12-4-16 sermon “Do You Hear What I Hear” Mt. 3

For a Video of this sermon, click here. 

Do You Hear What I Hear?  Matthew 3:1-12  12-4-16

I love that song- “Do You Hear What I Hear?” It asks a very important question.  It is the same thing Jesus kept saying,  “He who has ears let them hear.” Why did he keep saying this?   I believe if Jesus were on earth, he would say the same thing- maybe more so in our culture.  In a secular culture- people do not want to hear certain things- and they do not want to see certain things.  They do not want to hear prayer in the schools.  Secular people cringe at “Merry Christmas.”  They want you to think you offend them when you say anything or hold up anything about your faith.  Respect the Holidays- and having respect for others doesn’t mean you are silenced.  It means someone can say, “Happy Hannukkah” and that is ok. Or “Happy Kwanzuh” and that is ok.  Or “Bah Humbug” and that is ok.  For Christians- we are not going to fuss if you don’t hear it or see it.  But we want the right to say, “Do you hear what I hear?”  Let me hear it,  and let me be excited when I hear it.   Being able to hear good news- that melts away the fear of death, and shrinks the power of guilt and sin is so important. The gospel is not milktoast-  powerless nothingness.   Many believe the gospel means nothing.  Many have ears but they do not want to hear.  The Pharisees and Herodians in Jesus’ day were like this.  The Pharisees had it all figured out- they had so many rules they had no room for God or flexibility or new things. But the Pharisees were not perfect people.  Jesus once said to them, “He who is without sin cast the first stone”- and none of them could throw it. The Herodians were the secularists of the day who used religion when convenient but tried to marginalize it.  They just didn’t want to hear.  John the Baptist came to such people and said, “You’d better wake up to God!  Let your lives reflect your faith- produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” The Herodians and Herod (their leader) did not want to hear any challenge to their way of life or belief (or lack thereof), so they imprisoned and eventually beheaded John.   
      There are others who do not hear because they are distracted or busy.  This was the people of Bethlehem who made no room for Jesus.  They believed, but didn’t expect anything but the ordinary, and were busy with their lives.  There is distracted driving but there is also distracted living.  We are so busy with our entertainment, our games, our work, our family that we do not have time for God.  I heard just last week someone say very boldly and matter-of-factly “I don’t care about God and I don’t have time for Him if He does exist.”  At least that person was honest.  Most of us want to care about our Maker, but we just don’t get it. 

John The Baptist was a voice in the wilderness. People went out to the wilderness to hear him.  It took a whole day to go out to hear him and get back.  Jesus once asked, “Who did you go out to hear?- a prophet?”  Truth was, the people didn’t travel that far to see a celebrity named John.  But even John could not hear some times.  He pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  But he also- when in prison- questioned Jesus.  At times he heard and times his ears were hard of hearing.  This is the way it is with many of us.  If you are going through a tough time- it may seem your prayers are going nowhere- bouncing off the ceiling.  Sometimes when you are in the wilderness alone you can hear God better.  Other times when you are in the wilderness you can hear the tempter stronger.  It was in this same wilderness that John preached of Jesus and people came to hear- this same wilderness that Jesus faced the tempter and his temptation.  Let me encourage you- when hard times come- when you feel alienated from God and His people- do not give up- hang on.  Perseverance is a very important spiritual discipline. 

THE good news IS THAT Christ has come to show us- He comes to show us what God is like. He has come close enough so we can hear Him. 
Today it is easy to communicate with people without personally seeing them.   So you can text, call, email, tweet, Facebook, Instagram, snapchat and on and on.  But you know someone is serious about something when they see you face to face.  It is hard to really convey love to someone while texting- there is something about face to face.  I can remember when my grandchildren were very little and they were spending time with us away from their mother.  The mother would call on Facetime- you can see their picture- and hear their voice- but it is still not the same. In fact, my granddaughter ran away from the facetime call at first.  It seemed too artificial and just made her miss her mommy all the more.  The other granddaughter kissed the phone.  But kissing the phone- as she found out- is not quite the same as kissing the face.  Christ did send messengers- prophets, writers, and the like.  But He did more- He came down to us.  The incarnation is not just something that happened a long time ago.  Christ’s first coming is a reminder that He not only cared- but He cares.  He came and taught us God loves us not just from a distance.  God does hear our prayers.  God does hear our cries.  The question is, do you believe God is listening?  Can you hear His Word and Spirit telling you He listens- or have you shut Him off, or turned away, or left Him out, or just got too busy to hear any more. 

Water is a symbol of hearing.  We not only feel water- we hear the brook and the splash.  When John baptized people it was because they were listening to his message to repent- to turn around to Christ and listen to Him.  When we are baptized it is a promise to listen.  We listen to our Lord, and do not go our own way or make up our own stuff.  So the question is still there for us- each Christmas- Do you hear what I hear?  If you have ears, then hear God speaking.