Sermon for 12.12.21 – Advent and Politics

Advent and Politics

Luke 3:7-18

When it comes to the most unifying days of the year around Christmas, here I am bringing up the top two topics that cause the most arguments.  I am not here to argue.  In fact, if you would like to argue, your issue is not with me, but someone much much higher up!

A little boy, who wanted $100.00 very badly, prayed for two weeks but nothing happened. Then he decided to write GOD a letter requesting $100.00. When the postal authorities received the letter to GOD, U.S.A., they decided to send it to the President.

The President was so impressed, touched, and amused that he instructed his secretary to send the boy $50.00. Mr. President thought that this would appear to be a lot of money to the little boy.

The little boy was delighted with the $50.00 and immediately sat down to write a thank you note to GOD that read: “Dear God, thank you very much for sending me the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you had to send it through Washington, D.C., and, as usual, those devil’s took half of it.

It is jokes like this one that reveals how many people feel negative about politics.  The fact that we get so upset about these things reveals a lot about how we feel.  It seems that since I can remember, there have been very aggressive arguments about things that are often highlighted during political seasons.  Topics like immigration, injustice, racism, and sexism seem to always be at the front of the debate and amazingly, not everyone agrees about any of these ideas.  Then there are taxes and what the government is responsible in taking care of.  Poverty, violence, and education along with government subsidies and allocations of taxpayer money are always divisive issues.

However, the Bible is not silent about these things and Jesus’ ministry did not happen in a vacuum.  He came to this Earth at a time of great Civil unrest.  1 Samuel 8 reveals that God DID NOT want Israel to have an earthly king.  He was a perfect leader as is, why did they need and earthly representation of a king?  God told them they did not need a king like the other surrounding nations.  They complained all the more and we know that God gave them what they asked for saying that not only were they going to have to listen and do what is required of God but now they were also under the thumb of the king and his requirements.  Now, it would have been nice if the king of Israel would have followed the ways of God but that was not the case almost ALL OF THE TIME.  In the history of Israel, and then Israel and Judah, almost all the kings were wicked!  But the people wanted what other countries had…politics.

In our story today we have as many as 5 different political systems at work.  You have Caesar Tiberius who rule from a far.  You had his lacky Pontius Pilate who was governor of the whole territory of Judea.  Herod Antipas, who was a Jew), was assigned to Galilee.  They represented the different governmental forces surrounding the Jewish people.  But also you have two more, Anna and Caiaphas, high priests, who worked with Herod and under Pilate.  You see, if you disagreed with Rome, Rome had you removed as high priest.  So you have 5 powerful and important men.  Now we may understand why John the Baptist is in the wilderness.  Here is today’s verse:

Luke 3:7–18 (NLT): 7 When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. 9 Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”

10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?”

11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”

12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.”

14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers.

John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”

15 Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” 18 John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people.

Think today for a moment of a statement that Will Willimon makes about this idea.  What self-respecting pulpit search committee would ever select a Wildman like John the Baptist?  He certainly didn’t fit in with the pageantry of the Temple.  No, John’s not wearing an expensive purple robe.  He’s wearing camel’s hair and eating wild honey and living off locusts.  Yet this is the person responsible for announcing the Messiah is coming!  Not only that, I want you to think of Jesus’ birth a different way according to documents of record during this time.

Being in Rome’s control was not like a cuddly puppy.  There were several atrocities that were committed by Rome against people who stood up against them.  When Matthew records Joseph and Mary going from Nazareth to Bethlehem due to a census being done by Rome.  This is a four-to-seven-day trip.  Remember, Mary is VERY pregnant, so let’s say it took them both 7 days.  On their way they passed bodies hung on Roman crosses, people who dared stand up against Rome.  As they traveled, they could feel the dust in their throats and hear the hoofbeats of the horses that the Roman soldiers sat on.

John the Baptist prepares a way for the Messiah who comes not only to help us but also to go head-to-head, as Will Willimon writes, against the powers that be.  This pronouncement eventually leads to John the Baptist losing his head.  King Herod Antipas was not as Great as his father, and not only that, but he also couldn’t shut John the Baptist up and he didn’t want the message getting back to Tiberius Caesar through Pontius Pilate that he couldn’t control his territory and he himself lose his power or even his own head.

Zephaniah 3:14–20 (NLT): 14 Sing, O daughter of Zion;

      shout aloud, O Israel!

    Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,

      O daughter of Jerusalem!

    15 For the LORD will remove his hand of judgment

      and will disperse the armies of your enemy.

    And the LORD himself, the King of Israel,

      will live among you!

    At last your troubles will be over,

      and you will never again fear disaster.

    16 On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be,

      “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!

    17 For the LORD your God is living among you.

      He is a mighty savior.

    He will take delight in you with gladness.

      With his love, he will calm all your fears.

      He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

    18 “I will gather you who mourn for the appointed festivals;

      you will be disgraced no more.

    19 And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you.

      I will save the weak and helpless ones;

    I will bring together

      those who were chased away.

    I will give glory and fame to my former exiles,

      wherever they have been mocked and shamed.

    20 On that day I will gather you together

      and bring you home again.

    I will give you a good name, a name of distinction,

      among all the nations of the earth,

    as I restore your fortunes before their very eyes.

      I, the LORD, have spoken!”

It doesn’t seem that Zephaniah is prophesying of a great political regime or church revival, but how God would be the conquering King.

Philippians 4:4–7 (NLT): 4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Again, Paul does not implement politics or the dependance of a government to take care of their needs, rather, Paul redirects our attention to the Righteous King.

A question I must ask, was Jesus just as radical as John?  Check this out:

Matthew 6:24–33 (NLT): 24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Once again, we discover that God does not change.  He wants us to trust Him.  He wants to accept Him as King.  To say that people’s trust in government is a new problem ignores that politics have always been a problem.  God, whose ways are higher than ours, looks at mankind and shakes his head in sorrowful dismay.  Who is the master that we serve?  Is Jesus your King first?

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