131208 Acts 3:19-26

Last Updated on Monday, 09 December 2013 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Acts 3:19-26
Theme: Does Advent Have You Feeling Blue?

"I think there must be something wrong with me...Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel. I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that. But I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed."

Do you know who spoke those words? If you don't know, or if you aren't sure, the response of the person on the receiving end of that lament should clear up any confusion: "You're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy's right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Brown-iest."

Linus had a point. If you know anything about Charlie Brown, you know that he had a gift for making the worst of a not-so-bad situation. He had trouble making friends. He struggled to find the joy in life. And in the opening dialogue of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," he expressed his unhappiness about the holiday season.

It would be funny if it was just a cartoon, but it's not so funny because it's not just a cartoon. There are lots of people who are wandering aimlessly through life, and they are especially lost this time of year. They want to be happy. They do all kinds of things to make themselves happy. But they aren't happy. Maybe you know some of them. Maybe there are some days when you feel like one of them.

According to one popular song, this is supposed to be "the most wonderful time of the year," but do you sometimes wonder about that? When you think about all the things you need to do in the next two weeks, do you get excited or do you get depressed? Or to put the question in the framework of the church year...

DOES ADVENT HAVE YOU FEELING BLUE?

If you're feeling a little down already, the first word of today's sermon text probably isn't going to cheer you up much. Speaking to a crowd of people who had gathered around him in the temple courts, the apostle Peter called on every one of them to "Repent" (19).

Perhaps Peter had heard John the Baptist use that same word before, and whenever he did there was a certain force behind it. God appointed John to warn the people, even the religious leaders of the people, to confess their sins, to turn away from their sins, to change their lives before it was too late.

Peter used the same word to communicate with the same sense of urgency because the people who were listening to his sermon were guilty of some pretty serious sins. Peter pointed an accusing finger at the crowds and said: "You handed [Jesus] over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life" (Acts 3:13-15).

The text doesn't mention anyone by name, but it is highly unlikely that any of the people who were responsible for the events of Good Friday were standing in the crowd. Caiaphas wasn't there. King Herod wasn't there. The false witnesses who testified against Jesus weren't there. The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus weren't there.

The faces in the crowd were just regular people, people who had been brought together by a miracle. Moments before Peter addressed them he spoke to a man who had been crippled from birth. He told the beggar: "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk" (Acts 3:6). And he did. The man who had never taken a step in his life suddenly jumped to his feet. And then he followed Peter and John into the temple courts, walking and jumping and praising God.

And the people who were there couldn't help but notice. The man who was a fixture at the temple gate called Beautiful wasn't lying on his mat anymore. The man who used to look up at the people as they passed by was now looking them in the eye. They had a hard time believing this. They had to find the person who was responsible for this. And so the crowds came running and found them in Solomon's Colonnade.

The people were excited to see Peter, that is, until Peter started talking. He asked them why they were so surprised. They should have known better. They should have known that Jesus made this miracle possible. And even if they weren't the ones who sentenced Jesus to die, even if they hadn't shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" on Good Friday, they were still guilty...because they let it happen. They could have objected. They could have intervened. They could have said something, but instead they did nothing.

The Italian writer Dante is quoted as saying that the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. Without too much trouble we can to apply those words to the people who were listening to Peter's sermon, but what about the people who are listening to this sermon? Are we any less guilty?

"It was our sin that made it necessary for Jesus to suffer and die on the cross" is a charge that is often made in Holy Week sermons, but the statement also rings true on the second Sunday in Advent. Jesus had to suffer and die because of us, because of our sin. Even if you have never been convicted of a crime, you are still guilty. And I am too. We disown Jesus when we do the wrong thing AND when we fail to do the right thing. For all the evil we do and for all the good we don't do we deserve a place in the darkest depths of hell.

Does that make you feel blue? If it does, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If the message of Advent exposes your sin, if it leads you to repent of your sin, then those negative emotions serve a good purpose. And the rest of Peter's sermon will make all your sadness disappear.

You probably already know where I'm going with this. God created us to be holy, but we aren't holy. We sin. We deserve to die an eternal death because of our sins. That is why Jesus came to earth in the first place. Jesus was born into this world to live a perfect life for us, to die on the cross for us, to rise from the dead and ascend into heaven, with the promise that he will come again to take us to live with him forever.

We call it the gospel, literally the "good news" that Jesus is our Savior, that our sins are forgiven, that we have peace in the present and hope for the future. You may have heard this message from this pulpit dozens of times, hundreds of times, some of you, thousands of times. The challenge for the preacher is to communicate these ancient truths in new ways so that old, old story of Jesus and his love never gets old.

I don't have to worry about that this morning. I don't have to be very creative because Peter has done my work for me. After he came down hard on the people with the full weight of God's law, he lifted them up with God's promises. And he used a handful of beautiful word pictures to communicate the beauty of the gospel: "that your sins may be wiped out" (19), "that times of refreshing may come from the Lord" (19), "until the time comes when God will restore everything" (21), "you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant" (25), "God...sent him...to you to bless you by turning you from your wicked ways" (26). Let's spend just a few moments on each picture.

That your sins may be wiped out. Somewhere up in heaven picture a gigantic white board, and every time you sin another black mark is added. That chalkboard is full of marks, far too many to count. But two thousand years ago Jesus went up to that board and with one sweeping motion he erased it all. Every mark is gone. Every sin has been forgiven. That is what your Savior has done for you.

That times of refreshing may come from the Lord. You are in the desert. You have gone for days without water. There isn't much time left. There is no oasis in sight. And then a stranger appears out of nowhere and gives you a drink. That water revives you. That drink refreshes you. That man has saved your life. That is what your Savor has done for you.

Until the time comes when God will restore everything. The coffee cup with the words "I love mom" painted on the side made a loud crash when it hit the hardwood flood, and when it did it shattered into pieces. The little boy was crushed. He had worked so hard on it. He didn't think he would be able to replace it. But before he started to cry his mother stooped down and picked up the pieces. She glued them together. She made it all better. The cup was restored to its original condition, as if it had never been broken. That is what your Savior has done for you.

You are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant. You are poor, so poor that you don't know how you are going to pay your rent or where you are going to get your next meal, You are about to give up, but then you receive a letter in the mail. It informs you that you are in line to receive an inheritance for more money that you have ever seen. And so you don't have to worry about what you will eat or where you live. You don't have to worry about anything because your future is secure. That is what your Savior has done for you.

God...sent him...to you to bless you by turning you from your wicked ways. Normally we think of a blessing as a gift. The forgiveness of sins is a gift from God, and Peter reminds us that it is a gift that keeps on giving. Jesus has forgiven your sins, and now he gives you the will and the strength to say "no" to sin, to turn from your wicked ways, to turn to God, to trust in God, to live your life for God. That is what your Savior now does through you.

Some of you are old enough to remember that the color of Advent wasn't always blue. It used to be purple, like Lent. And like Lent, Advent is a time when we are reminded to repent of our sins. But it would be a mistake to let all this talk about sin rob us of our joy.

Because this is not a time for Christians to flee blue. Advent is a time for believers to see blue. As we prepare to celebrate Jesus' first coming, we also anticipate his second coming. We look forward to the day when Jesus will come down from the clouds in the bright blue sky in answer to our prayers, to make good on his promises, to make everything right, to make everything new, to take us home. Amen.

 

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