Sermon Notes, 3rd Sunday in Advent, Prepare ye the way of the Lord by Ryan Underwood, 15 December 2019 Anno domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
My dear Brethren in Christ, this week we observe the ember days of Advent, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday wherein the Church exhorts us to pray for those who are preparing to undertake the ordained ministry of Word and Sacrament. This being said, today’s Gospel text shows us how all Christians may strengthen their faith in the midst of doubt and temptation, so that they may serve as tools whereby the Holy Ghost brings poor and destitute sinners to the promise of eternal life found in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Gospel. St. Matthew 11: 2-10
“NOW when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2)
A lively faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ is essential for a truly Christian life. However, many people think that having a lively faith in Christ implies that Christians never suffer from doubt or temptation. But remember, John knew Our Lord for a long time prior to his imprisonment, and was a faithful minister of God’s Word. He knew Our Lord from his mother’s womb, and preached of Him boldly in the desert, witnessing that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. However, now he is shut up in prison for preaching against the immoralities of the King. In his gloomy cell, John is assailed with doubts over whether Christ is indeed the promised Messiah and Savior foretold by the prophets since the world began. We learn from this that even holy men are subject to the trying of their faith through temporary doubts and temptations, and need the reassurance of God’s Word to sustain them through these tribulations. He, therefore, sends two of his disciples to enquire of Our Lord, that his faltering faith might be strengthened and confirmed by the words of Jesus Christ.
As you proceed through the Christian life, do you ever feel like John? Upon seeing and experiencing the wickedness of the world around you, are you ever tempted to doubt Jesus Christ and the promise of His Kingdom? Do you ever look upon the carnage of our once Christian civilization, and doubt whether Christ can save it? Do you say with the prophet Ezekiel, “. . .Can these bones live? . . .” (Ezekiel 37:3) Fear not, for God through His Apostles warns us that the pathway to eternal life with God is one of temptation and suffering, “. . . that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) Therefore, let us not give in to temptation or doubting, but rather let us trust that God will see us through to the end. Let us take comfort in the words of God spoken to David, a man who suffered from doubt and temptations in his own troublesome times, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10) The Devil will assault you with many doubts and temptations in the Christian life. When this happens, follow John’s example by going to the Lord and seeking comfort and edification from His Holy Word. When you face temptation, pray that God may give you the grace to repent of your sins, to seek after the Truth
of His Word in your Bibles and in the quiet prayer of your hearts. Trust that the Holy Ghost will bring you to Jesus Christ, that He will make Christ known to you as your Lord and Savior.
Although the flame of your faith may burn dimly at times, yet know that if you but cling to the promises of Jesus Christ, then the Holy Ghost will fan your dim faith into a flaming fire whereby the light of Christ shall be made known among men. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do
hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Matthew 11:4-6) Indeed, and what answer do we hear from the words of the Lord? If you wish to strengthen your faith in the midst of suffering and doubt, then look to your bibles and see how Christ continues to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament in the present day.
Christ makes the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lepers to be clean, and the dead to be resurrected. Take your own selves for instance. By yourselves, you are poor and destitute sinners, deaf to God’s Word, blind to the beauties of His grace, dead in your trespasses and sins, contaminated by the spiritual leprosy of original sin so that your whole nature is totally depraved and merits only eternal damnation. However, Christ comes to you, and opens your ears so that you may hear the Gospel. You had no part in accomplishing this, and in all probability you actively resisted Him, but yet His purpose stands. Christians, He has preordained you to eternal life from before the foundation of the world. He opens a way into your hearts, He washes you in His own Blood, He heals your wounds by the Holy Ghost, and He turns your poverty into riches by reckoning His righteousness to your account, and making His Word take root in your souls. Therefore, be strengthened in your faith, for the grace of Christ has done all these things, and will continue to work for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purpose, through all the sufferings of this life, unto the world’s end. Do not take
offense at the Gospel of Christ, but earnestly believe in Christ, knowing that He will lead you through the temptations of this life, healing you of your sins, and sanctifying you by His Spirit unto everlasting life. Go to Jesus Christ with all your heart, and His Word will strengthen your faith in the midst of suffering and doubt and temptation, and will enable you to persevere unto the end.
“And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before
thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” (Matthew 11:7-10)
Christians, Christ not only restores you to health and confirms your faith in Him, but also calls you to labor for the spreading of His saving health to all nations. Of course, not everyone is called to stand in a pulpit or take upon himself a pastorate, but every Christian is called to faithfully walk in the way of Christ, and thereby witness to Him, for Our Lord says to you, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) Don’t waste your time on the trivial things of this fallen world, but dedicate
yourselves to those things which are eternal and lead to your everlasting happiness! Prepare the way of the Lord by repenting of your sins and seeking the Holy Ghost to restore you to the life of Christ. By His grace, diligently study God’s Word, seek God’s glory, and proclaim the Gospel by word and deed to every creature.
Have faith in the love and work of Christ which saves you from your sins. Love God and make much of His Law. Earnestly pray for the Holy Ghost to bind God’s Law of love to your hearts and the hearts of your children. Work for His Word to be the center of your lives and households. Undertake your daily occupations honestly
and to the best of your ability, as in the sight of God, for in this way you can be a witness to Him among men. Fear not when the Devil puts doubts or temptations into your hearts, but trust that the Lord’s strength is perfected in your weaknesses. Know that if He has saved you from your sins and reconciled you to God, then He will also sustain you in the Christian life through all doubts and temptations unto the end, for, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)You are freed Christian men, saved by the Blood of Christ. Therefore boldly speak His Word and faithfully bear witness to Him with your lips and your lives in all that you do. In this way you will be used by Christ as His servants to open spiritual pathways whereby the Holy Ghost enters the souls of your sin-sick neighbors and restores them to health. This is the true Christian calling, this is the only life worth living, and I pray that you and I may walk it until our dying day, when we will receive the reward and perfection of our faith, even eternal life with God and with all His saints through Jesus Christ Our Lord. For to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.