have to live that way. Isaiah tells us there is a voice calling us to prepare to receive Him who is Royalty—the heaven-sent Savior. We are to prepare as the wise men did when they traveled over 3000 miles to kneel and worship the King of kings and Lord of lords; and as the shepherds did when they heard the announcement of the angel saying to them, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10b-11).

Yes, we want to prepare our hearts more than our homes to see the glory of God that will be revealed. Just as it was done during the time when a king would return from victory, his emissaries would remove all stones and debris from the road so he could come in on a smooth surface.

As sinners, we can’t do this preparation on our own. We can’t even repent by ourselves, but when the Word of the Lord strikes and when the Holy Spirit convicts our guilty conscience, we fall down on our knees and weep for the sorrow in our hearts—because our hearts are not prepared for His coming in the flesh. PAUSE

My beloved know this: When Yahweh comes, He will not come alone. “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, with His arm He will gather. Lambs in His lap He will lift up, He will lead mothers of sheep” (40:11). He meets His people in the wilderness of their exile and invites them to join Him. This foreshadows Christ’s first advent in Bethlehem (Lk 2:1–7), as well as His Second Advent at the end of the age.

The coming of Christ offers a joyful homecoming to all who have been exiled from the Father because of sin, described as mountains, hills, crooked ground, and rough places. “The sins of the nation, which had brought about the period of indignation and had kept God from His people, will be removed so that they will no longer stand in the way of His appearance among His own.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate and permanent expression of God’s glory (1 Cor 2:8). The shepherds saw the glory of the Lord when Jesus was born, and they were terrified (Lk 2:9). In the infant Jesus they saw God’s glory in human flesh (Jn 1:14). At our Lord’s transfiguration His glory was displayed when His clothes became dazzling white (Lk 9:29). But on Good Friday His disciples deserted Him. His garments were gambled away. Then His Father turned His back. As Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt 27:46;) the Lord’s presence leaves the Temple alone to die upon the cross…But His glory returns on Easter and this means that the day is coming when, at the Second Coming of Christ, all flesh will see God’s glory.

How shall we prepare THEN? In a word – repent. For then we will see God’s glory in a Babe in a manger; in His body and blood at the Table; and in the eastern sky on the last day. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken it!

Dr. Luther in his Christmas hymn “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” gives us an insight to the preparations of the heart: “Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child Prepare a bed, soft, undefiled, A quiet chamber set apart For You to dwell within my HEART” {emphasis mine} v. 13

My brothers and sisters in Christ, We are told that when John Huss was arrested and informed that he would be burned to death for his faith, he purposely practiced holding his hand over fire to prepare for his final test. He burned himself in preparation. He wanted to be faithful to the end.

You and I don’t have to burn ourselves; we don’t have to beat ourselves to death; we don’t have crucify ourselves; because the infant Child of Mary did just that for us. The Coming One has done all we need. The call for us is faithfulness. And even this He gives us as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies us in His Word and Promise. This Word and promise leads us to know and trust that He is leading us on level ground to a place He has prepared for us—a place more beautiful than any place in the world, more glorious than any palace and more lovely than any other location in His story—with Him FOREVER. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


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