2nd Sunday in Advent

2nd Sunday in Advent

December 4, 2016

Matthew 3:1-12

“You Can’t Help But Get Involved”

Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon is our Gospel lesson from Matthew chapter 3.

My dear friends,

This may sound crazy, but it’s true. A couple of years ago, an Alabama man set himself on fire in an obvious suicide attempt (he lived). Police said the man doused himself with gasoline before officers arrived. Officers, who were tailed by TV reporters who had received a phone call from the man earlier, witnessed the man set himself on fire, then ran back to their vehicles to retrieve fire extinguishers and put out the fire.

That was when the TV people had to decide what their roles would be. As journalists, their job was to record the incident as neutral observers. At the same time, they also felt they should be caring human beings and help the man by putting out the fire. The TV camera recorded that these men remained newsmen for some 37 seconds. That was how long they taped this burning man; that is how long they did nothing to save him. Finally, one of the men decided to change his role and began to battle the flames as the police arrived with extinguishers. Question…how long would you have waited? How long would you have let that man burn? How long would it take for you to get involved? We’ll come back to this topic.

Our Gospel lesson is about the ministry of John the Baptist. John lived in the desert wilderness, wore what a prophet wears, ate locust and wild honey, and preached a powerful message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat 3:2 ESV). Through God’s involvement, John the Baptist challenged the people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah by turning away from sin and being baptized into repentance. John never lost sight of his mission – the reason he was involved in the first place – to point people to Christ.

So…what does this mean for you and I…today…just 3 weeks away from Christmas; can’t we just talk about the manger? No…not just yet. Instead, remember that man who set himself on fire and the reporters watched? That TV crew in Alabama stood by idly until they felt compelled by human compassion to get involved.    The thing is…this world is filled with people who, like these newsmen, decide it’s not their job to help a neighbor in distress or to get involved. Truly the world is filled with spectators. We know there are people who are lonely, desperate, hurting, cold, and hungry, but we don’t get involved citing our own busyness and lack of funds to help. We know there are children who will have nothing under the tree on Christmas, and we try to help as much as we can. Can we do more…should we do more? Certainly we cannot fix everything, and we know there is need EVERYWHERE – in our church, in our community, maybe even in our own family – but we hesitate to get involved because sin convinces us that someone else will take care of it, right? Not always…

Sadly, there is more than one follower of the Savior who can watch starvation, disease, pain, loneliness, abuse, addiction, murder, and all of the other world’s sins and ills on the news played out on their 72” HD TV while calmly eating supper and their compassion extends no further than the remote control can reach. Somewhere along the line, they convinced themselves that caring wasn’t their job or responsibility.    My friends, the time to be involved is now. John the Baptist couldn’t help but be involved. He knew his mission in life. He clearly understood that he had been set apart by God for a purpose. John got involved; he did what he had to do. He called right “right” and he called sin “sin.” John was not a disinterested observer. He wasn’t afraid to get involved…and his involvement cost John his life. I can think of another whose involvement cost Him His life. Any guesses? I’ll give you 3…and the first 2 don’t count.    Thankfully, the Lord Jesus didn’t become a disinterested observer to the plight of sinful humanity. No one could have criticized Him if He had stayed in His role as Judge and sent all of us uncompassionate, uninvolved souls to hell. But we are saved by faith because, in spite of our sin, the Lord continued to care. Jesus loved and cared enough to get involved – He couldn’t help it! God cared enough to send His Son into the world to be born in a Bethlehem stable and die on a Jerusalem cross. He cared enough to offer his back to the whip and his hands to the nails so you don’t have to. He cared enough to send His Son to take our place under the Law and offer forgiveness, love, salvation and eternal life to an entire world by divine grace through faith. Knowing God’s love and involvement for you, how long will you sit and wait being uninvolved while souls are dying eternally apart from Jesus who will separate the chaff from the wheat at the end-time “harvest”?

If you don’t see any physical or spiritual needs around you, you aren’t looking in the right place. If you’re not sure where or how you can be involved, you’re not looking hard enough. Don’t be afraid to get involved. Sure, we’re not all prophets or evangelists or pastors or teachers, but God has gifted you somehow. Identify what you’re passionate about. Find a need, get involved, and make a difference for Christ in this world and the next.

Imagine that a man died and stood before God who asked what he did with his money in life to help others. The man can’t really remember specifically what he did to help others that was worthy of telling God, so full-blown panic set in; complete “lock up.” Then, a woman steps forward and thanks the man for coming to visit her when she was in the hospital with breast cancer and the inspirational church materials he brought to share with her. A young boy steps forward and tells the man and God that when he was only 10, his family often went hungry, but because of the local food bank they could eat. A third young person comes up to them and thanks the man for helping pay his way to a youth gathering when that experience strengthened the boy’s dying faith. A mother from a remote village steps up to thank the man for the seeds that he packed because the plants grew and helped feed her family and others in their village. The man has to confess that he did not remember specifically helping these people. That’s when God reminded the man that as a part of the body of Christ at Good Shepherd, he did indeed do all of these things and even more. His being involved made a difference in people’s life whether he saw it or not.

My friends, your giving – your involvement – DOES make a difference. You may not see the results of your involvement day in and day out, but it helps. As 2016 winds down, GSLCS has some specific financial goals we want to meet and we could sure use your involvement. Why should you be involved? We get involved because we love God and our neighbor, and because of that love you cannot help but be involved because you already are.

Amen.