We Work While We Wait

Matthew 3:1-12

       In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

  1. Last week we began the Season of Advent by introducing the Advent series “Hope Is On the Way.” It was at that time that we looked at Jesus’ prophecy concerning the time when he would return. The Scripture from Matthew remined us that we have to be ready for Jesus will come back at an unexpected time. We explored the difficulty of waiting – especially in this social-media driven world.
  2. Yesterday — Rev. Bill Thomas, pastor of Herford UMC wrote in the Carroll County Times – the importance of waiting and taking some time for ourselves. There is healing in waiting.
  3. Let’s look at today – “Waiting While We Work” – which is a sub-theme of the Advent – Hope is on the Way.
  4. The first Christmas, 2,000 years ago, began the fulfillment of thousands of years of prophecy after 400 years of silence –
    1. God exhibited the Kingdom of Heaven to the World when His Son became flesh and was born in Bethlehem.
    1. Hope was fulfilled.
  5. And we are promised that Christ will return! We wait … but Hope is on the Way!
    1. I sincerely want all of us today to know that Hope is on the Way!
  6. So on this Second Sunday of Advent – the Season meant to prepare us for Christ’s coming (as a baby in a manger 2,000 years ago and as the King of all kings and Lord of all lords when He returns!) – hear the Good News that, despite whatever circumstances our lives are facing, regardless of the darkness that seems to engulf our lives, Jesus Christ is our Hope – He is here and He is coming back!
  7. The Apostle Matthew introduces us to Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.
  8. From all appearances, this is the first time Jesus and John have actually seen each other face to face – but it is not the first time they met each other…. 
    1. Can anyone tell us when was the first time Jesus and John were in the same room together?  [Luke 1 tells us that the pregnant virgin Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and Luke 1:41 says, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby (John) leaped in his mother’s womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
  9. So … what did John do? Did he sit around and wait for Jesus to start something? Matthew tells us that John came, preaching in the wilderness, saying
    1. “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!”
    1. He baptized people repenting of their sins.
    1. He preached against the scribes and Pharisees.
  10. John prepared himself for what God called him to do while he was waiting.
    1. Tradition tells us that maybe John was a member of a special group of Jews called the Essenes – they were like a fraternal order of Jewish priests who dedicated their lives to the study of Scripture (Old Testament) and communal living.
    1. Some believe they are responsible for preserving the Scriptures that were discovered in 1948 – the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  11. What did John do? He waited for the Messiah, the Christ, to present Himself – and in the meantime he worked! Hard!
  12. I am not a very patient person. I am always on the go and find that I really need to be able to think that I have accomplished something every day. I plan my day with more “to do” on my list than I accomplish. My “to do” list is small compared to the “to do” list that Ann has prepared for me.
  13. Patience is a part of the fruit of the Spirit that we find in Galatian 5. I need to nurture this key feature of life.
  14. So, we ask ourselves: How do we wait in great expectation while we don’t know what to expect?
    1. I imagine we are NOT able to sit and twiddle our thumbs while we wait.
    1. If the kingdom is here, then we need to live like it is here.
    1. If the kingdom is not yet, then we need to live like it is here.
    1.  If the kingdom is NOW . . . AND NOT YET, what do we did then? This is the quandary that we live in today.
  15. So, one of the questions for today is What do you think about what John is saying to us through today’s Scripture?
  16. Advent is a great time to begin thinking about this message that he has for us.
    1. If only there was someone dressed in Camel skins who ate locusts to help us with this. God sends one just like this to speak his word to us!
  17. Matthew introduces John the Baptist by saying: In those days.
  18. Matthew knew that thirty years had passed since Jesus arrived in Nazareth.
    1. This phrase shows that the birth of Jesus and the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry are part of the same period of salvation history.
    1. The prophets use the phrase “In those days” to describe the days of the Messiah.
    1. Matthew tells us the long-expected Messiah is on the doorstep.
  19. John the Baptist came, preaching. John’s message was not limited to a small circle of insiders.
    1. It was public proclamation taking place in the Desert.
    1. Though hot, dry, and sparsely populated, there was substantial travel around the edges of the desert. John’s ministry would be where there would have been plenty of traffic. For people to attend, they would have to be prepared to travel in the hot desert.
    1. This was the Gallian version of a Methodist Camp meeting or a revival in the desert.
  20. John’s message was, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.
    1. The word repent in Hebrew means to turn around.
    1. The prophets used the word to describe the radical change of life that obedience to God demanded.
    1. Repentance is not just saying you are sorry for your failings or succumbing to temptations.
    1. Repentance is the hard WORK of changing the direction and patterns of your life.
  21. Let’s take a moment and dig a little deeper about repentance.
  22. Repentance is probably one of the most poorly understood terms in all of the Gospel, despite the fact that it is among the first principles and ordinances that form the basis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    1. Many people are afraid of repentance; some are afraid of the consequences that are likely to occur if they were to admit to any wrong doing, and others dread the potential loss in social standing and status that can come with an admission of sin.
    1. There are those who resent the notion that they need to repent, because they insist that they do not sin, and they therefore resent the implication that they might be a sinner. 
    1. Others will not accept that they even need to repent, because they do not think that what they are doing is wrong and they therefore resent those that suggest that they might need to change. 
    1. Almost all of these people mistakenly think that repentance involves punishment and suffering, and therefore they tend to react badly when someone – like a loving family member or a friend or a pastor counsels them to repent. 
  23. The reasons why people may have a problem with repentance are many, but principal among them is surely a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes true repentance. 
  24. However, when one takes the time to contemplate and comprehend the true meaning of repentance, it becomes a inspiring doctrine of love and forgiveness and relief from the burden of sin.
  25. Repentance is perhaps the most hopeful and encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary.
    1. We thank our God that we are allowed to change, we thank Jesus we can change, and ultimately we do so only with the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit
  26. Repentance is not feeling better because you got something off your chest; it is beginning in a new direction in life with the help of the Holy Spirit.
  27. People need hope during times of darkness—That hope is Christ. Christ was the hope of a world that sat in darkness for many years without hearing the voice of God. At the birth of Jesus, hope came into the world.
  28. Hope is on the way! Psychologists tell us that the Christmas season can be one of the most stressful times of the year. I doubt we really needed a psychologist to tell us that. More depression diagnoses are made in the holiday season than any other time of the year.
    1. Are you having a blue Christmas as the song writer said once? Hope is on the way!
    1. Take that message to the single mother who cries herself to sleep at night praying that God will take care of her and her children. Hope is on the way!
    1. To the stressed-out father who is trying so hard to provide for his family we have a message to proclaim: Hope is on the way!
    1. To the lonely widow who celebrates Christmas after saying goodbye to her dearest on earth: Hope is on the way!
    1. When the night seems too long, and you awake to a dreary day, don’t lose hope, Hope is on the way!
    1. If you are fighting a battle of fear and it seems that God is silent, just hold on, Hope is on the way!
  29. When your heart is broken in two and you’re standing in the rubble of your life, God’s Word says, “Hold on my child your weeping only lasts for a night–joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Hope is on the way!
  30. On the day that we stand before Jesus Christ and see Him face to face we will have no need to hope, we will then know Him even as He now knows us. We will stand before the hope of all humankind and He will no longer be our hope, He will be our intimate friend and brother, our Lord and Savior, the one who gave His life so that we might live eternally.
  31. Will you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your hope this morning? He is the only true object of hope. Hope is on the way!  Have you made Jesus Christ your personal savior? Hope is here!

Thanks be to God!