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.
After God freed the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt, He did not give them a king like all the other nations had. Instead they had a prophet who ruled over them in God’s stead and served as messenger from God to the people and vice versa. The first of many was Moses. This system God designed was good. God ruled over the people and His prophets gave the people His Word for them. The final word was always God’s, and it was good. The handling of disputes between one another was the responsibility of the judges. In the beginning, the judges were good. But after the sons of Samuel the prophet became judges and were extremely dishonest in their affairs, the people of Israel demanded that someone keep them in check. They felt God wasn’t doing a good enough job, and Samuel was too old to be an effective liaison between them and God. It was time for Israel to have a king who would tell everyone just how things would be. Samuel went to God with this troubling news, and God’s reply was not good: “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Sam. 8:7). God knew this was yet another time Israel turned their back on Him. So through Samuel He warned them that a king, as good as it may seem, would eventually become evil and just as self-seeking as the judges had become. But the people didn’t care; they demanded their king and God gave them what they asked for.
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.