A voice cries out to you. Can you hear it? No longer is it coming from the wilderness, but it still has the same purpose…a voice carrying the Word of God to your ears. John the Baptizer is now behind Herod’s bars in prison. Being deprived of his beloved Jordan river and his locusts do not put an end to his vocation. Advent is not over and his God given purpose has not come to an end even as Herod has locked him up behind bars. He will not rest until the path is straight. He will not stop until the way is prepared. And his tool, his weapon, is not stopped by handcuffs and prison food. Can you hear it?
The Baptizer continues to decrease, but the Lord continues to open his lips and through his mouth the Lord Christ continues to increase. The world insists on clinging to false prophets and Satan’s deceptions – idols that cannot guarantee anything. The Lord knows that you have succumbed to the work of the Devil and his demons. He knows that you don’t believe how deep and powerful his deceptions are. The heavenly Father knows that you make more friends and influence more people with fine clothes and king’s palaces. Gold and silver will turn more heads but it is the Word of God that will carry you out of eternal damnation. Advent is not over, you are not done waiting for the LORD to judge the living and the dead. And therefore the voice will not end. Can you hear it?
Do the conveniences of life impress you? Do the worries of earthly incidentals pull you away from the love of God with your whole heart and soul and mind? What about loving your neighbors as yourself? All of your neighbors…your brothers and sisters in Christ, every last one of them? Do you love them as yourself? I know I don’t. I would never treat myself the way I have treated others. You all love yourselves. But Satan has tricked you into using your voice, your thoughts, and your actions to show hate instead of love. To show a connection to condemnation rather than eternal life under the heavenly Father who is only LOVE. But this earth and its gold and silver – its iron bars, and even a word given by a king to execute will not silence the Word of God.
Repent! The Kingdom of God is near! Repent and listen…can you hear the voice? The eternal Son of God has redeemed you, a lost and condemned person…he has purchased and won you from all your sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. He did not use gold or silver, but his holy precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death he lifted you out of condemnation and eternal damnation. It is the voice of God…the Word that became flesh and dwells among you. God spoke and it happened. The Father opened his lips and Christ – who filled his mouth – came forth for you to hear, to see, to feel, and to taste. God, who’s Word formed you, fills you. He desires that nothing have your attention but himself. And so your ears are filled with the preached Word of forgiveness, while you feel his Word mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified and the coolness of that heavenly water runs down your cheeks…and your same tongue that sings his praise with hymns and psalms tastes your salvation. It forms you and completes you.
God made you and all creatures. His Word performed the work. It came with a purpose and it did not leave without accomplishing what it came to do. Herod’s ax was laid at the root of John’s tree but that ax did not silence God’s Word. Can you hear the voice? The voice is crying out to you! It defends you from all danger and guards and protects you from all evil. It calls you with Good News…and that Good News breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and your sinful nature.
Combined with water it works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe…certainly it is not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water that does these things, along with the faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. There in the font, the voice of God has made you his child. He has given you Christ’s crucifixion: and through Christ you are no longer blind. You who were lame and dependent upon the world’s crutches now walk again…and you are made whole. No longer dead, but raised…Blessed are you!
The Word of God continues to come to you to deliver absolution, that is, forgiveness, from your pastor as from God himself. Can you hear the voice? It is calling for you. The Holy Spirit brings it here to you. To the body of Christ. Advent is not over and you continue to wait for the Christ to come to judge the world…but until that time, nothing will silence the voice of God. It prepares you for the way of the LORD…it makes your way straight – mountains low and valleys high.
Even from prison, John pointed all people away from himself, away from the earth and their worldly fortunes and filled them with the heavenly riches of Christ’s body and blood. Christ is the one that has come for you! His voice is crying out to you and he gives his Word to you. From pastors and preachers his Word comes to you to make your way straight and to lead you from the valley to the Mountain – for on Mount Calvary, Christ shed his blood to forgive you and release you from the Devil.
His Word of forgiveness endures forever…and forever you have the assurance of your baptism: where Word and water have made you heirs to the Heavenly Kingdom. Children of God traveling through this advent…waiting for the judgment. The true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ will sustain you. God’s voice, his Word combined to bread and wine, gives you the very thing that forgave you in the first place…the body and blood of God. Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Expect no one else…you are renewed, prepared, and forgiven! Can you hear the voice? It speaks here to you!
In the Name of +Jesus. Amen.