The First Sunday in Advent
St. Matthew 21.1-9; Jeremiah 23.5-8; Romans 13.11-14
02 December 2018
Seminarian Simeon Cornwell, Vicar
+ In the Name of Jesus +
We typically only see Advent as a time of celebrating our Lord’s birth. A time to focus on our Lord’s becoming Man for our salvation.
And certainly there is an aspect of this with the season of Advent. We are to give thanks for our Lord’s birth. However, since the earliest times of the Church, Advent has been more a season of repentance, or preparation for our Lord’s Final Return.
If this is the case, that Advent is also a time we should make sure we are prepared for our Lord’s coming, the question must necessarily be asked; how do we prepare for our Lord’s coming?
With Thanksgiving having just finished and Christmas just around the corner, we all already know something about preparation.
If we had guests for Thanksgiving, there was a meal that needed to be prepared. That takes a lot of time and patience.
Even if we went to a friend or relative’s house for Thanksgiving, it still required preparation. Perhaps we brought some side dish. Or maybe we had to travel a long distance, so we had to prepare our overnight bags. We had to map out how we would travel. What roads we would take, how early we would need to leave, etc…
If we have children, there was no doubt even more preparation required.
Preparation for Christmas seems to be pushed back earlier and earlier each year, starting now on Thanksgiving Day. We want to be prepared for these big days. We don’t want to be caught unaware by them.
Imagine, then, that you completely forgot about these holidays. That for whatever reason, you invited all your family and friends over and it completely slipped your mind.
What would you do when your guests actually arrived? No doubt, you would frantically try to scrape some food together. Perhaps you would try and run to the store to get some little gifts for the children. But you would be out of luck, since almost all stores are closed on these days.
Imagine how embarrassed and ashamed you would feel. How upset you would be at yourself. Everyone staring at you with disappointment.
In a very small sense, this is how those will feel who failed to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Granted, it will be on a much greater scale. And that shame and disappointment will never go away, rather it will last forever.
Preparation then, requires two things: it requires knowledge that the Day is coming and the act of preparing itself.
It’s easy in our materialistic world to forget that all we see is temporary. That all of this will perish and we will not be able to take anything with us into the next life, just as we brought nothing into this one.
The world wants us to horde and gather as much as we can. To chase after every pleasure, whether it be sex, pornography, food, or even happiness. Do whatever makes you happy, we are told.
But we forget that these things that make us happy are themselves temporary. Therefore that happiness that they give is also temporary.
Satan uses these earthly possessions and pleasures to distract us. To make us forget that the Day is coming. He want us to focus so much on them that we begin to trust in them and so disbelieve that the Lord will return again.
How important, then, to be reminded of this often. That the Lord indeed will return again. Something we are reminded constantly by coming here, by praying, by studying God’s Word, by confessing our sins.
The Day’s hesitation in coming is not a sign that it will never come.
For God promised to give Abraham the Promised Land, yet he never saw it. In fact, it took almost five hundred years for the people of Israel to finally enter it.
God also promised in the Garden that the Offspring of the woman would come and crush the serpent’s head. And how long did it take until this found its fulfillment? Thousands of years.
The point being that this delay should not cause us to disbelieve its coming, or cause us to shift our focus onto the possessions and pleasures of this life. For it will indeed come.
But again knowledge of the Day and its coming is not all that is important. With preparation necessarily comes the act of preparing.
Taking our previous example, what good would it have done if we knew guests were coming, that we needed to provide a meal, etc., but we neglected to go to the store to buy food and/or gifts?
No doubt the arrival of our guests would still bring shame and disappointment. In fact, we would look even more foolish than if we forgot about the day.
So too, with our Lord’s return, we are to make preparation as St. Paul says, by “putting off the works of darkness and clothing ourselves with the armor of light.”
And what are these works of darkness? St. Paul lists them: “Orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, sensuality, quarreling and jealousy.” In short, anything that is contrary to the commandments of our God and Father. These we must strive, with the help of the Lord, to put off.
Let us not walk then unwisely, but as St. Paul urges, “let us walk decently as in the day.” For one who walks in the day is seen and so makes sure that his actions are pleasing. But those who walk in darkness know they are not seen, and so thinking that their actions are unknown to the Father revel in all evil. But all words and deeds will be brought to light on that Last Day.
If this is the case, beloved, why would we not come to the light now, when there is still time to make preparation for that Final Day?
Why would we not come here, to this place, not just one Sunday a month, but every Sunday? Why would we not take the opportunity to avail ourselves of private confession and absolution? Why would we neglect coming to Bible study that we may hear and meditate upon God’s Word and so be prepared for that Day?
For if all these things that we see will one day perish, why would we not place as the greatest importance the things eternal? What better way could there be to prepare for our Lord’s Final Return than being here as often as possible?
Just as preparation for Thanksgiving and Christmas took time and was painful, so too preparation for our Lord’s return is painful. It requires us to honestly look at ourselves, not according to our standards or the world’s, but God’s.
But when we look at ourselves honestly and repent of our sins, Christ comes to forgive. And in that forgiveness is a joy that is inexpressible. A joy that can have no end since it is in Christ Jesus, who is Himself true God and Man. Christ Jesus who paid the price for all sin.
Examine yourselves this Advent season and do not hold onto these sins, but give them up to Jesus that He might cast them into the depths of the sea. That He might remove them as far as the east is from the west.
For God has prepared for our salvation in sending His only begotten Son to take on our human flesh. And He continually makes sure that we are prepared for it by coming to us each and every week in that same flesh and blood.
A coming, or Advent, which is not in wrath, but in forgiveness for those who fear His wrath and wish to be rid of their sin. And He does this so that on the Last Day we may be found spotless and without blemish in His sight, having been cleansed by His blood.
To that end, may God grant us all diligence in making preparation for His final return, so that we might enjoy His peace and so eternally sing with the faithful: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.