Advent 3C - Luke 3:1-6

Luke 3:1-6 (NIV).

 3        In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the Word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

make straight paths for Him.

Every valley shall be filled in,

every mountain and hill made low.

The crooked roads shall become straight,

the rough ways smooth.

And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

 

          In his book, Witness of Radical Faith Carl Michalson references the image described by Oscar Cullmann (a prominent lay theologian from the mid 1900’s) of the military terms D-Day and V-Day and their relationship to each other.

D-Day was the 6th June, 1944 when the Allies invaded Europe to restore freedom to those countries which had been overrun by Nazi tyranny.

          V-Day, sometimes known as V.E.-Day was the day the 2nd World War ended in Europe (the 8th May, 1945).  We can use these dates to help us understand the relationship between Jesus coming into the world (like D-Day) accomplishing victory yet not have fought the final battle.

          In June, 1944, V-Day had not yet come but D-Day had come. The day of God’s decisive battle with forces of evil in human history – the day where the battle began with the advent of Jesus of Nazareth has come for us. Now we live between D-Day, Jesus coming and His victory on the cross, and V-Day, Jesus’ return on the last day.

          We have the promise and assurance of victory – like that of the occupied countries of Europe when the Allied armies landed at Normandy.

The assurance of victory is the Advent of Jesus the Christ. The battle begun back then in the first century A.D. is coming to an end soon. As Michalson says, “We Christians live in the expectation of the final victory and we enjoy the psychological advantage of knowing that we are fighting and working and living in a cause which is fated to prevail.

Like the allied planes which flew over the Normandy beaches in 1944 proclaimed the coming of the Allied forces to rout the evil forces of tyranny, so came John the Baptist to proclaim the coming of Jesus Christ to rout the devil and his cohorts form our lives.

Just as there was a historical context for D-Day and V-Day there is a historical context for us – the first Advent 2018 years ago and the imminent second Advent. Our spiritual D-Day has occurred - it began with the birth of the Christ-child – the decisive battle has been won when Jesus rose from the dead and we now await His return when He will claim all who He has freed from slavery to sin and death.

When John the Baptist came he called for people to “bear the fruits that are consistent with repentance” and for people to be Baptised. John called for repentance in Matthew 3:2 (NIV) 2 …, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.”

Jesus called for the same thing in Mark 1:15 (NIV) 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

But, what is this repentance and how is it accomplished? This is a call for change – for a new direction in our lives. Repentance occurs in a number of ways – it can be a changing of one’s mind, a change in what one cares about, and a change of heart.

The change which John the Baptist and Jesus call for is one that we cannot do on our own – under our own steam. Even if we wanted to it would be impossible for us.

St Paul tells us in Romans 5:6, 8 (NIV) You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

          St Paul explains this more thoroughly in Ephesians 2:3b–9 (NIV) 2. … Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

     It doesn’t matter what age we are, young or old, when we were baptized, as Michael Eschelbach says, “…repentance is the work of God through His Word and Spirit.” This happens in Baptism where we are “first and most significantly washed or immersed in the Word of God”.

          When you study the Bible concerning Baptism you learn that every baptism there recorded “takes place after the living water of God’s Word has flooded the place.” 1 Peter 3:18–21 (NIV) speaks of this: 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,…

          The ritual of Baptism where water together with God’s Word is applied to an individual is God’s seal which grants grace and brings the regeneration John the Baptist spoke of.

          Eschelbach says, “The ceremony of Baptism is to the activity of God’s Word as birth is to conception and nutrition for a human being. Baptism is not so much about understanding as it is about admitting our inability to understand and renouncing our own thoughts and opinions that are contrary to God’s Word and will.

          John the Baptist called with the Word of God for everyone to prepare for what God is doing and going to do in their lives – in your lives and the lives of those around you.

          You have been liberated from the power of sin and death, baptized and immersed in the Word of God. You have experienced your spiritual D-Day. Are you ready for your spiritual V-Day when Christ returns?

Amen.