+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 21:25-28
Theme: Storm before the Calm
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Relief is on the way. And though we do not know exactly when it will arrive Advent reminds us to be watchful. Advent intends to foster in the believer a healthy sense of the expectation of the return of Christ. Today is the First Sunday of Advent. It is the beginning of the Church Year. Advent means ‘coming’. During this short season we continue to focus on the promised return of Christ who comes to judge and redeem.
Advent is a season for preparation. An excellent time to do a spiritual inventory, it calls us to repentance and humility. Caught between the pull of worldly indulgences and the tug of God’s word advent brings the full gravity of Christ’s incarnation to bear. He who came in the humility of human flesh will return in glory to fully abolish all the consequences of sin in our lives. Think of the implications: All the influences of sin will be resolved. No sickness, no penalty, no pain, no death. There will be no more worry, no more anxiety, no more fear.
All these troubles we must live with in the here and now because of the fractured relationship between God and humanity. A fault line that runs right back to the Garden of Eden, it opens up over the very pit of hell when sin reaches its maturity. Of course as opportunists we’d like to claim we are only victims of Adam’s fall or society’s unfairness. But we have our own guilt to bear. The law condemns us unconditionally, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”1 Advent is always a call to repentance. We will face the judge. Remember how our Scripture today describes the distress of the end, “Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world.”2
Advent is also a reminder of how easily we take for granted God’s mercies every day. We tend to treat Him as an optional Deity: credit Him when we are happy, blame Him when we are not. Question Him when we are hurting. But do you think that in the most challenging trials of your life God is not present? Do you think He is otherwise occupied or indifferent? That is exactly what Satan would like you to think. How could God allow it? Or, how could He not? We can’t have it both ways. Can we fail to credit God for good and yet still blame Him for hardship? Can we complain when we are hurting and not thank Him when we are blessed? Job rebuked his wife saying, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”3
Doubters will sit back and say they have no use for God in their lives. Faith is too restrictive or too irrational. They have seen too much suffering. They have witnessed too much hypocrisy on the part of His supposed followers. They may be hot with anger or numb with heartache. They’ll take their chances- they say. Advent announces the odds are not in their favour. God’s judgment is not a mathematical probability. It’s not like forecasting the weather. But even if such a mindset is granted the downside risk is immeasurable. Who will risk meeting the Almighty face to face in bold defiance? Who will challenge His authority to judge?
Yet we should not write-off conversations with the naysayers as being of no use to us. Theirs is the kind of skepticism, (and even resentment), that can help with clarification. In the end we either stand on the premise that God in Christ is peerless, or we are involved in the saddest kind of deception, intentional or not. Either He is to be revered or worshipped or we are found to be idolaters. Either this Christ has come, did die for sins, and was seen after His resurrection, or we have a remarkable record of false witnesses to account for. Either our faith will grow in humility and respect expressed in genuine concern for others, or we are just glossing our words and actions with pious overtones in order to appear more sympathetic or sanctimonious than others.
Yes, there are still vexing questions. Why does God work as He does? We are not privy to the details. One person is healed while another is taken. One family experiences tragedy while another lives carefree. One person suffers loss while another prospers. All this makes God appear unpredictable, almost fickle. How can He avoid the verdict of favoritism! Logic cannot answer these mysteries and only faith can endure them. Sometimes God loves the individual at what appears to be the expense of the greater community. Other times the individual seems to suffer on behalf of the common good.
Dear friends, we have confidence at the coming of the Lord because our ransom price has already been paid. The events of Christ’s life are not the stuff of fictional legend. He was lifted up on the cross; His blood shed for you and for me. He rose from the grave to guarantee our resurrections. He gives you the constant blessing of His body and blood. He reminds you that you are His baptized child.
Your baptism is worth more than all the financial security the world has to offer. It is the means by which the reconciliation accomplished by Jesus’ death becomes personally applicable to you. The advent Messiah enters your life at baptism and from that point on accompanies your journey with Him. Never merely a reference point in the past your baptism is like a well that continues to flow with the water of forgiveness. Every Sunday the power of the font is applied to you when your sinful nature is drown in the confession of sins and you are given a new lease on life in the promise of absolution.
His life we share together as we await His coming in glory. The Holy Spirit unites our hearts and teaches us compassion for those who still live in darkness. Note the personal and tender, but also passionate words of St. Paul to the believers, “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you…May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.”4
Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
First Sunday of Advent
2 December 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Romans 3:23
2 Luke 21:26
3 Job 2:10
4 1 Thessalonians 3:9, 12-13