Advent 4–Rorate Caeli–2015
Rorate Caeli—4th Sunday of Advent
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 1:19-28
December 20, 2015
It’s a few days from Christmas, but instead of “Joy to the World” we have John the Baptist in the desert by the Jordan River. He is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” He preaches that we must be prepared for the coming of our God even though in our secular celebration of Christmas everyone is trying to relax and enjoy the holidays. John preaches that we should be awake, not asleep.
The priests and the Levites who have come out from Jerusalem to talk to John are offended by this. What does John think the priests have been doing? They’ve been conducting the worship of God at the temple. They’ve been trying to teach the people the law of God. They’ve been trying to make things straight among the people of God.
But John acts as if all that is nothing. If people want to be straight for the coming of the Lord they must come confessing themselves to be sinners and receive John’s baptism. “Among you stands one you do not know,” he says, “even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
But why are we listening to John? After all, we do know the One he was proclaiming. We know who Jesus is and why John wasn’t worthy to unite His sandal. Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father, the 2nd person of the Trinity—God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. He was begotten of the Father from eternity but born of the Virgin Mary; the true God has become man, so that He might deliver us from death. We know Jesus and confess Jesus, and we have been baptized in His name. So why is John still crying out to us, “Make straight the way of the Lord?” Why is he telling us to prepare when we already know what is coming on Christmas?
–First of all, not everyone does know Jesus.
Some think of Him as a prophet or a teacher
Others believe He is God, but that He has come as our example or lawgiver
He is so great and mighty that John is unworthy to touch His feet.
He has come not merely to teach the way of righteousness, but to bear sin, to restore, to bring human nature into union with God.
–Secondly, even when we do know Jesus by faith we are still always coming to know Him.
Ephesians 3:18-19 Paul prays that the Ephesians would “have strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Philippians 3: Paul says he knows Christ—“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” But he goes on to say: “[I want to] know Him and the power of His resurrection, and…share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Through repentance and faith we come to know Jesus again and again and more intimately. We participate in His sufferings, His death, and His resurrection. We experience life in Him, not merely knowing about Him intellectually, but participating in His sufferings and His resurrection.
–Third in Baptism Christ gives us a new life in Him, not merely knowledge.
A life lived in the assurance of the forgiveness of sins.
A life in which we are united to the glorious One whose sandals John was not worthy to touch.
Together with Him we are not merely servants, but sons and heirs of God.
As Christmas approaches let us heed John’s call:
Turn away from our self-willed lives, our life of sin apart from Christ
Look in faith to the coming one whose righteousness unites human beings to God.
Soli Deo Gloria