Everything in the Christian Church has been designed to point us away from ourselves, away from earthly things, and to Jesus. This is the case in something as simple as our calendar. The Church’s calendar even influences the world’s calendar whether the world knows it or not, whether the world likes it our not. Christmas and Easter, the two greatest day of the Christian calendar, affect the secular calendar, bringing days off work and even closed banks, government offices, and stores. This doesn’t work vice-versa. The Church does not alter her calendar for Independence Day or Fathers’ Day or National Donut Day because those days do not point to Jesus. But every day of the Church Year does, even days like today where the Church remembers St. Andrew, or any other saint. Of the saints who are remembered throughout the year, St. Andrew holds a certain place of honor. Because His Feast Day, today, November 30, is used to determine the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new Church Year.
Why St. Andrew? We heard it just a minute ago in the Reading. Andrew is the first missionary. He was a student of John the Baptist, the final Prophet sent to prepare the way for Jesus. One day John is teaching his students, spots, Jesus, and directs his students’ attention to Jesus—” Look at Him! He is the Lamb of God I said was coming, the one who is sent by God to take away the sin of the world. Andrew gets up and follows Jesus without a second thought. He spends the whole day with Jesus, listening to His teaching and asking Him questions, when everything from Jesus’ mouth aligns with what John taught and the rest of Scripture, Andrew knew He was in the presence of God. Andrew then becomes the first domestic missionary, finding his brother, Simon Peter, telling him, “We have found the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed of God who comes in the Name of God, with the authority of God, the one who is God in the flesh. All our hopes are met in Him! The salvation of the world will be accomplished in Him! Come and see!” And then later, this same Andrew will be come a foreign missionary of sorts. Some Greeks will come, desiring to see Jesus and once again, Andrew will point them to Jesus. For this reason, this eagerness to point to Jesus, Andrew gets to begin the Church Year, as its entire purpose is to point us to Jesus, the one who has come to die and to rise, to take away sin and condemnation, to prepare an eternal home for us.
So, St. Andrew is an example for us. Like him, we are presented now with so many opportunities to point to Jesus. In this season of Advent, so many stores have started selling Advent calendars filled with chocolates, beers, Legos, and makeup. They took the name Advent but have ignored what Advent is about. The secular Advent calendar Advent builds up to disappointment. All of the chocolates are eaten, the books read, or whatever the calendar gave is exhausted and the one counting down is left with nothing but emptiness and uncertainty over what comes next. But the real Advent, the one St. Andrew’s Feast Day begins, is not filled with diabetes and despair. The true Advent points to Christ. St. Andrew stands as an example to us in his excitement, his eagerness to find Peter, his brother, and to bring him to Jesus. It’s a reminder to us to go and do likewise. But you may not feel you’re up to that task of being a missionary, an evangelist to point the world to Jesus. Don’t get caught up in the countless number on earth. Do what Andrew did. Start at home, in your neighborhood. Use this Christmas time as your opportunity to tell people to forget the candy and to find their ultimate longing, their greatest gift in Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem to shed His Blood for the sin of the world, to draw all men to Himself and t open heaven to all who believe.
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.