Advent 3 + December 14 & 17, 2017
Text: John 1:6-8, 19-28
This weekend, there is much rejoicing in Packerland. After two months on Injured Reserve, Aaron Rodgers has been given the green light to play. During the time Rodgers was out of commission, back-up quarterback Brett Hundley filled in. He did a good job. He played better than a lot of people expected. But even though Brett Hundley played fairly well, nobody is saying, Let’s keep Hundley on the field. Sure, he’s no Aaron Rodgers, but he’s doing OK. Let’s just keep Rodgers on the sideline. Nobody is saying that - maybe except for Lions and Vikings fans.
Well, the difference between Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley is like the difference between Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. Like Brett Hundley did a good job filling in for the injured Aaron Rodgers, so also, John the Baptist did a good job preparing the way for the coming of Jesus. But, just like Aaron Rodgers is the MVP of the Packers, so also Jesus Christ is the only Savior. Only Jesus is the true Messiah. Only Jesus Christ can take his people to the victory of everlasting life in heaven.
And John the Baptist knew this very well. Our text reads, "This was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, 'I am not the Christ.' Finally, they said, 'Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?' John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, 'I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" John did his job well. John knew he wasn’t even in the same league as Jesus.
Packer fans do not want Brett Hundley to play if Aaron Rodgers can play; so also, Christians would never accept any other Savior except Jesus Christ. That’s what John the Baptist tells us. So, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our one and only Savior, we hear the message of God’s Word: never accept a substitute Savior.
Again, John did his job well. He would never allow anyone to ever think that he was the same as Jesus. He took the spotlight off of himself and put the light completely and totally on Jesus. That’s what God’s true prophets always do. That’s what God’s Word always does. God’s Word and God’s prophets always direct our thoughts and our faith to Christ alone.
So why would anyone accept a substitute Savior when Jesus is the one and only real Savior? People accept substitute Saviors for the same reason they accept any other substitute: substitutes cost less. Roundy’s ketchup costs less than Heinz. Walgreen’s ibuprofen costs less than Advil. Wal-Mart’s shampoo costs less than Pantene. Now, when it comes to consumer products, substitutes aren’t that bad. Roundy’s ketchup still tastes good on a burger. Walgreen’s ibuprofen still reduces aches and pains. Wal-Mart shampoo still cleans your hair. Maybe these store brands don’t have the exact same quality as the national brands, but they still do the job. And they cost less to do it.That’s why we face the temptation to accept a substitute Savior.
It’s easy to think, Sure, Jesus is a great Savior, but it costs too much to follow him. I have to do all this repenting and feeling sorry for my sin. I have to make Jesus number one in my life. I have to put all my faith in Jesus and in him alone. I have to go to church and praise him. I have to give my offerings. I have to tell other people that I believe in Jesus. Doing all that stuff for Jesus is a price I can’t afford. I can’t do all that Jesus asks of me. So, I’ll find a substitute for what Jesus offers me. I will find happiness in my friends and relatives. I’ll find meaning for my life in my career and family. I’ll find freedom from guilt in psychotherapy. I’ll find peace with God and the hope for heaven in my own goodness and my own spirituality. And I’ll find the meaning of Christmas in decorations, presents, holiday gatherings, and good cheer. I can afford those things. I can do those things.
Even though we may want a discount Messiah, no such thing exists. That’s because forgiveness of sins is not like ketchup, pain killers or shampoo. Eternal life in heaven is not a consumer product. You cannot get imitation forgiveness at a discount price. There is no such place as "an imitation, almost heaven." There is only one heaven. There is only one God. There is only one true faith. There is only one way to receive forgiveness of sins. There is only one Savior. There is only one Jesus.
Our text says, "There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light." (v. 6-8) You see, nobody else is true God who became a true, perfect human. Only Jesus did that. Only Jesus Christ is that. Only Jesus is "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God." (Nicene Creed) That means only Jesus has power to remove the stain of your sin with his holy, precious blood. His blood is the blood of the Son of God. It’s not the blood of an ordinary human. Only Jesus has the power to remove your guilt. He doesn’t do it by leading you to accept yourself for who you are. He actually removes that guilt by cancelling your load of sin before his heavenly Father.
Likewise, only Jesus has power to give you real meaning and purpose in life. He does not simply let you succeed in your career or have a picture-perfect family life. Jesus gives you meaning in life by giving you a real and living relationship with your Father in heaven. This is a relationship that fills every corner of your life. It’s a relationship that lasts for eternal life. And Jesus gives you a true Christmas celebration that isn't about gifts, gatherings, and glitz. The true meaning of Christmas is this: "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)
All these things - forgiveness, freedom from guilt, a clean conscience, true joy and purpose in life, a meaningful Christmas celebration - all these things come only because of Jesus and only through faith in Jesus. Nobody else can give them to you. Yes, imitations may give a temporary, superficial feeling of satisfaction. But those temporary feelings of satisfaction will not - they cannot - stand the test of time. They will not and cannot stand God’s examination on Judgment Day.
So go ahead and buy imitation products to save a few bucks. But never try to get a discount deal on the salvation of your soul. Never accept a substitute savior. Instead, stay with Jesus. Keep Jesus as your only Savior. May God grant it to us all, for Jesus’ sake.