Advent 2, 2015

 

The Epistle. Romans 15:4-13

The Gospel. Luke 21:25-33

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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 

This Sunday has come to be known as Bible Sunday.  It is a different kind of day than the others on the calendar.  The Collect has a different pattern to it.

 

It begins addressing God as Blessed Lord.  And the end lacks an ‘oblation clause’ at the end such as “through Jesus Christ our Lord who liveth and reigneth…”

 

The Oxford Prayer Book Commentator is sort of bewildered about the day, its placement in the book…

the structure of the Collect and he questions how it might be an Advent theme at all.

 

He says it has little to do with the primary theme of Advent.  But he admits, “other than the general thought that the hope of our eternal life, ‘given us in our Savior Christ’ both in His first and His second comings is established for us by the revelation of God’s written Word no less than by the spoken word of prophets and preachers” 

 

But this is exactly the point.  In fact, Prophets and preachers come and go.  Some speak in God’s name and articulate His message.  Others are false prophets who say, “Thus saith the Lord,” and then they are completely discredited because their prophecy is off the mark.

 

In fact, Advent would not be known to us would it not be recorded in the pages of Scripture in a sense. 

The Church has held this tradition and passed it down to us, but understanding what Advent is and where it comes from and what it all means for us is only found in the pages of Scripture….and then fleshed out by the Church.

 

This is Sola Scriputra.  Scripture Alone….which means that Scripture is our final authority even when the Church passes along traditions or teaches something or when a Church Council meets.

 

All things are tested by the truth of the Bible, the Scriptures, and God’s Holy Word.

 

Scripture is the sole source of revelation now that Christ has ascended, and the Apostles are dead…and it is interpreted in and by the Church though the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

Our own Prayer Book tells us what the Anglican position is on The Bible.  Article 6 reads this way:

HOLY Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

 

In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.”

 

Paul touches on this issue in today’s Epistle when he says: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4 ESV)

 

The things written in former days were written down for our instruction.  Meaning they are there for a reason other than just to impart knowledge.

The Scriptures were written to actually give us endurance and encouragement through that knowledge of them.

 

Paul says: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

 

If we are to contemplate the great Second Advent of our Lord Jesus and all that it entails, we need the comfort and encouragement that the Scriptures give us… to make this a glorious expectation.

 

And this is done by reading about and thinking on the First Advent of our Lord Jesus when He came to dwell among us as an infant child….and all of the implications of His incarnation.

 

Paul wants us to know the Scriptures and by knowing them, God may grant us encouragement to “…live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus…”

 

Why the concern with harmony?  Not just because it gives us a good feeling to be at peace with one another, but also (as so much of what we do as Christians) it is a model of what heaven will be like.

 

When we enter heaven, the saints of God will all be of one mind and of one voice. 

Not that we won’t have individual personalities, but there will be common praise and adoration toward God that we will all express in our own way.

 

We are portrayed as singing unto the Lord, giving Him glory and honor.  This is what the Church, while still in the world is to be like.

 

Paul says as much in the next line: “…that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

All of this comes to us in the form of instruction from the Scriptures.  In the form of examples from others in the Scriptures.  Biblical characters who exhibit these traits.

 

Paul many times urges his readers to imitate him.

 

He then says: “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

 

Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.  Accept one another as Christ has accepted you. 

 

We have a great mystery here.  Christ has made us acceptable by his atonement. 

We are acceptable to the Father on account of Christ’s righteousness. 

 

The Father sent the Son to bring reconciliation between the two parties at the First Advent.

 

Now we are accepted by God the Father through Christ.  So we are called to, in like manner accept one another as fellow members of Christ's body.

 

None of us has been accepted on his own merit.  It is Christ’s merit.  So since we are all in the same boat…in the same condition, then all the more reason to see one another as equally accepted because of the work of someone else.

 

We all share in this inheritance.  And this, says Paul is all for the glory of God. 

God is glorified when we accept one another despite failings and annoyances and weaknesses.

God is glorified because the atoning work of Christ has been effectual.

 

If there is unwillingness on our part, we bring dishonor to God and we do not perceive our acceptance clearly.  We must repent and relook at this truth and let it reorient us toward God.

 

Forgiven people are forgiving people.  If we lack a spirit of forgiveness to others, then we show we have missed understanding our forgiveness at the hands of Christ.

 

This is again how the Scriptures can be of immeasurable help to us.  They tell us about who we are.  They tell us about who God is, who Christ is, and they tell us the Good News of what the solution to all of this looks like.

 

This should be especially noteworthy to us, since as Paul later goes on to say here that Christ’s work was not only for the Jews, but for us Gentiles as well.

He says:

“…in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

      “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,

            and sing to your name.”

      And again it is said,

      “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

      And again,

      “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,

            and let all the peoples extol him.”

      And again Isaiah says,

      “The root of Jesse will come,

            even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;

      in him will the Gentiles hope.”

 

One writer says of this: “Paul musters a series of quotations from the Old Testament which call attention to the fact that the inclusion of the Gentiles in the kingdom of God is not an innovation brought about by Jesus’ earthly ministry, but is part of the promises of God made in antiquity.

It is even part of the implied promises that God made to the patriarchs, such as those promises made to Abraham that he would be a father of many nations, and that through him and through the Jews all the nations of the world would be blessed.”[1]

 

So we see here that even the Old Testament Scriptures were written for our learning.  That we should read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.

 

They have great relevance to us and for us because is them we find our history. 

How God saw us long before we were born and made provision in the Advent of His Son Jesus Christ that in time we would be brought in through faith.

 

And of course the Scriptures can be of immeasurable help to us as in the example of our Gospel lesson today.

 

Though the clarity of the passage we heard from Jesus is not entirely easy to interpret putting clear images in our mind, they do serve to tell us about Christ’s Second Coming…His Second Advent.

 

Bishop Ryle writes: “The second coming of Christ will be attended by everything which can make it alarming to the senses and heart of man. If the giving of the law at Sinai was so terrible that even Moses said, “I exceedingly fear and quake,” the return of Christ when He comes to earth in power and great glory shall be much more terrible.

 

 

 

 

—If the hardy Roman soldiers “became as dead men,” when an angel rolled the stone away and Christ rose again, how much greater will the terror be when Christ shall return to judge the world.[2]

 

The ultimate sense of what we have here is a call to us.  It is a call from the Scriptures that Christ will come again.

 

But we can get overwhelmed if we don't see this passage in its full sense. What else does Christ tell us of His return?

 

He says two things here that are for our comfort…so that His return will be something to look forward to and not fear.

 

He says: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

And: “….when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”

 

He doesn't say, “You had better run and hide.” He says our redemption…that which we long for….draws near.

 

Look up.  Lift up your head.

 

However terrible these signs of the Second Coming are to those who refuse Christ, they need not strike terror in our hearts…in the hearts of those of us who truly believe. 

 

Rather, they should be signs that fill our hearts with joy.  They ought to be reminders that we are close to a full delivery from sickness, death, terror, famine, drought, sadness, and hunger.

 

Complete deliverance from the world, the flesh and the Devil.

 

Again from the Bishop: “The very day when the unconverted man shall lose everything, shall be the day when the believer shall enter on his eternal reward. The very hour when the worldly man’s hopes shall perish, shall be the hour when the believer’s hope shall be exchanged for joyful certainty and full possession.[3]

 

These are just some of the many things the Scriptures have for us in the Advent Season.  Signs of hope and redemption.  All because of that First Advent of Christ 2000 years ago.

 

And now as Paul says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:4-13 ESV)

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.



[1] Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (p. 242). Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications.

[2] Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 2, p. 375). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

[3] Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 2, p. 376). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.