The First Sunday in Advent 2017

The Epistle – Romans 13:8-14

The Gospel – St. Matthew 21:1-13

 

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

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There just always seems to be a built in anticipation at the time of Christmas. It could simply be that even in the secular world, the things around us change and point us to Christmas.

 

The decorations. The music. The shopping…. There is something “in the air” during the time leading up to Christmas. The time we would call Advent.

 

It also could be the fact …or should be the fact that the message of Christmas is a message of great joy for us.

 

We sing, “Joy to the world. The Lord has come. Let earth receive her King.

 

The savior of the world was born at this time. He came to bring with him reconciliation, healing, restoration.

 

In fact our Collect gathers all of these things into one prayer today and it is said by all of us daily throughout Advent.


Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light. Now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility. That in the last day when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

So there is this call for us to put away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

 

Those are what Paul tells us all throughout the Trinity Season to put away from us: wrath, anger, filthiness, crudeness, ….idolatry, fornication, etc.

 

Paul in Romans tells us to “reckon ourselves or consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ.”

 

 

When we reckon ourselves or consider ourselves, what are we doing, but holding in our minds at all time….not doing something, but simply keeping in the forefront of our minds that we have a new status now that we are in Christ.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17–18

 

[17] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. [18] All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself….(ESV)

 

So then, since we are new creations, because we are in Christ, then we are to reckon ourselves as new creations….

know we are new creations in Him, and now, cast away from us anything that is contrary to being a new creation.

 

This is what Advent is all about. This is what the coming Christmas season is all about.

 

The anticipation of Christ returning.

 

The prayer went on to say, “That in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to life immortal.

 

So Christ is returning. And so what will he find us doing? 

 

He has given us the gift of reconciliation. God and sinner reconciled because of the death of Christ. That is something we need to consider and find joy in.

 

And the works of joy we are to be doing are those also listed by Paul all throughout the Trinity Season.

 

Love, peace, patience, kindness, self-control.  Those things that have no law against them.

 

So the passages from Scripture today that are assigned for us are Romans 13 and Matthew 21.

 

Let’s see how these are Advent oriented passages for us to think about.

 

Paul begins today, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.” A command for us within the body of Christ to obey.

 

He says if we do this, we fulfill the law.

 

He then lists those things that are commands that apply to us ….one to another.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not murder.

You shall not covet.

All of which are summed up in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

 

So we are reminded here again of the eternal commands given to Moses, given to the people of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures.

 

The second table or second half of the law.  The things that we are to be doing to one another.

 

Then he says this.  Here is the Advent wake up call. The thing Paul delivers to stir us up….

 

“Besides this, you know the time; that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.”

 

So we are to live life awake and alert…We are to stand watch.

He compares us living now in this life to be occasionally a time of slumber and sleep.  

 

But why are we to then wake up??? Because, he says, “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”

 

Maybe an obvious thing to say, yet much of the time overlooked.

 

Our salvation. The day of Christ, when he returns, is nearer to us now than it was before….nearer than yesterday. Nearer than last Advent or Christmas.

 

Nearer to us every second that goes by in our lives. We are always and ever moving closer to the day of us meeting Christ face-to-face.

So there is urgency in this as well. Christ is coming.

At Christmas we celebrate his coming the first time. At Christmas now we celebrate, in the form of watchfulness…. His return.

 

The day is at hand as Paul says. The day is at hand.

 

Peter in his second letter to the people he was writing to says something similar and more explicit.

 

He is writing to a heavily persecuted people and he is reminding them that they should stand firm under this persecution.

 

He is doing the same thing Paul is doing here in today’s passage.  Peter writes, 

 

2 Peter 3:1–10

 

“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, [2] that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, [3] knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. [4] They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

[5] For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, [6] and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. [7] But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

 

[8] But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

[10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (ESV)

 

So Advent is not just a time to expect Christmas, but a time to realize these things as well.

 

God is not slow. He is fully aware of the times. Christ will come again.

 

But notice that Peter is not speaking as much to his own people as he is to those who are the scoffers who mock God and mock us for waiting for Christ to return.

 

Don't test God. He is not sleeping. In fact just when you think He is not coming or is asleep, or forgotten us….that is when He will return…when people are lulled into a false sense of safety and security.

 

The warning is to all men, but for those who are not in Christ, the warning carries with it dire consequences and promises.

 

He will come again to be our judge. …the judge of all men.

 

For Christians, we are told repeatedly to look for his coming again.

 

Judgment for the Christian is not punishment, but for telling us, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

The bumper sticker or the t-shirt that says, “Jesus is coming. Look busy.”….is not correct.

 

It should be, “Jesus is coming. Be busy.”

 

This is what the Epistle says to us today. Be busy putting away works of darkness. Be busy putting on light….in the form of those virtues that Paul prescribes.

 

Walk properly as is fitting for saints….not drunkenness, sexual immorality, quarreling, jealousy, etc.

 

Rather put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh.

 

 

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Advent discipline…and at all times, of course, but put on Christ now in this time.

 

Paul says that in the first coming, the Christ came to visit us in great humility.  How about we now live in great humility in light of His coming again.

 

Humility is the practice of not trying to be first or not trying to be noticed or prominent.

Christ came in all humility. He laid aside His deity and came to us in the form of humble flesh.

 

He lived in subjection to his parents as a child.

He had no home during His adult ministry. Nowhere to lay his head, He says.

He did not come to be served, but to serve, by giving His life as a ransom.

 

He entered the city in the last week of His life, as a King, and yet humble, mounted on a donkey…a colt, the foal of a donkey.

 

And fulfilling the Prophet Isaiah 42:2–3….

 

“He will [did] not cry aloud or lift up his voice,

                        or make it heard in the street;

            [3] a bruised reed he will [did] not break,

                        and a faintly burning wick he [did] will not quench…” (ESV)

 

So putting on Christ is walking in this way.

Calvin – “Now to put on Christ, means here to be on every side fortified by the power of his Spirit, and be thereby prepared to discharge all the duties of holiness…”[1]

 

The anticipation at Christmas we have come to see is …what will I get under the tree?  Or it becomes a concern…  What will I get that person who is so hard to shop for?

All of Christmas has to be seen through the lens of Christian truth.

Christmas is Christ Mass.  Mass has it's origin in the Latin mittere, meaning to send. In this original form, we can see the true meaning of Christmas…the sending of Christ.

 

Christ was sent to us the first time to redeem us. He will be sent again to receive us.

 

Let this Advent season be for all of us a time of contemplating the coming again of our great God and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

 

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

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[1] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (p. 490). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.