Advent 1 – December 1, 2019
Romans 13:11-14 – “Be Prepared!”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Christmas is coming!
Have many of us put up our decorations yet? It is socially acceptable to go “full-Christmas” after Remembrance Day now, right? Some people will even start their Christmas prep before Remembrance Day in preparation.
In a world filled with so much dull and dry ‘same-old, same-old’ with work and how tiring the regular grind of life can be; something a little different to spice it up can be a much-welcomed change.
Not to mention how dark it seems to always be outside! The days are getting shorter and shorter and colder and colder. People will be getting out their SAD lamps to help combat the depression that comes with the change from light to darkness and warm to cold. In fact, November is suicide awareness month because there is statistically a boost in suicides in November. It seems to be attributed to all this darkness but also the stress of a long hard year and the drive up towards the Christmas season.
At Christmas, we can give ourselves an excuse to have all this joy, excitement, and happiness because it is something I am sure many of us just crave at this time of year.
Coming through somber Remembrance Day, and suicide prevention month, and the dark, and the cold, and the stress of another year almost gone past, is it not it nice to just have an excuse to crank the Christmas music, pour your favourite own brand of “cup of cheer,” turn on some Christmas Rom-Com, and put up some Christmas decorations?
Christmas time can be a much-needed excuse to tell yourself to be happy and spread some Christmas cheer and sing those same old familiar tunes to yourself in the grocery store.
Maybe this is you.
Maybe Christmas time is totally different for you.
Maybe you’re the person who has not really come out of the darkness of November. Maybe Christmas is just a reminder of how much you have lost. Everybody looks forward to spending time with family and buying presents and putting up decorations and you dread it. Instead of joy, you feel sad because it reminds you, (again), or for the first time, Christmas won’t be with the same people who used to be there. Maybe it reminds you of the hate you have for your parents, siblings, or kids, and how you never can work past your problems with each other to just get together over the holidays. Maybe you can’t afford to buy the presents you want to buy for people or get all those decorations to put up in your house to enjoy. Maybe Christmas is anything but joyful and all the joy around you makes it even worse.
Whether you crave the Christmas season or dread it, Christmas can often bring out the worst in us – not always! – but often. Christmas, for many, is a time filled with Christmas work parties, or other celebrations driven by a spirit of orgies and drunkenness; sexual immorality and sensuality, as people search for happiness with that new someone or someone(s) or even leave their faithfulness to God to adulterously explore new ideas of spirituality. Take note of how these sexual things I just mentioned are from the Romans text this morning. How about the last two things the text mentions? Do those happen at Christmas time? Surely not! (Take out your bulletin and take a look. It’s on the top right corner of the back page.)
What are the two other things?
Quarreling and jealousy.
We all know that the Christmas season is FILLED with these two things.
Advent – Put off the Bad
This is not a pagan sex ritual we are preparing to celebrate where love between humans is paramount. This is not a feast of warriors where we try to triumph over our enemies by outdoing our neighbours in a jealous fit over what they have or by sticking it to them by not breaking our long-standing quarrel.
This is Christmas we are preparing for. We prepare for the coming of God to earth as a little baby. We prepare by pondering why God had to come to earth as a baby. We ponder the seriousness of the fact that this baby is coming to be brutally killed – in our place. This is our time to ponder the injustice of an innocent baby coming into the world to be innocently killed. This is our time to ponder the justice of the punishment we deserve on the last day for our sins. And putting those two ponderings together we reflect on the fact that Jesus’ unjust death paid the price for our just punishment. What a gift from God!
Advent is our season of preparing for Christmas where we not only prepare to celebrate God coming to earth as a baby (and being with us), but God coming to earth for the second time (to be with us forever). We prepare ourselves for His coming into our lives to judge evil and reward good.
Advent is the OPPOSITE of Christmas because Advent is serious and sombre not carefree and joyful like Christmas. Advent sets us apart as Christians because others do not celebrate it! Advent is the time we prepare ourselves for Jesus’ second coming into our world to rid evil and sin forever.
Taking Advent seriously, we realize that we are not ready for Christ’s coming. We are not ready to be joyous and happy because we have some serious house-cleaning to do before Jesus comes. Advent is when we live as children of the light and put off orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, sensuality, quarreling, and jealousy. We live as God’s children of the light and we live as we will in the resurrection when Jesus comes again and takes away all sin and sadness.
Observing Advent is not a law. Don’t hear me wrong now. You don’t have to think about Advent at all. You can go full-on Christmas all you want! This is not something God commands us to observe. Advent is just a good idea and a good tool to use to help us reflect on God’s Word and prepare our hearts for His coming.
Junk Food and “Christ” Meat
Is it a good idea to give kids a whole bunch of candy and dessert right before dinner?
They fill up on the dessert and, aren’t hungry, and don’t have room to eat the real meal.
This is like us celebrating Christmas too early. If we celebrate Christmas now we may fill up on all of this self-enforced joy (or despair) the season brings and run ourselves out of room for slow, somber, reflection on the reason of Christ’s coming. We may be filled with an artificial joy from the lights and music that fades and isn’t true joy that lasts us throughout the year ahead or prepares us for the coming of Christ. We may be filled with the sadness and despair that clouds us from seeing the good in Christmas.
The good at Christmas is that God is coming to be with us. God loves us and cares for us so much that He is coming down to be with us; like us.
I’d like to see “The Universe” become human like us and die for us and take away our guilt and pain, or the Buddha give us the hope of eternal life here on earth with God, or Mohammed selflessly die for our sins. Or any of the million Hindu gods do anything but sit there and look pretty.
God has come as a baby who took our punishment and forgave our sins. God came to heal the blind and to mend up the broken-hearted. God is coming to give us hope beyond the pain we feel. God is coming to bring us joy.
God is coming to bring us a true Christmas without the pain, or false-joy, or sin, or infidelity, or quarreling, or any other bad. – Can you imagine a Christmas without the bad? – God is coming to bring to us heaven-on-earth when He comes on the last day. We will feast with Him in the truest of all Christmases where God dwells with us.
Until that day, we rest in His promises He left with us while He walked in human flesh here on earth. We rest in the promise that the darkness we walk in, which makes us very unprepared for His coming, is washed away by the waters of our baptism. We skip ahead to a little foretaste of our true Christmas feast we will celebrate with God in this feast He gives to us here at this communion rail with His own body and blood.
We rest this Advent season in the assurance that because Jesus came those 2000-some years ago we are prepared for His coming again on the Last Day.
Thanks be to God.