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Second Sunday In
Option #1: "The Wilderness Message"
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, B.A., M.Div.
John Wesley's place in history was that of "field preacher." He wasn't the only one who spoke out in the open areas. Today's text is about the message of the most famous open air preacher, John the Baptist. He was the "voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way for the Lord!"
kayrussoo--always with the suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed. (Thayer)
1) A message about repentance and forgiveness of sins
metanoia--Thayer: 1) a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents
forgiveness--aphesis: 1) release from bondage or imprisonment, 2) forgiveness, or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the penalty
2) A message about preparing the King's road before Him
4As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"
hetoimazo˘˘: Thayer definition: 1) to make ready, prepare; 1a) to make the necessary preparations, get everything ready; 2) metaphorically: 2a) drawn from the oriental custom of sending on before kings on their journeys persons to level the roads and make them passable; 2b) to prepare the minds of people to give the Messiah a fit reception and secure his blessings
3) A message about God's salvation
5Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.
tapeinoo--to depress; figuratively, to humiliate (in condition or heart): abase, bring low, humble (self)
Thayer definition: 1) to make low, bring low; 1a) to level, reduce to a plain 1b) metaphorically, to bring into a humble condition, reduce to meaner circumstances. Note well: the word for "every mountain and hill (being) made low" is the same word for "humility" in the rest of the New Testament.
Parallel verses: Thayer's Greek definitions: Luke 1:52, Rom 12:16, James 1:9; Luke 1:52, James 1:9, James 4:6, 1 Pet 5:5, Matt 11:29
Our Lord reminds us that we must humble ourselves so that we may be exalted--cf Matt 23:12; Lk18:9-14.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: b) the word tapeinophrosune˘˘ is not found in classical Greek (Lightfoot); in the New Testament (with the exception of 1 Pet 5:5); it is Pauline. In Greek pre-Christian writers, tapeinos is, with a few exceptions in Plato and Platonic writers, used in a bad or inferior sense--as denoting something evil or unworthy. The prominence it gained in Christian thought indicates the new conception of people in relation to God, to themselves, and to others, which is due to Christianity. It by no means implies slavishness or servility; nor is it inconsistent with a right estimate of oneself, one's gifts and calling of God, or with proper self-assertion when called for. But the habitual frame of mind of a child of God is that of one who feels not only that s/he owes all her/his natural gifts etc. to God, but that s/he has been the object of undeserved redeeming love, and who regards her/himself as being not her/his own but God's in Christ. S/he cannot exalt her/himself, for s/he knows that s/he has nothing of her/himself. The humble mind is thus at the root of all other graces and virtues. Self-exaltation spoils everything. There can be no real love without humility. "Love," said Paul, "vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up" (1 Cor 13:4). As Augustine said, humility is first, second and third in Christianity.
I want to tell you a story about people who lived thousands of years ago. Their lives were much different than ours. In Jesus' time, if you wanted to go somewhere, most of the time you walked. Walking 20 miles would take them two days; we can travel that distance in less than Ż an hour.
If you wanted to send a package, it might go by camel or an ox cart. There was no next-day delivery unless it was going just a few miles away. Sometimes the load was carried by a donkey. They would lead the donkey by a rope and he would carry what we call "saddle bags." Sometimes the saddle bags weren't equally loaded, so the donkey driver would pick up stones to balance the load. Sooner or later these stones would fall out on the road and no one would bother to pick them up. We have highway department workers to do that job today, but they didn't have them then.
So when the time came for a very important man to visit your hometown, they would send men out to clear the highways of all those stones that fell from the donkeys as they were passing through. The call would go out: The King is coming. Prepare the highway! Clear the road! With the stones removed, they could go straight through instead of on a crooked road.
Well, that's what John the Baptist was telling people to do. He was telling them to prepare the highway for Jesus to come. But he wasn't talking about the interstate highway from Dan to Beersheba. He was talking about our hearts. The Bible says that our hearts are like stone when it comes to hearing God's Word. We need to get rid of the hard hearts of stone so that Jesus may come to live there with us.
A long time before Jesus came, Ezekiel spoke for God when he said: (Ezekiel 11:19) I will... put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
This Christmas Jesus will be working on your heart with His Word. Listen to Him as much as you can so that your stony heart may be soft and ready for Jesus to come in.
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Option 2: "God Boils and Launders Us!"
Rev. Kelly Bedard, B.A., M.Div.
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This page was revised on: Sunday, December 10, 2006 04:50:51 AM