Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the nativity of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, the last of the prophets, and the one foretold in Isaiah, “the voice crying in the wilderness”. So what exactly did John come to do? He did not simply come to tell Israel and the world Christ was coming. They knew a messiah was coming, the Old Testament is clear the Lord will send into our world, a savior, one to deliver us from our sin and to save His people. John, however, came to call all people, those who knew the messiah was coming and those who did not, to repent, for all have sinned and have fallen into the darkness of their sin. John was the beginning of the actual “time of salvation” if you will, where God’s direct plan to redeem His people would be put into action.
Who has ever felt worthless, insignificant? Depression eats away at our hearts and minds. So many people, Christians included, feel as if they don’t matter at all to anyone in this world, or even to God Himself. In a world filled with people who seem more popular, more special, more valuable, it’s easy to feel like one sheep among a hundred, one coin among ten.
"Come, for everything is now ready!” That is the Church’s cry of 2,000 years. Salvation is accomplished! Eternal peace is yours! Come to Christ, all who are heavy-laden by this sinful, dying world with its poisoned air and dark despair. Come, for everything is now ready! Come, find rest for your souls and restoration for your bodies.
Why does the Rich Man in today’s Gospel go to hell? Why is Lazarus borne by the angels to Abraham’s bosom? Is it because of the life they lived? Is it because, in the end, God makes everything fair? The Rich Man had good things, so now it’s time for him to experience the bad? Lazarus starved, was unable to help himself in any way, and now lives in the lavishness of heaven that far exceeds what the Rich Man had? No. None of that is right, though we’d like it to be.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.