As Advent draws to its close, with all four Advent wreath candles lit, we are reminded that Christmas has almost come. The four burning candles aren’t a reminder to finish shopping or baking or packing, but a reminder to continue to do what we have been doing all along: repent, remember why you need a Savior, and rejoice that God sent His Son from heaven to be born as a Man to go to the cross for you. No one helps us do this, especially in Advent, quite like John the Baptizer. John is always there to call us to repentance and to point us to the Christ, just as he did for the people of Israel in the days of Jesus.
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.