Christ Lutheran Church
December 12, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Take Time To Smell The Roses
Now John's disciples reported all these things to John. And John summoned two of his disciples to himself, and sent them to the Lord saying, "Are you the one to come or should we look for another?" And when the men had come to him they said, "John the Baptizer sent us to you saying, ‘Are you the one to come, or should we expect another?’” In that hour he healed many from diseases and plagues, and malicious spirits and he gave the gift of sight to many blind. And he answered them, "Go and report to John the things you see and hear: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised, and the poor now have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not scandalized by me.” (Luke 7:18-23 DKV)
The first issue we must clear up today is the question that many ask about today’s gospel: Did John, now in prison for his preaching, become uncertain whether or not Jesus is the Christ?
But rather than engage the argument today, let us simply say that John the Baptizer was not, in the Lord’s own words, “a reed shaken by the wind.” He was not wiggly like Jell-o. But he is what we know him to be, namely a hero of the faith; and a teacher and proclaimer of the Lamb of God to the end.
John was not sending his disciples to Jesus to prop up his faith, but theirs! They had been questioning for far too long. For long after John pointed to Jesus at the Jordan and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And after he said to his disciples, “I must decrease and he must increase” these stubborn disciples were still scandalized by Jesus.
And so John, now in prison and no longer accessible to his disciples for further catechization, sends two of them directly to Jesus, and gives them a question to ask; which Jesus answers it with an jaw-dropping demonstration of power for their sake. St. Luke writes:
“In that hour (please note that: in that hour) he healed many from disease and plagues, and malicious spirits and he gave the gift of sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, "Go and report to John the things you see and hear: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised, and the poor now have GOOD NEWS preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not scandalized by me.”
Following this the Lord sends them back to answer the question that John gave them to ask. Now they know. Now they understand. Now all doubting disciples are straightened away. Now John is no longer needed.
The second thing we must cover today is the pink Advent Candle. The traditional color for the 3rd Sunday of Advent is Rose. But pink is a close as we can get with candles.
And though they are used only twice a year, once in Advent, and once in Lent, more and more of our churches are purchasing rose colored paraments and vestments.
Buy why rose?
Because of the gentle color, and fragrant aroma of that lovely floweret bright. We have a Christmas hymn by that very name; Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming that hymns Christ as the pleasant and aromatic Rose whose life, death and resurrection displaces the stench of sin with his sweet-smelling fragrance, and restores divine beauty to all Creation.
Why rose in the midst of a season of repentance, however? Only this: so that we can learn to smell the roses along the way. To sense heavenly life in the midst of death, and rejoice in it.
Advent is emblematic of our whole life. Which is to say that in the midst of sin, death and devil, as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, it is sometimes hard to remember that we are redeemed by Christ from all of this; that heaven is our True Home, and that all that is now shattered because of our own sins will be made whole, full, beautiful, pure and complete.
Not just a return to Eden’s Garden, but better than that. For though the Garden was the chancel of the universe, with Adam as its Priest, it was only a shadow of things to come.
As the person is greater than the shadow that precedes him; as the New Adam is greater than the first Adam; so heaven will be greater than Eden. Then we will factually experience St. Paul’s admonition: Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice,” as we Commune with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As we share in their love and unity and reflect their bright glory.
Now that is very different from life in this world, and so we must take the time to smell the roses. How do we do that? We are doing now, and will do it for seven straight nights in preparation of Christmas when we pray the O Antiphons from December 17th to the 23rd which conclude with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”
Why do we pray that? Because we are presently in captivity. Though the Son has set us free, and we are free indeed, and we are no longer in bondage to sin, or the devil, we still suffer sin’s many consequences.
For one thing the culture is turning more deadly against Christ, and thus against us. Around the country people are burning down public Christmas trees. Because even in its stripped down state of nothing but lights: no angel, no star, no manger – it is too much for them! And we feel their wrath. We are censored by them, excoriated by them, persecuted by them – though not yet to shedding of our blood, but that will come.
What is the only cure? To smell the roses! To hear the Word of God, to sing it, confess it, pray, to believe it with all our heart and soul and mind and strength: and finally to eat and drink it. For only this Flesh and Blood is: true; venerable; upright; pure; lovely; commendable and worthy of our devotion.
And so at the admonition of St. Paul let us be anxious about nothing. But instead in the words of the little-known, but golden-mouthed prophet Zephaniah:
“Rejoice Daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud O Israel!
Exalt with all your heart
Oh Daughter of Jerusalem!
The LORD has repealed your sentence,
He has turned your enemy away.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is within you,
You will never fear evil again.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
"Fear not, Oh Zion!
Let not your hands grow weak!
The LORD your God is in your midst,
mighty to rescue and save.
He will exalt over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with his love.
He will rejoice over you with exclamations of joy.”