We Must Be Willing To Do Whatever It Takes                               Matthew 3:1-11  NIV

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying "Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near."  This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: A voice crying in the wilderness,  "prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him".  John's clothes were made of camel hair and he had a leather belt around his waist.  His food was locusts and wild honey.  People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.  But when he saw many of the Parisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing he said to them:  "you brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do you think you can say to yourselves, "we have Abraham as our father.  "  "I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.  The ax is already at the root of the trees and every tree that does not produce god fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  I baptize you with water for repentance.  But after me comes one who is more powerful than I whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

This is the second Sunday of Advent the Sunday the liturgical calendar suggests using the Scripture about John the Baptist who was preaching in the wilderness.  The Bible tells us that John the Baptist was a very different sort of man, he lives in the wilderness 24/7, he wore a camel skin garment, his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey.  As we read all of this, we form a mental image of a guy who perhaps had a very little concern for personal hygiene or physical appearance, a guy who definitely marched to a different drummer than the rest of the world.  Factor into this description that John the Baptist was an evangelist who preached long and hard about repentance and the coming of a Personage much greater than himself and you wind up with an image of a total rebel, a man with a message who cared little, if any at all, about what the world thought of him.  He was a man on a mission with a message to share, and he did whatever it took to get that message out into the general population.  And his method, as unorthodox as it was then, and as misunderstood as it would be today, worked.  Hundreds of people make the twelve mile walk out into the hot dry wilderness to hear the message of repentance and to be baptized as a symbol of their repentance.  Hundreds of people no just on the Sabbath, but every day of the week, literally thronged to hear the message of the wilderness preacher and many were reward one day with the sight of Jesus, Who walked into the wilderness to hear the message and to be baptized by John.  Thee was one difference, of course, with the Baptism of Jesus, He had no sins to repent of for He was the Son of God, but still He needed to be baptized by John as a signal that His life as a private citizen in the town of Nazareth was finished and the mission that God had sent Him to earth to fulfill was now beginning.  The point I hope to make through the words of this message is this, John the Baptist did what it took to get the message out that One greater than himself was about to arrive on the scene, the Man named Jesus who had left His home in glory to come down to earth to preach and to reach, in the hope of seeking and saving those who were lost in the ways of sin.  Because of John's willingness to do whatever it took, hundreds if not thousands came to know and believe in Jesus.   Are we following John's example?  What is the church that we worship in doing to get the Good News of the Gospel out beyond the sanctuary's stained glass windows and into the world filled with chaos and darkness?  What is the plan for reaching those who have no church home?  Or those who faith has weakened with the closing of the church doors due to Covid, and the loss of a weekly worship experience?  How is our church reaching out to those who have little or no faith?  For every believe, these should be burning questions for there are literally hundreds of people surrounding our daily lives who worship only on Christmas Eve and Easter and thus never hearing the life-changing stories from Jesus life which are shared during other worship services during the year.  Which prompts the questions, how said is this?  Where would we be if God only showed up in our lives on Christmas and Easter?  How would we survive the other 363 days of the year?  Thankfully, God is present in our lives each and every minute of every day, giving us air to breathe and countless blessing each and every day.  SO what are we giving Him in return?"  But wait a minutes some my be thinking.  I thought it was a pastor's job to go out and spread the Gospel.  Isn't that what they are paid to do?"  To which I respond, "Yes that is a one of the responsibilities entrusted to the Pastor.  But let's think about this for a moment.  If I, as a pastor, in addition to fulfilling all the other responsibilities entrusted to me, was able to bring five new individuals into the church in a year to worship and perhaps to enter into membership of this family of God, that would be great, wouldn't it?  I for one would be thrilled with this.  But let's carry this scenario just a bit further, if I, as one person could bring in five and thirty more in the congregation brought in five each, that would mean there would be an additional one hundred fifty individuals each year who would be haring the Word of God.  Individuals who would be experiencing first hand the power of prayer and feeling the love and forgiveness of God and His Son, Jesus Christ and building up a church family with their prayers, their support and their resources of time, money and energy.  But is that even possible?  Could just a handful of church members grow into a large congregation?  The answer is year, a thousand times yes IF they are willing to do whatever it takes to bring others to Jesus.  And this bring us right back to John the Baptist.  Living out in the middle of the hot dry wilderness could not have been comfortable.  And preaching the message of repentance which is not a popular message then or now and asking people to confess their sins to God, which no human likes to do because it involves admitting that we have sinned, could not have been an easy task for him.  And yet, John the Baptist felt that he had been put on this earth to share this message with people living in darkness and he did it!!!  Day after day, week after week, John the Baptist preached the message of repentance.  And he did it in such a way that people listened, confessed their sins, were baptized and went home to tell other of their experience and their new faith in Jesus.  And today, we too have heard the message of John through the words of Sripture, we need to listen to it, confess our sins and renew oru raith in Jesus and the Plan of
Salvation He offers to ut.  And then we too must share the joy of renewing our faith in Jesus with those around us for this is the beginning of bringing others to faith in Jesus too.   Furthermore, in verse 15 of chapter 16 of Mark, Jesus gave us the formula for increasing the size of our church family. He told his disciples to  "go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."  He sent them forth into the world of that time to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  And in the case of the disciples, it meant literally to preach the Gospel and as they preached and taught, people were brought to Jesus because of the message they had heard.  We too must share with our own words the message of Jesus. But even more importantly, we must live the message of Jesus Christ.  We must show, with the actions of our daily lives, that Jesus has made a difference in the way we live our lives.  We must put aside the habits that are not pleasing in God's sight. We must be careful in the language we use, in the company we keep and in the hobbies and activities we invest our spare time in.  For like it or not people outside the church are attentive to the things we say and the way we live they are interested as to whether our walk matches our talk.  A recent new item regarding the actions of a New York policeman is a perfect illustration of how our actins are observed by others. It seems that this policeman was on duty one afternoon down on Times Square recently when he noticed an elderly man sitting on the sidewalk in the cold November weather barefoot.  The policeman was devastated no one, especially a senior citizen should be sitting on a cold sidewalk without any shoes or socks.  So into the nearby shoe store the young policeman walked, and right up to the manager, where he poured out his story. He then said, Regardless of the price, I want to buy a good pair of warm boot and a pair of socks and return them to the main on the sidewalk whose face lit up with a smile as bright as a street light.  A lady standing nearby with a video camera caught it all on film and later said, I am the daughter of a Phoenix policeman and I have seen my father do things very similar to this.  That is why I wanted to get it on film to show the goodness of people in a world where we often hear only the bad news.  It does without saying that the policeman was not doing this to get any publicity he didn't call CNN or FOX news and invite them down to see what he was going.  He didn't go around to all the bystanders and say, :"did you see what I just did?  I bought that homeless guy over there some warm boots."  The video clip taken by the tourist gives no indication that the policeman had anyone else on his mind except the man with no shoes to wear.  And when he finally learned that her video had turned him into somewhat of a hero, he brushed it off by saying he was keeping the receipt for the boots inside his vest to remind him of how blessed he is.  Today on the 2nd Sunday of Advent we are on a journey to the Manger.  And while many of us are pre-occupied with gifts, writing cards and wrapping presents let us move beyond this and consider the true message of Jesus, and the Commission that He has given us to go in to the world and preach the Gospel, not only with our words but with our actions.  He has called us to bring others to Him that they may learn that their sins are forgiven and their lives can be make better through their faith in the risen Lord.  He has called us to be true messengers and to do what every it takes to get the message out.  Like John the Baptist we too know that Jesus is coming again at the end of time.  And like John the Baptist, we have a story to tell. But are we willing to do whatever it takes.  Are we willing to go to someone we hurt and ask forgiveness?  It's embarrassing and it's humbling but that is what Jesus expects us to do.  And even though our schedule is so full that it won't stand one more addition, are we willing to be there for someone who needs to talk or cry or vent?  Or when we are settled in for the evening with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate and a friend calls who needs some help are we willing to go and assist.  These are ways of living our faith of putting our faith into action and making it real.  And when we do these things our actions speak much louder than any words every would.  For your see, it is the little things we do that made a big difference in the lives of others.  The ministry of John the Baptist was a very public ministry.  But your ministry can be a very private ministry.  It can be centered around the calls to shut-ins you make, the greeting cards you send to those who are sad, hurting or alone, the small bouquets you drop off at the home of someone who doesn't get out very much.  Jesus said, "When you do these things to the lest of My people you do them unto Me"  During this Advent Season and into the days of the coming year, I encourage you to do the little things that made a big difference.  I invite you to live your faith, each and every day, so that the love of Jesus shines through your actions into the life of someone else, drawing them nearer to the Christ of Calvary.  Together we can go into the world and preach the Gospel, making a difference in the lives of others, and in the life of our church.  I am willing to take the challenge.  Are you?  Toghter with God's help we can bring the Light of Christ into a world filled with darkness.  May God bless our efforts today and every day.  TO God be the glory.  Amen. 

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, was once again we prepare for Christmas help us to find time in our busy lives for quiet thought and prayer, that we may allow the story of the Birth of Jesus to penetrate our hearts and minds.  May our joy be deeper, our worship more real, and our lives more worthy of all that You have done for us through the coming of Jesus. Give us courage to do whatever it takes to bring others to You not only with the worlds we speak but also with the actions of our daily lives.  Finally, we ask that You grant that all who come into our church this Christmas time nay be encouraged to renew their relationship with You.  These things we ask in Jesus Name.  Amen.