In our text from Luke 3, we see some of those problems, and they all stem from the first word of verse 15 in the original Greek: "Waiting expectantly." You see the Jewish people had been waiting for more than a few months. They had been given promises of an amazing Savior hundreds and even thousands of years earlier. And now they were waiting.
But waiting is tough to do. It's easy to get distracted after a while. It's easy to lose focus. That's what had happened to those Israelites John the Baptist was talking to. John had to tell them to start living God's love, to stop cheating people, to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses and just be content. John came and, really called them back to God's way. They had been distracted. And we can understand that. They had been waiting so long, and the things of this world are right there, and money is nice, and the forbidden fruit seems so tasty, and... we get that, don't we?
You see, waiting is the life of the Christian, too. We are waiting for Christ to return and keep his promises of protecting and prospering us. But while we wait - it's natural to find something else to do to pass the time. In your living room, maybe that's reading a book, turning on the TV, or breaking out the Wii. But in life, what is it that distracts you? Maybe it's your job, with all its demands and stresses and pressures to spend more and more time there and be less and less there for family and your neighborhood and your church. It's easy to forget why you have a job in the first place, isn't it? Or it could be the hobby, the TV, your kids' extracurriculars - and time studying God's promises is only if there's a rerun on TV or there's an off day for the sport. It might even be your pride that distracts you and you start to focus more and more on... you.
So John points them and us back to Jesus, to the One he said would... "Baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire... and gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire." John pointed to the one who controls eternity. He said to "Repent and believe." And his message still stands for us today. As we wait expectantly - we need to "Repent and Believe" because we've fallen so many times since waiting expectantly is so tough to do. But we can repent and believe because the waiting ends in Christ.
Look at our text: "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'"
700 years earlier, God had promised through Isaiah the one who would free us from the captivity of sin and restore our sight of who God is. He said, "I will put my Spirit on him." That's what happened here in Jesus' baptism as Jesus stepped into our world, into our baptism, into our sins - and paid them for us.
We may want rescue from the things we call problems - but he came to rescue us from our sin, from ourselves - and to give us life. That's what we've been waiting for. And it's right here. Come to church this Sunday and see what you've been waiting for.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.