Sunday, November 27, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Matthew 24:36-44 & Romans 13:11-14
It’s 6:00 am the day after Thanksgiving, and men and women get ready for battle. They prepare to brave the darkness – some have even gone out in the dark on Thanksgiving night – and put on their armor of defense as they do battle with the crowds. They aren’t fighting to rescue anyone from evil. They are out to engage in finding great sales for Christmas shopping. Now I have to admit that I too have braved the crowds and done some shopping on Black Friday, and when I have, I am reminded of why I rarely engage in this activity. It seems to bring out the worst in people as I watch individuals treat one another rudely in order to find the perfect gift, whatever that perfect gift might be. Long lines of tired people anxiously waiting in line in order to be done with their quest, get cranky and angry as time slips away.
Our readings from Scripture today deal with time. Today is the first Sunday in Advent. The first Sunday of the new year in the life of the church. For many people Advent is usually a season in the church year that individuals want to get through fast so they can get right to Christmas and all that goes along with it – the Christmas trees, the decorating, the parties, the shopping, and the gifts – and of course Jesus. But Jesus seems to be the last one we focus on. Our time is spent more on everything else, and we run the risk of merely wasting time.
Jesus was concerned about how we spend our time. He said no one knows when the world as we know it will end. Jesus will come again. We profess this in our creeds. The question is are we ready or are we wasting time focusing on everything else but Jesus? That’s why this season of Advent is so important. It’s the time that we slow down the rush toward Christmas, and focus on the here and now. It the time to remember what’s really important – loving God and loving one another. It’s a time we deliberately focus on the darkness –the unknown – and continue to have faith, to do good and bear good fruit, even when we don’t have answers.
The unknown can cause a lot of anxiety for people. Most of us want some kind of certainty, and security. Yet we don’t know when Jesus will come again. Because we’ve been talking about it for so long, the tendency for some is to be complacent and think that it won’t happen in our lifetime. For many it’s become a sort of legend. Yet for others, this fills them with anxiety and fear. Jesus said, even he doesn’t know when it will happen, but that we need to be ready. Time is of the essence. We need keep awake and watch. How exactly do we do this?
Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that while we may not know the time when Jesus is coming again, we do know that it is time to be witnesses of Jesus. We need to “put on the armor of light” and “live honorably……not in quarreling and jealousy.” The armor of light – the light of Christ – is what will help us as we journey through the darkness. It is this armor of light that will guide us through the moments of fear and anxiety into faith and hope. Yet in order to put on this armor we may need to take off what we have been wearing. We need to take off jealousy and put on gratitude, take off quarreling and put on peace, take off resentment and put on forgiveness, take off our need for control and put on trust in God. In order to walk through the darkness, we need to let go of those things we have been holding on to and put on the armor of Christ’s light. This is what will help us see in those times of uncertainty.
There are times we need to brave the darkness. There are situations and circumstances that will test our very beliefs, but the light of Christ will give us strength to persevere. There may be moments when all our best efforts seem to be in vain, but the light of Christ will give us the hope to trust in God’s promises. There may be voices that try and frighten us, but the light of Christ will fill us with peace even in the middle of the storms we find ourselves in. Advent is the time to journey through the darkness in order to more clearly see and reflect the light of Christ who is coming again. The time for complacency is over. Jesus is coming and we must be ready, not with presents or trees or parties – although they are great things – but more importantly with open hearts, transformed hearts, hearts that love God and love one another. Hearts that do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” Amen.