Man in the Mirror
Luke 3:7-18 “Man in the Mirror” 12-12-21
[Prayer] May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O’Lord my rock and redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
I have some song lyrics I’d like to read for you this morning. Would you please listen to these lyrics and let me know if you recognize the song, and who sang it.
Alright church. Any guesses who sang this song? (pause for responses) This song was performed by Micheal Jackson, and it is titled, “Man in the Mirror.” This song was written by Glen Ballard / Siedah Garrett. The Lyrics are copyrighted to Yellowbrick Road Music. The song was recorded in May of 1987, and released in February of 1988 as a single.
The message from God gave to John the Baptist is we’ve gotta make a change. The world is not right. Our community is not right. Our church is not right. It is too hard for people to come to God. The paths should be straight. They should be paths of compassion. They should be paths of love and mutual respect. They should be paths which point to God first and do not have to go around the bends and turns of our wants; our tempers, and our dispositions. Just because we are having a bad day it is no reason to bend someone else out of shape. Just because we are struggling with something in our lives it does not give us the excuse to take it out on someone else. But we do it. We do it anyway. We do it because we are tired. We do it because we are grieving. We do it because we are selfish. We do it because we are sick and broken. Those are the reasons why the church is a hospital for sinners and not a palace for saints. We are all sick here; and yes - believe it or not God calls on the nuts to shepherd the nut house.
I am not a perfect human being. There has only ever been one of those and He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Amen? Amen. I am a sinner. Amen? Amen. What are all of you? (pause) Are you sinners? (pause for nods and yeses.) Are you sure? (pause) Then let’s own it together. Let’s say, “I am a sinner,” together. I am a sinner. Now that we have all admitted we are sinners there is no need to begin with John’s words calling us all (myself included) a brood of vipers. It is Advent. Many of us are tired. This crazy weather has many of us tired and sick. We are shopped out and strung out. Some of us are even grieving on this first Christmas without a loved one. This is on top of the personal stuff we have going on that tempts us to sin day to day. Advent is the time of preparation and waiting leading up to Christmas. There is a lot of doing going on and not a lot of time for growing closer to Jesus.
To make matters worse there are loads of people who don’t even know how to come to Jesus. We are so preoccupied with ribbons and bows the true reason for the season gets lost. Here’s an example. My kids stumbled upon the movie, “the Christmas Chronicle,” on Netflix the other day. In the movie when the heroes meet Santa Claus Santa says, “I am Christmas.” I’m sorry. No way big man. Santa, you are not Christmas. Santa Claus is the personification of the spirit of generosity which is more present at Christmas because of Jesus Christ. The reason for the season is the baby born in a stable in the city of Bethlehem. The reason for the season is God with us. During this season of Advent we are supposed to prepare for the coming of the Christ, the King; the one who is meant to be the King of all of our lives. How are we supposed to prepare for the coming of the King when we cannot find Jesus in our minds, in our homes, and in our churches? (Pause) How are we supposed to lead people to Christ when we are so busy with Christmas decorations and Santa that we are having a hard time finding Jesus in our hearts?
John the Baptist warns the people to repent because God is angry and ready to put the axe to the root of their family tree, and then cast the family into the fire because of their rebellious disobedience. When the people hear it they take a very different view than a lot of people do today. I had a conversation this week with a person who was angry with a teacher about a grade they had received. They asked me to read their paper, and I did. Then they became angry with me for coming to the same conclusion as the teacher. This person was in the wrong, but rather than look for ways to grow and improve they decided to become angry with those who are offering loving correction. My brothers and sisters we have become the people who are offended. Some of the people who came to John were offended. However, many of the people heard what John had to say and asked the question, “What then shall we do” (Luke 3:10)? John said, if you can survive on just a little less than you have, give the excess to the poor. If you can give a little extra food or extra clothing to the person who has none, do that. Then, if you are hungry or a little cold use that discomfort to ask God for a double measure of God’s grace. In fact, “[c]ount it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing“ (James 1:2-4). When the tax collectors came, and asked the same question John told them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do” (Luke 3:13). When Roman soldiers came to John asking, “What must we do?” John told them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusations, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14).
There is a theme in all of these verses which urges us to make changes in our lives for Christ. If we want the world to be a better place then we have to start with the person we see in the mirror everyday. We have to ask ourselves, what little bit can I let go of to be better able to let Jesus Christ into my life? (Pause) What discomfort am I willing to accept in order to do a better job of sharing Jesus Christ with others? (Pause) How can I expect anyone else to make changes in their lives if I am not willing to make changes in my life? (Pause) If we want to make the paths straight for people to give their lives to Christ then we have to get out of their way. We have to be willing to make straight the paths to the Lord in our hearts. Only then will we be able to effectively share the love of God with others.
Why should we bother? We should try to make the paths straight because we are not worthy to change the diapers of the one who is coming. Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Jesus rules them all. We are supposed to surrender and allow Jesus to rule us all. Through Jesus comes the grace to face our fears, to stand up to our giants, and to do the work which helps us to open up to the love of God at work in our lives. When we do that we receive the best Christmas gift of all - the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. When God is in our hearts we have more than enough time and energy to share the love of God with others. Believe it or not, but for many people that begins with an open conversation between God, and the person you see in the mirror.
In the name of Jesus Christ,