Advent 3

Sermon Date: 
11 Dec 2011
Bible Base: 
Is 61:1-4, 8-11 and John 1:6-8, 19-28

David Jeans

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You can tell that Christmas is coming – carol services, ordering turkeys at Crawshaws, subtle, unobtrusive lighting effects on some houses .....And the traditional Yorkshire greeting of ‘all right, luv’ gets replaced by ‘are you ready, luv’. So....’are you ready, luv?’
That’s what John the Baptist’s ministry was about ‘are you ready, luv’– though somehow I can’t quite imagine him calling people ‘luv’. He always comes across as quite a fierce character. But his ministry was to get people ready for the coming of Jesus – ‘make straight the way for the Lord’.
One of the prophecies that John fulfils is in Isaiah 40 – In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. A couple of years ago we went for a week’s holiday to Nerja in southern Spain. One of the places we wanted to visit was Granada, which was about 60 miles inland from Nerja the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which go up to about 10,000 feet. Our old map of the area showed a windy road across the mountains so we were not sure how long it would take to get there, and we expected a lot of ups and downs to slow us down. Lots of mountains to climb and steep valleys to negotiate. What we found was a stunning new autostrada (motorway) – the steep valleys had huge viaducts over them, and the high mountains had tunnels through them. The gradients had been flattened, and the winding bends removed – valleys raised up, and mountains and hills made low. A wonderful picture of what preparing the way of the Lord is about.
We all have mountains and valleys in our lives; things which get in the way of our meeting with God. Some of them are our own fault. Some of them aren’t. John the Baptist in the other Gospel accounts of his ministry called people to bring to God those things in their lives which were getting in the way of their meeting with God. He called people to those things which are still part of baptism services today. He called them to repentance – to a recognition that in much of their lives they were going the wrong way - through selfishness ignoring the needs of others and trampling others down; through greed worshipping money instead of worshipping God. (And maybe we are beginning to hear that call today as we realise that the endless pursuit of money is in the end a blind alley which brings us and others harm rather than good). He also called them to faith in God – to asking for God’s forgiveness and for God’s help to live better lives, and as a symbol of all that he baptised them with water as a picture of God’s cleansing forgiveness and as a picture of the new life of the Spirit which God wanted to give them. He also said that Jesus would baptise them with the Spirit and make all of that real in their lives.
‘Are you ready, luv?’. Part of being ready to meet with God is to do our part of getting rid of those things in our lives which get in God’s way, those things which we put ahead of following God’s way.
But there are some things which we find it hard to get rid of, and some things we find hard to escape from. Things in our lives which drag us down; mountains which we can’t get over and steep valleys we fall into. Our Old Testament reading was a prophecy which Jesus said he was fulfilling when he spoke about it in his first recorded sermon at Nazareth in Luke 4.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me – anointed him to do what?
Well it’s all about people going through tough times. It says Jesus will come to do the following:-
To the poor – he will bring good news
For the broken-hearted he will bind them up (bringing healing and comfort)
For captives and prisoners he will bring freedom and release from darkness. I believe today that is a real promise for those trapped by addictions and trapped by greed. Jesus can bring you freedom from that.
For those oppressed by circumstances he proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour.
For those who mourn and grieve he brings comfort, beauty, joy.
And for those who despair he promises a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
Are you ready, luv?
As we have seen, part of that is bringing to God the areas of our life where we know we are going wrong, where we know we need to change.
The other part of it is to be ready to allow Jesus to touch us in those parts of our lives where circumstances oppress us or our loved ones.
Broken-hearted.....captive to addictions and greed .....those who mourn and grieve ....those who despair
Is that you or someone you love? Are you ready to ask God to meet with you or with them
To bind up the broken-hearted
To bring freedom for captives
To bring comfort and joy for those who mourn
To bring a garment of praise to those who despair.
The coming of God in Jesus calls us to ask him to change the parts of our lives which displease him. The coming of God in Jesus also calls us to open up our lives to be blessed by him.
(9.00 Bring those to the communion rail)
(10.45 Bring those things to God in the rest of the service and ask the prayer ministry team to pray with you at the end of the service).
Are you ready, luv?