Expect a Challenge

Part 2: “Expect a Challenge”
(Series: What Do You Expect this Christmas?)
Sunday, December 5, 2010 – Second Sunday of Advent
Matthew 3:1-12 (Isaiah 11:1-10)
This week we continue to ask: “What do you expect this Christmas?”
It’s part of our Advent journey…Preparing to meet Christ again, what do we expect?
One thing we might not expect is to encounter the adult John the Baptist…
30 years after Christ’s birth…Talking to us right before Christmas…
What is he doing here?
As we look deeper into this familiar story, we begin to see the challenge of the season…
What difference does Jesus make to the world today?
Let us pray:
O come, Emmanuel, God with us, the Expected Savior of all nations,
O come, Wisdom from the mouth of the Most High God,
come and teach us how to face the challenges of this world as we prepare to meet you.
In Jesus’ Name…Amen
Today we circle back in Matthew’s gospel…
Last week we were at the end of Jesus’ ministry; today we return to the beginning…
These texts are unusual for the Christmas season,
but they demonstrate the same kind of expectation…
The expectation that God will or has already begun a new way of relating to the world
and this “new way” is a call for our relationships to change
So, what do we expect?
For me, this text calls me to expect a challenge…
There has long been a debate over how to translate this text with the proper punctuation…
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’”
Is different from:
“The voice of one crying out: ‘In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.’”
I think the latter translation makes more sense for us…
It is in the wilderness where the highway for God needs to be paved;
It is in the wilderness of our culture where the real work needs to be done.
Our challenge comes in John’s call to repentance.
One of the big mistakes we make is to hear John’s words as only being directed at this
“brood of vipers” standing by the river – The Pharisees and Sadducees.
It is more important for us to realize who these vipers represent…
John is really talking to people who already believe in the God of the Bible and God’s Word of promise…the Jews…John is not preaching to non-believers here…
For us, then, it is vital that we hear John’s call to repentance, not as a call to conversion, but as a call to radical change
He is speaking to usas believers – and telling us that repentance, the Greek metanoia, is more than simply being sorry for past sins or asking for forgiveness;
This metanoia is a radical change in behavior; a turning away from our past way of life and beginning a whole new thing in Christ Jesus…
It’s about new expectations for our relationship with God.
John is challenging us to see ourselves in the faces of the Pharisees and the Sadducees…
It’s not enough to proclaim that we believe; that we accept the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; that we believe in the Messiah…
It’s about the fruit that we bear…The ax is waiting to cut down any tree that does not bear good fruit…The Jews don’t want to hear it and neither do we!
John the Baptizer cries out with a sense of real urgency…His message is just as real for us as it was for those standing by the side of the Jordan…
You can’t keep doing things the way you’ve always done them…
You have a limited amount of time before you reach God’s Kingdom…
We must stop living for this world and start living for God’s world…
When we choose to live for God’s world
we will become part of God’s transformation of this world
The challenge in this message is that we have a choice
We can choose to rock along as if Jesus’ presence in the world makes no difference…
Or we can choose to be part of the transformation…
We can choose to believe that only men can solve the problems that plague our world…
Or we can choose to realize that peace is the miraculous gift of God that we are invited to live into and sustain.
The choice is ours and our choices will be manifest in the fruit we display.


If you ask someone who has overcome an addiction or some other destructive way of life, you will find someone who knows what true repentance is about…
Their former behavior was not sustainable…
Only God’s dramatic action to bring about a radical new thing, along with their willingness to surrender to God’s work, enabled them to move forward –
away from their certain destruction.
The good news was that God handed them exactly what they needed when they needed it AND they made the choice to respond faithfully.
This is true repentance…This is the challenge of expectation…
Surrendering our will to God’s will and choosing to change.
If we expect to meet Christ anew this Christmas, then we must accept the challenge of becoming the person Christ wants to greet…
Not a perfect person, but a repentant person…
Someone who recognizes that it’s not enough to claim to believe;
we must also behave as believers…
You can choose to stand firm as a tree of transformation, sending out branches weighed down with the fruit of a life lived for God…
Or you can slither with the snakes on the river bank, bending to the will of the culture and ultimately writhing on the garbage dump of history…
It’s your choice and your challenge…
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen!
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