John 1:22-23 They said to him then, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord,í as the prophet Isaiah said."
Who are you? What are you doing? And why is this reason for rejoicing? Those are the 3 questions we wish to address. Today is Gaudatte Sunday, it is the Sunday of the Pink Candle, it is the "Rejoice" Sunday amid all the preparation that marks Advent. Why Rejoice, well the old historic introit began "Rejoice in the Lord always" -- and in Latin Rejoice is Gaudatte. Who is rejoicing? Those who are afflicted, brokenhearted, captive, and bound, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the leper, they are rejoicing, they could not free themselves, and so they rejoice in the good news of the coming of a Savior, who will set them free. Ever since man fell into sin, he has been looking for a Savior, for since that time, the wages of sin is death, and we all sin. So there is rejoicing in those who see that they need a savior, when the news comes that the savior is on the way.
And thatís who John was, not the Savior, but the one who prepares the way. And all those who are looking for a Savior rejoice to see John, for that means that the Savior is on the way, and when he comes he will bind up the brokenhearted, free the captive, loose the bonds, heal the blind, the deaf, the lame and the leper -- but the biggest gift of all, is that the Savior brings the forgiveness of sins. And forgiven we have peace with God, and by grace we are given everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ.
But look again, who is John? Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand does not sound like good news to many people. Repent, that means stop doing the evil you are doing and turn from it. Repent, means to feel sorrow guilt and shame for all the evil you have done. How does that lead us to rejoice? Its not such a paradox; if your only choice was sin, isnít another way, cause for rejoicing? If you were enslaved to the world the flesh, and particularly the devil, wouldnít you long for someone to set you free? Repent means that there is a choice, repent means that someone is coming who will break the devilís power. Repent means that forgiveness is possible. And thatís why people rejoice, and that was the message that most of the people heard. Oh, there were some people who got angry, they didnít want to see their sins. They were kind of set in their sinful ways, and didnít want to change, for change always looks like a hard thing. I guess they thought, as long as I am better than most, God will decide that was good enough. But God has never said anything like that. And God has said, "Be Ye Perfect!"
Now God doesnít tell us to do impossible things. So there must be some way we can meet God expectations. We know that God wants all people to be saved. But people are saved, not because they save themselves, but because God sent his Son to be our Savior, to suffer the death, we by our sins have earned. John was preparing the way, and if you are going to prepare the way, you lift up the valleys, and lower the hills, smooth the rough places, take out the curves, and make a level road that all can travel, and turning from their sins, they can return to God, and come to the Savior redeemer, who brings healing, life, and forgiveness.
And thatís why we stop to rejoice. Last week we heard John the Baptist, and his message of Law, repent of your sins! That word has worked on our hearts, and we have turned from our sins, by grace through faith, and now we hear the reason for rejoicing -- the savior is on the way? It lifts our hearts, it lifts our spirits, and we rejoice to hear the good news of what God is doing for us, we rejoice to see God at work in our lives. We may not be 100% ready, but we are on the right track, and so we shall continue to prepare, knowing that the Savior is near, the time is short, and our salvation is at hand.
So, Who is John? He is the one who prepares the way of the Lord. What is John doing? He is preaching the law to impenitent sinners so that they might turn from their sins, and preaching the gospel to the contrite in heart, telling them of the good news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And why do we rejoice? We rejoice, because God has paid the debt we could not pay. God freed us from the chains we could not break. God gave us a new life, a right spirit, and a clean heart, all ours by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, in whom we have the forgiveness of sins.