As I make time to reflect on the meaning of Advent 2015, my mind returns to Advent 2014. Nancy and I were driving south along I-85. The rhythmic thwap-thwap-thwap of the tires rolling over the asphalt grew mind-numbing, so we turned on the radio and scanned for something worthwhile to listen to on a Sunday afternoon. That’s when we came across a preacher – a Baptist, we learned at the end of his message. He was in the middle of his sermon.
There was nothing erudite about his sermon. But oh! What he said immediately captured and then held our attention.
“Thank God for Jesus.” He repeated those words again and again during the several minutes we listened to him.
Speaking of the first Advent, he reminded his congregation: “Jesus came as a baby and lived 33 years so that He could die for your sins and my sins. Thank God for Jesus.”
He paused only a moment, and then continued, “He was glad to do what He did because of His great love for you and me. Thank God for Jesus.” Then he asked his congregation, “Do you thank God for Jesus?”
A few voices in the background answered, ‘Amen.”
Then paraphrasing from chapter 16 of St. Matthew’s gospel, he said to his congregation, “Jesus asked the people, ‘Who do you say that I am? And some said Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” And then Jesus looked at His disciples and said: ‘But who do YOU say that I am?”
The preacher paused for emphasis before continuing: “Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of God." And Jesus said to him, “You are blessed, Simon, son of John, because flesh and blood did not reveal that to you, but my Father in heaven revealed it to you.”
Then he challenged his audience, “Is Jesus your Lord?" He took a breath and continued, “Do you know of Jesus because your preacher told you about Jesus? Do you know about Jesus because your parents told you about Jesus? Or do you know about Jesus because GOD told you about Jesus?"
”Do you thank God for Jesus?" he asked once again.
His sermon ended a few moments later. Nancy and I turned off the radio, and for the next several miles talked about what we’d just heard.
The simple preacher with a simple message reminded us of the very erudite St. Paul’s words to the church at Corinth: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
This Christmas, as we open the gifts set for us under the tree, may God help us – oh God, help us – help us reflect on the gift You gave us in Jesus. And, please Lord, this Advent and every day until the end of our days, help us to always say from our hearts:
“Thank God for Jesus.”