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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist




A Sermon for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist - June 24, 2024

Isaiah 40:1-5

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this evening is from our Old Testament reading from the book of the Prophet Isaiah in the fortieth chapter with special emphasis on verses three through five which read as follows:

 

“A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”[1]

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Nothing concerning salvation is an accident; it all proceeded according to God’s own design. Such is the case with the birth of the forerunner, St. John the Baptist. He is a forerunner because it was his duty to come before the Lord Jesus Christ, to prepare His way and to proclaim the coming day of the Lord.

                Now this would happen in two ways, first by the occasion of John’s birth preceding the Lord Jesus’s and secondly by John beginning his prophetic ministry as the last of the Old Testament prophets before Jesus began His ministry.

                But today we concentrate on the birth of John. John was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth. Both were pious believers in God’s promises. Both looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, the Lord, the One Who would redeem Israel and remover her transgressions. Zechariah and Elizabeth, like all Christian parents, hoped for the blessing of children to their marital union. However, they were plagued with many years of infertility and were unable to conceive a child. They grew old and did not have any children and they likely had given up the dream of having children of their own. Zechariah was a priest and was chosen by lot to serve at the altar of incense in the Temple. When he went in to perform his duty, he was visited by Gabriel the archangel who told him that Elizabeth would conceive and bear a son. More still, this child would be holy to the Lord and would be the one to fulfill what was prophesied here by the prophet Isaiah over seven hundred years prior.

                John would be the one to proclaim the way of the Lord, to preach repentance in Israel, and to ready the people for the coming of their King and Lord. His ministry would be important and teaches us something primary about the coming of faith to people: repentance precedes the reception of the Gospel. That is to say, so long as a man refuses the diagnosis, he will not take the cure. To put it another way, if a person is unable to admit that he or she is a sinner and to admit his or her own sins to God by confessing them, then such a person will have no need of the Gospel.

                This reminder is one that should root deep in our ears and consciences. There is a something of a tendency in America these days to see the Gospel as a general attitude of niceness toward us on the part of God. More still, such a  view of the Gospel as an abstract thing leads to a view of sin as an abstract thing. Such a view does not allow for the genuine repentance of sinners in need, but instead sees sinfulness as something to either be ignored or to see sin as a general orientation towards God with no real, tangible ramifications.

                Sin is a multifaceted thing and it is common for theologians and pastors to teach about it consisting of three parts: the state of sin we are born into and part of known as original sin, the sins that we do which can be called actual sin, and the desire and willingness to sin known as concupiscence. All three of these are sin and all three feed on and support the others. We are sinners in a sort of general way as original sin teaches us, but our state as original sinners leads us to both desire sin in concupiscence and to carry out sins in our action or inaction, as the case may be.

                This is why God sends John to speak words of repentance, to call Israel out on their state as sinners and the sins that they have done. And this call is one we should heed as well.

                More to the point: we need not fear this call to repent. Specifically calling out sins can be a scary and daunting thing and no sinner likes to have his faults condemned. But this is the diagnosis that we all need and why we ought to pray regularly that the Lord send us bold and faithful preachers to condemn the real and present sins of our world, our churches, and our own selves. John did this, to the point that in calling out King Herod Antipas for taking Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife as his own, John gave up his life and was beheaded.[2]

                This call to repentance is not necessarily safe, but it is necessary. Because in doing it, though the sinful heart does not like the diagnosis, there is no other way to make a person ready for the remedy that is the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus.

                John was born first, his ministry began first, and he indeed fulfilled the prophecy from Isaiah to prepare the way of the Lord. Today still the words and example of John echo forth in every call to repentance that issues from Christian pulpits around the world. And, just as John prepared the way for Christ, so too does this call of repentance today. And where repentance is preached, the Gospel is gladly received.

                So, in a way, we are all beneficiaries of John’s work. We have headed the call to repentance. And, even more, we have received the remedy for our sins in the merciful death of Jesus Christ our Lord. By hearing of our condition, our hearts and minds were made ready to receive Christ and, as God gladly designs is, we have indeed received the full measure of forgiveness from Christ Jesus our Lord.

               

In the Holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 


[1] Isaiah 40:3-5 English Standard Version

[2] John 14:1-12

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