The Second Sunday in Advent 2019
The Epistle – Romans 15:4-13
The Gospel – St. Luke 21:25-33
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
The Sunday before Advent was intended to stir up in us a new desire…new affections for God and His righteousness.
Its exhortation was to stir up our wills, so that we would by God’s grace and assistance, bring forth the fruit of good works.
Last Sunday on the 1st Sunday in Advent, we were reminded or shown the contrast and the comparisons between light and darkness, mortality and immortality. ..and others.
We were shown how the Triumphal Entry of Jesus on the back of a donkey was the coming King…not in glory but in humility…which gives us a glimpse of what is still to come.
And of course, there was the passage from St. Paul, reminding us again that it is time to wake up. A New Year has begun on the Christian Calendar.
We should live each day looking outward to the return of Christ.
What will He find us doing if He does come back?
Will He find faithful workers in His vineyard or will he find us to be slothful, fearful people,
not anticipating His return,
not caring that He was to return and,
not seeing that all of the Advent Seasons we have lived through, still not heeding His warning of coming again to judge the living and the dead?
We are reminded over and over that with the First Advent of Christ…His first coming, and the Kingdom coming with Him, we have already entered into the last days….and the beginning of the New Creation and the New Kingdom.
These are what we call (again) the already and the not yet aspects of Christianity.
We have, in one sense, begun all that is to come. We have entered into the latter portion of redemptive history.
What Christ came to do, begun in a very real and primary sense, when He came to be born of the Virgin Mary.
We celebrate that beginning at Christmas…but we should live in light of that beginning… still now.
And the theme and the momentum continue today as we get ever closer to Christmas, ever closer to Christ’s return and ever closer to the judgment.
We have in our lessons today and primarily in the Collect the key to how we know all of this is true.
Today our Collect was this, “BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy Holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
This prayer is very important for us to hear and to pray. God is the one who has caused the Holy Scriptures, The Bible, to be written.
This was not merely men sitting down and writing things that came to mind or events that came to mind.
There is more.
In some mysterious way, God superintended the very words written, so that we would be reading, or hearing read to us, the very words of God.
Yes, men wrote them.
And yes, God wrote them.
This should be simple to understand.
The how is what is more difficult. But if we have even a general understanding of how God sovereignly oversees and directs all things that come to pass, then we can see the Scriptures in the same way.
We look back all of the time and reflect on how God has brought events in our lives to pass. We have no problem seeing how God directed things to get us where we are.
If we are really bold and well-grounded, we can even see that God was in the difficult things as well.
The Bible is very clear about the fact that God sends trouble and affliction and all kinds of things that we don’t like and make us uncomfortable or even very pressed down….and yet…when properly understood, they are sent by God, not for punishment or for His entertainment, but for our good….for our benefit.
The Scriptures are there for the same reason.
The Scriptures are there for us to mine the very concepts they contain.
But not only to read or hear them, but the collect wants us to mark what we read.
Marking is not just getting out the highlighter and marking certain passages or verses that we like…though this is good and important to do.
Marking them is remembering them, making a point to internalize what they say to us…letting what they say speak loudly to us and to convict us or comfort us or encourage us at that moment.
Marking is taking note of the specifics and letting what it says impact our minds and make a mark on our minds so that we can recall them and live by their precepts.
Go through Psalm 119 sometime soon again. Look at how the writer… over and over speaks of the preciousness of the words of God, His laws, precepts, testimonies, commandments, rules, statutes and ways.
There is almost a rhythm or a cycle of those words recurring again and again as you read along.
These are the Words of God written to us, so we are to mark them as valuable.
We also are encouraged to learn from them and finally inwardly digest them.
The digesting of God’s Word is the true transforming power OF those words. They go through the eyes to the heart and then into the mind and soul.
They are read, marked and learned so that they might change us…and as we digest the words and concepts, they nourish us as food does the body.
This is why the preaching office is important. This is why preaching the Words of Scripture is so important.
We are here not to not tell interesting stories or jokes.
This is not the secular world with its ice breakers and lightheartedness…nor is it to be the coldness of the power-point presentation.
It is a serious looking, listening, and then a taking to heart the things that we receive preached to us as well as read.
We patiently take in what God says to us and we are comforted by them. This is not to say that we will always be comfortable with what they say, but that by the very fact that we read them and then internalize them and allow them to shape us….is how they comfort.
Because the words of Scripture are true, when they are read, marked and digested they help us in the last part, as well, which is, we hold to them because they are the Words of Life.
We are told there in the prayer to embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.
There is no higher concern for us than what God says to us.
This is essentially what Paul is saying here today in our Epistle lesson.
He says, “…whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction…”
Paul knows that what they have is what we call the Old Testament. They probably don’t have much yet written by the Apostles if at all.
Their Scriptures at the time of Paul’s preaching is the Old Testament. Yet even in them you can find everlasting life.
Even in the Old Testament. It was written for their instruction. The traditions of men and even the Church can and are helpful and important.
The unchanging Words of God that are the Scriptures, are of supreme authority and supreme importance and supreme rank.
We can read what Paul wrote in our lesson today and include the New Testament. The New Testament is thought to have been written and fully complete long before the 1st century ended.
So, we have the New Testament, bound with the Old Testament, written for our instruction.
And as we read them and are instructed by them, what do they produce in us?
Paul says, that “…through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Here again are what the Scriptures do. They produce endurance. They produce consolation or comfort.
They console us. They produce endurance. These are two important attributes or actions. Over and over we are reminded that the Christian life is not one of ease, comfort and full-time joy.
It is full of many other things. So, endurance and consolation are two very important things for us.
Here is what the hearing, reading marking and inwardly digesting of God’s Word does.
It produces in us endurance along the way and consolation when things hit hardest…but…Paul says here is the guide to life, the lamp to our path…the light to our way…
Here is what the Scriptures are designed and indeed do produce… He says, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Only when we realize through endurance and comfort and the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, are we going to know and feel what it is like to live in such harmony with one another. …in accord with Christ Jesus.
The Scriptures, when understood by us and inwardly digested by us and then applied by us, create in us a desire for harmony with one another.
This is such an emphasis in the Bible it’s hard to describe. Over and over we are admonished and encouraged to live in harmony with one another.
Harmony can only be attained when the Holy Scriptures are our guide and our life.
We ask God in the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church that He would “…inspire continually the Universal Church….in other words, all Christians, inspire the Church with the spirit of truth, unity and concord….that all people who confess Christ, may agree in the truth of His Holy Word….The Holy Scriptures…and live in unity and godly love.”
Truth, Unity, Concord, godly love. It’s one of the first things we pray for each Sunday. Over and over and over this is emphasized because it is the hardest and we don’t always do a good job of it.
So, if one of the primary things the Holy Scriptures are written to do, is to have us read them, mark what they say, and inwardly digest them so that they transform us, then we should make this a practice more than we do now.
Because here we circle back around to what we heard in the beginning. Taking the Collect for the 1st Sunday in Advent again …as we are to read that each day and in each service all through Advent….
….let us cast off the works of darkness.
Let us put on the armor of light.
And…….let us turn to the Life-giving Words of God in the Scriptures…now in the time of this mortal life…
So that we might in hope and a good conscience look for the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To close, let us hear the blessing from St. Paul that he leaves us this morning, “May the God of hope and the Words of Scripture, fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope.”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.