The First Sunday of Advent, 1 December 2019
A Sermon by Pastor Bob Kuppler
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and was void, and darkness was over the face of the deep…And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light…and God separated the light from the darkness.” Genesis 1:1-4 (selected words)
Life and time as we know it, began by God’s will and power. What was formless and empty, and the darkness that was with it, gave way to light by the power of God speaking it all into being. Then in the same way all the rest the creation and the created ones, came into being.
Darkness and Light. Living in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are long on dark, and short on light, aren’t they? It’s in the dark days that a new Church year begins; the calendar marks not chronological time, but the events in which God has acted on behalf of us and all others.
There’s a hymn verse that says “The people that in darkness sat, a glorious light have seen” The Church marks time from the darkness of sin, to the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, but this season is not all about baby Jesus and the manger; Advent and Christmas are 2 different things.
Advent is best summed up this way: Since the time of the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God has been on a rescue mission. The Bible is the story of God pursuing us. The church year follows that pursuit, starting with Adam and Eve. God pursued Noah and saved his family; He didn’t stop with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or David. The truth is that God is faithful and never stops pursuing you, even when your put yourself in the center of life, or when you choose your own ways or idols instead of Him, or even when you simply doubt His faithfulness.
Advent means that God calling out to you by your name; he doesn’t stop if your faith slips, or if you try you hide your sin behind doing things to make yourself look good, or by trying to disguise an empty heart of worship. Simply, God pursues you because He chose you. Let the Advent candles not mark time, but remind you of the covenant God made with you in Holy Baptism, and the promise of this faithfulness.
Because this is what Christmas is all about: that Almighty God Himself has become incarnate – which means God has taken on human flesh in the Person of His only Son Jesus, so that Jesus could take your sins upon Himself, and become the sacrifice and full payment for them. Advent reminds us – disciplines us, really, to remain vigilant and ready for the day that Christ returns, which will be the end of the world as we know it.
Last week was the 56th anniversary of the assassination of JFK. A man called into a radio station to tell a story about that awful day. He said that he was in High School, and at the end of that sad day, his classmate, whom he described as wise beyond his years, came to him to say goodbye, because he believed that following the president’s death, a nuclear war would begin and no one would be left. It was a Sad, but true story.
God’s Word is clear – the end of the world will come – Jesus will return – but NOT as the cute and innocent little newborn laying in manger. No! – Jesus is returning as the all-powerful and righteous Judge of the world.
For those in Christ by faith, the coming Day of Judgment will be our Declaration of Innocence, thanks to Jesus in Whom we trust. But for all the rest, it’s not very good news – Lake of Fire, burning, crying, eternal suffering and all that stuff.
In fact, we live in the end times. The question then is, “how shall we live?” The culture today says “live for now; live for me;” behave as people do in the dark, which Paul describes in Romans 13; note how alarmingly similar and familiar the behavior back then is to the behavior of folks today:
wild parties, getting drunk or high, vulgarity,
indecency, quarreling, jealousy –
You and I, and all in Christ, are to be different than that; Jesus is the Light of the world and we are called to live in His light.
The end is near – ever and always nearer than you want; just like turning leaves tell you that winter is near, so the signs that the end is coming are ever upon us. Just like in the days of Noah, people were eating, drinking and getting married right up to the day that the flood came. Noah went into the ark, and all the rest were swept away. So, wake-up. Watch. Be warned. Be alert. The signs are there. But don’t be afraid.
It’s been said that quite possibly Christianity is just a generation away from extinction. Yet in reality, for the Church of Jesus Christ that’s always been true, whether in the first century or the 21st. This fallen world has NEVER been without warfare or change or fear; never without rumors of war or visible destruction; never been without hate.
But the One who us for us – the One who is goodness and love Himself – the One who is life and eternal peace, this One, Jesus Christ our Lord, entrusts to us the responsibility to announce that His love for the world is greater than the worst that mankind can do to the world; His love is greater than the deepest hell we can create; His love is greater than the farthest night in which we think we can hide.
Living in His Light, and by doing those things that make Him known, Jesus says “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” Not that you can save yourself by your good works, but promising you, that by trusting in his eternal love, you will know, and be propped up by the holy bond that will never be broken. The word “endurance” implies hope, for the one who endures is looking toward the future, trusting that Christ Jesus will set all things right. And He will.
Just as in joy and beauty of a new-born child that takes our breath away, so at the end God will bring forth his new creation, the kingdom of mercy and justice, for which we pray everyday Thy Kingdom come.”
Such days are coming, but no one knows when. All we can do is prepare our hearts, and the hearts of our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, god-children, and all others upon whom we have the Christian responsibility to be a blessing of influence.
In the midst of preparing for Christmas, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, pay close attention to the time-outs and wake-up calls given by God’s Word in Advent. When our children, or, for that matter, when the child in us, runs after unimportant things, may God’s Word remind us to be prepared for Jesus to show up when we least expect Him.
Put first things first. Stand fast against the temptations that would turn these holy days into cheap substitutes for true joy. Before all the activity, carve out ample time and space for being prepared, in Word, Sacrament, worship, prayer and anticipation. Light the candles on your home Advent Wreath, mark each new day with God’s Word, be in prayer for to whom you plan to give gifts.
If there is to be any excess at this time of year, let it be in sharing the holy mysteries. Receive Christ each new day, in simplicity, humility and hope. For in such mysteries, we see what God has done, is doing, and will do. In the name of Jesus, who will return. Amen.