ADVENT is a coming, not our coming to God, but His to us.
We cannot come to God, He is beyond our reach; but He can come to us,
for we are not beneath His mercy. (Austin Farrer)
Throughout our spiritual season of Advent we have been preparing for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ at Christmas time. He has been coming to us in one way that we might see and experience Him in another. Of course, we know that Christ is always coming to us. It is in the nature of God that He never ceases to communicate and express Himself in the rule and governance of creation and to the hearts and souls of the faithful. God speaks His Word and things are created, preserved, and related to one another. God speaks His Word and men and women, with the ears to hear, learn to obey His will and walk in His way. God never ceases to speak to us, and yet in specific seasons of the Christian Year, He speaks in one way more than another. In so doing, He is always preparing us for a more advanced coming and deeper union with Himself. In Advent, he speaks as one who readies and prepares us for the birth of His Word in our souls on Christmas day.
So in Advent, the Word speaks to us, calls and summons us to make ready for birth, new birth, our births. Yet for the Word to be generated within us, it must be heard and remembered. And what a challenge this task seems to be, in a world with so many words that the Word cannot be heard. If the Word is heard at all, it seems to be a Word heard only partially, refined and suited to the desires and pursuits of a godless people. Think about it: is it not the case that so many people only ever hear what they want to of God and His Word? The tendency is evidenced in the post-modern Christmas. Wouldn’t you say that there are lots of people who get rather sloppily sentimental about the birth of Christ? They like to think about His being born in a manger nestled away from the noisome pestilence of consumer society. Others tend to focus on atmospheric tenderness and climatic love that somehow permeate the environment with a global spiritual warming. Still, others center their hopes on the ever-romanticpeace on earth and good will to men.Even the best intentioned of respectable bleeding hearts hear what they want to hear of and from the Word, and leave the rest to God, or so it would seem. As a result, in the end, truly the Word is not heard, and most men remain all the worse off for it. Left with the bits and pieces of a deconstructed God and His half-heard Word, lukewarm believers will spend another Christmas indulging a self-satisfaction that leaves them as bereft of God’s plan and purpose as ever before. Thus the world will indulge another meaningless Christmas. T. S. Eliot wrote that Against the Word, the unstilled world still whirled/About the centre of the silent Word. (Eliot: Ash Wednesday) God’s Word remains mostly silent as the world kills its nature in a whirl of inane words.
In Advent, Christ has been speaking to us. He is the silent Word addressing us from the centre of all reality. He has called us into the silence of stillness that we might hear His Word. On the First Sunday in Advent, Christ the silent Wordcame to purge the temples of our souls. We were then exhorted to cast off the works of darkness and put upon us the armor of light. (Advent Sunday Collect) On the Second Sunday in Advent, we learned that the silent Wordis the permanent and unchanging Wisdom of God, which we must begin to hear with patience, comfort, and hope. On the Third Sunday in Advent the friends of John Baptist heard the Word and witnessed its power, learning that the approaching silent Wordintends not only to be heard but received and handed on, as what heals and gives new life to those who hope in His love and power. And now on the Fourth Sunday in Advent, the silent Wordis still heard, as the sole cause of true rejoicing, from the ground and center of the soul, in the wilderness of the soul’s self-emptying, from a space at last removed from the false gods of this world.
Today we end our Advent journeying, in order to welcome a new beginning. The silent Word that we hear can be received only in the heart and soul that has been emptied of all pride so that humility might courageously submit to its scope, rule, and sway. Today we hear the silent Wordthat has touched and transformed John the Baptist. Who is John the Baptist, we ask today? He speaks for himself. He confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that Prophet? And he answered, No. (St. John i. 21)Who is this man that awaits the coming Word, whose ears long eagerly to hear the silent Word? Indeed he is one whose own silence becomes the only space suitable for the silent Word to be heard. He is the one in whom the silent Word can find meaning and purpose. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. (St. John i. 23)He tells us that the silent Word has been heard in the empty wilderness of his desert home.The sterile ground of his wilderness has yielded no fruit; he has repented of his sins and discovers within himself no power capable of producing any manner of godliness. Now in the barren land of his soul’s frailty, the silent Word has been heard and finds articulation in the spirit of hope. Make straight the way of the Lord, orOpen up a direct route in your souls so that the silent Word can be uttered and heard.The sound and substance of this Word can stir within us only when the clutter of all other disturbing distractions are quelled. Our minds must be stilled and our souls awaiting only on the coming speech of the silent Word.
The contrast of the Word that John hears and awaits with rejoicing, with the words of a world that will not hear the Word, is striking. Over and against all human words that reveal only humanly conceived expectations, comes the silent Word which longs to be heard. The silent Wordspeaks to us from the mystical depths of Divine Desire. The Word will be explained and articulated in the human life of Jesus Christ. The silent Word will yearn and long for the salvation of men. The silent Word will lovingly carry those who hear into the destiny of eternal joy. St. Paul says, Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice (Phil iv. 4). He too, like John, hears the silent Wordand now urges others to rejoice in His immanent approach. Like John the Baptist, he tells us to be careful for nothing (Phil. iv. 7) –tobe anxiously determined and moved by none of the things of this world. Rather he says rejoice, and again I say rejoice. The silent Wordprepares us for itself. The silent Wordintends to be heard. It is God’s Word, which shall be spoken in and through the life of Jesus Christ. It will be the cause for great rejoicing and never-ending happiness. But it can be born in us only if and when, because weare careful for nothing,we are ready to hear this silent Word.
Being careful for nothing is, as John Henry Newman said, the state of mind which is directly consequent on the belief that "the Lord is at hand." Who would care for any loss or gain today, if he knew for certain that Christ would show Himself tomorrow? No one. (Parochial and Plain Sermons)Advent issues a needful wakeup call for Christmas. But more importantly, Advent issues an alert that the Lord is [always] at hand. What if we are destined to die this evening? Are we ready to face the final timeout in our lives? Once we are dead, our last opportunity to be made right with God will have been lost. John the Baptist’s life was cut short, but not before he became a faithful witness to that spiritual disposition which alone makes ready for the coming Word. He empties himself and so is ready for death at any time. Are we preparing ourselves for the same immanent death?
Emptying ourselves is a necessary effect of having come to know and confess the truth about ourselves. In the 8thCentury, the Venerable Bede said this about John the Baptist: John Baptist gave his life for [Christ]. He was not ordered to deny Jesus Christ, but was ordered to keep silent about the truth (cf. Homily 23: CCL 122, 354). The silent Word of Christ was heard. John does not keep silent but tells us the truth about who we are in relation to the comingWord. John Baptist did not keep silent about the truth and thus died for Christ who is the Truth. Precisely for love of the truth he did not stoop to compromises and did not fear to address strong words to anyone who had strayed from God’s path. (Benedict XVI: Audience, Aug. 29, 2012) God’s silent Word will not be heard if we compromise the truth about ourselves, the truth that confesses that we are in desperate need of what the coming Word must bring to us.
Coming to the truth about ourselves is only ever the outcome of thoughtful reflection and prayer.Rather than judging and analyzing others, let us then return into ourselves and repent with John Baptist. Let us claim with the great Forerunner and Precursorall that we are not and have failed to become.Then the coming silent Word,so unheard by a world that whirls around with words, will begin to overcome our vice with His virtue, our sin with His righteousness, and our death with His new life. Then truly He shall bemade flesh in us this Christmas Tide.
Turn us again, O God; / show the light of thy countenance, and we shall be whole.
(Ps. lxxx 3)
If Advent is about making ready for a Christmas birth, today St. John the Baptist exhorts us to witness to the coming Word in Hope. (Fr. Crouse: Advent Meditations) St. John Baptist’s vocation or mission is to prepare us for the true and lasting coming of Christ –that birth that promises to make us into the children of our Heavenly Father. St. John Baptist’s life reveals what must precede the coming of Jesus Christ in our hearts and souls. His witness illustrates the severe nature of our preparation. His final days are a testimony to the watching and waiting that are incumbent upon all who must trust in the coming salvation and deliverance that Christ alone can bring.
St. John the Baptist is a true Apostle and Evangelist. He has such confidence in thetruth that he was unconcerned about our reception of it. What I mean is that he wasn’t really afraid of offending or disconcerting others. He doesn’t offer a theory to be considered for rational acceptance. He proclaims the truth. He informs us that Christ the Saviour is coming. He says even that once his message of preparation is heard, He must increase, and I must decrease. (St. John iii. 30) John the Precursor and the Preparer is on a mission to compel us to share in his self-emptying and spiritual death. I must die, that Christ may come alive, John exclaims. Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (St. Matthew iii. 2), he insists.
Repentance is not optional. It is a necessary first step if we would be saved by the Saviour! John’s message comes with urgency. We ought to respond to it now. John has no time for Christians who have opinions and notions that they have arrived at by themselves. Christ is coming to us as Saviour of the world. Should we make the mistake of indulging a luxury that we don’t have with time that is too precious to waste and energy that ought to be put into repentance, we shall be lost forever.
We don’t pay enough attention to St. John the Baptist. He is one of the most important of the Evangelists because he came to know himself in stark contradistinction to God’s Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. First, in the barren wilderness or desert, and then within the abandonment of a lonely prison cell, John repents of his sins. He empties himself of himself, and then waits and watches for the One whose coming alone can give new life and meaning to a nature that has died to everything. He must increase and I must decrease. (Idem)
Repentance is the acknowledgment of our self-willed alienation from the sovereign God. God is the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe. His rule and governance are at work behind the scenes of living facts which contribute to the unfolding of His will. Do we think of this? God will not be mocked. God’s truth will prevail. God’s will shall be done whether we choose to find it or not. Be not deceived, God has a plan for our universe and He expects us to come into the knowledge of it! What God has already done is preparation for what He will do. He has a plan for us. We are called not only to see it but to will to be a part of it.
When we repent, we take the necessary steps to ensure that we are willing to die to whatever is not of God in us. We must move our sin out of the way. Jesus says elsewhere if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee…if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee…for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (St. Matthew 5. 29, 30) Repentance must be followed by the real intention to go and sin no more, to bring sin to death in the heart, that the ever-coming Saviour may have His way with us.
Yet we must acknowledge also that repentance does not promise immediate consolation or instant gratification. Oftentimes God gives the repentant man additional suffering so that his soul might cleave all the more necessarily to the Divine Will. When John Baptist called King Herod to repent of the sin of marrying his brother’s wife while his brother was yet alive, he was cast into prison. When we urge others to repent with us, they often resent us to the point of wanting to punish us too. The world in all ages is far too enviously insecure and frail to heed the call. Herod was a fragile, immature, insecure, and apprehensive narcissist who lived in fear of losing what little power he had. We are the same when we reject the call to serious repentance. Repentance is humiliating. It cuts to the quick of the soul’s real condition. As a result, so many people cannot bear to hear of its urgent necessity.King Herod and his wife knew that they had sinned. But they did not want to hear about it.
What we must learn with John is that repentance is not an end in itself. The English word repentance comes to us from the French repentir, meaningto show contrition, sorrow, remorse, and regret over evil or sin committed.Repentance responds to Christ’s coming light and is a confession of deepest sorrow for preferring false gods to our Heavenly Father. The idol or false god might be a besetting sin or the idealization of any earthly attachment. John the Baptist reminds us that Jesus cannot come to us as long as there is anything in the way –either of goodness or badness. (O. Chambers, Aug. 22) Repentance must acknowledge that sometimes lesser goods have become gods to us. Countless numbers of Christians place self, family, or friends, earthly comfort, calculations, and considerations before God. Thus they are never blessed. Why? One can be blessed only if and when God comes first.
Repentance cries: He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me…I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness make straight the way of the Lord…He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, the latchet of whose shoes’ latchet I am not worthy to unloose. (St. John i. 15, 23, 26, 27) Repentance brings a man to see his own unworthiness. John thinks to himself: I was indeed this and that, but He came, and a marvelous thing happened. (O. Chambers, Aug. 22)Of course, what happenedto John cannot occur before his repentance has pushed him to the extreme of being undone. According to St. Gregory, John wonders if his impending execution and death can be reconciled to Jesus’ coming. (Greg. Sermones…) Gregory says that John sends his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another’ (Idem), that he may know whether He who in His own person had come into the world, would in His own person descend also to the world below. (Idem) Can this hell that I suffer be consecrated to and reconciled with the essence of Christ’s coming, John asks? Can a loving and compassionate God allow self-emptying repentance to yield only an anguish of unjust suffering that ends in death? Will suffering and death that precede knowledge of His full coming be taken up into Christ’s salvific life? Will Jesus come into death and carry the righteous into salvation and reconciliation with God the Father? Jesus answer is gentle but firm. Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (St. Matthew 11. 4,5)
Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? (St. Matthew 11. 3) How can John Baptist, who had baptized Jesus in the river Jordan, who had seen the heavens…opened unto him, and the Spirit of the Lord descending like a dove and lighting upon Jesus (St. Matt. iii. 16), ask this question? Has his faith failed? Has his imprisonment overwhelmed him in a sea of doubt and despair regarding his vocation? John is fully human and so naturally enough He might desire some relief before rather than after his earthly death.
Jesus will overcome and compensate for any loss that we suffer as we repent and prepare for His coming. Blessed is he who in the midst of suffering and death can yet hear the Good News of the healing and salvation that Christ is bringing to others. Blessed is he who suffers gladly for Jesus and sees his own suffering as a gift from God to be offered up as a witness to penitential surrender. Jesus expects more from John because John has died to himself. John’s repentance brings him into consciousness that his suffering and death must not stand in the way of the new birth and life that Jesus Christ brings to his soul. John surrenders His life as a prophesy for what His Lord and Master will imitate. Jesus allows John to provide Him with the pattern and model of His own future.
John Baptist prepares us to welcome Christ’s birth inwardly and spiritually. Jesus asks, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. (St. Matt. xi 7,8) John’s calling was not thrown off by the cataclysmic shocks to the natural world. Nor was he pampered and comforted by human riches. John was moved violently within to deny himself and embrace the coming Jesus. Yet he was required to endure doubt, confusion, and uncertainty also. He is the precursor of our own suffering.
So, as Romano Guardini puts it:
Into the depths of John’s lowest hour then would Jesus’
Word have been spoken: ‘Blessed is he who is not scandalized or offended
in me.’ The Lord knows his herald; knows his need. The message
sent by the mouth of his uncomprehending disciples into the
darkness of the dungeon is a divine message. John understood.
(R.G. The Lord, p. 25)
At last, John understood. Because John will suffer and die unjustly, God’s Grace rewards him with new life in another. First, John must repent of his own innocent importance that dangerously threatens to ruin Christ’s coming into his soul. John’s reward is a vision of the new salvation life that Christ brings to others. Our reward will be the same if we are not offended in Christ (Ibid, 6), and we look for no other to come alive in us.
Thomas Aquinas on the Creed:
Then, again, if one were willing to believe only those things which one knows with certitude, one could not live in this world. How could one live unless one believed others? How could one know that this man is one’s own father? Therefore, it is necessary that one believe others in matters which one cannot know perfectly for oneself. But no one is so worthy of belief as is God, and hence they who do not believe the words of faith are not wise, but foolish and proud. As the Apostle says: “He is proud, knowing nothing” [1 Tim 6:4].And also: “I know whom I have believed; and I am certain” [2 Tim 1:12].And it is written: “You who fear the Lord, believe Him and your reward shall not be made void” [Sir 2:8].Finally, one can say also that God proves the truth of the things which faith teaches. Thus, if a king sends letters signed with his seal, no one would dare to say that those letters did not represent the will of the king. In like manner, everything that the Saints believed and handed down to us concerning the faith of Christ is signed with the seal of God. This seal consists of those works which no mere creature could accomplish; they are the miracles by which Christ confirmed the sayings of the apostles and of the Saints.
Belief is the foundation of man’s relationship to the external and visible world and to his fellow men. Children trust and believe in their parents. They depend upon them radically and they trust them instinctively. Adolescents trust and believe in their parents less so and, yet, nevertheless they use trust and belief to rely upon others for any number of relationships. Belief is a faculty that is used by all humans at all times in relation to things and other people. Adults trust and believe in other adults in all sorts of ways. I trust and believe in the dentist to know more about my teeth than I do. I do the same with the doctor, the carpenter, the electrician, the East-Indian computer technician, the Filipino ATT Customer Service Rep, and so forth. Even without having tested their DNA’s, trust that my father is my father and my mother is my mother. Trust, faith, and belief figure necessarily in all of our relationships. So, in general, we trust or believe others in matters that we cannot know perfectly ourselves. And yet, no one is more worthy of belief than God. Why? Well, He is the Thinking Being that not only quickens but defines all things that exist as becoming-beings. He is the Self-Thinking Thought and Unmoved-Mover that brings all things to their appointed ends. For most creatures, He does this through the Laws that he imposes upon them. For men and angels, He does this through laws of being for existing and then with laws of goodness that men and angels can willingly embrace and follow if they would find ultimate perfection. Of course, for men, to will the Good is impossible without the indwelling of the Father and His Logos or Word made flesh -Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit. Fallen man has confused, distracted, and disabled his spirit and thus He must rely upon the Salvific Christ to unite him to the Father by the Spirit. Without welcoming Jesus Christ into the fallen soul, man will remain forever alienated from the life of God the Holy Trinity. Again, it is essential for man to trust and believe in Christ if he will be saved. Christ carries with Him the seal of the Father and the power of the Spirit. To entrust oneself to Christ and the believe Him and to believe in Him are all necessary for salvation. Trust and belief open to what the Father has done in Christ the Son and by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Trust and belief desire to welcome the Son’s miraculous victory over sin, death, and Satan into the human heart. Trust and belief long for the effects of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to be operative in human life. And thus, I long to be incorporated into the Body of Christ -the Church, so that I might benefit from the inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe in what I cannot effect or do. I believe in the one who has done it and welcomes me into the merits of His success. I believe in the one who dwell in me so that He might work out my sin and work in His righteousness. The Mircale of the Incarnation can be productive of my salvation only when I make an act of will to trust and believe in Jesus Christ.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast
off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
(Collect Advent I)
Advent is so hard to celebrate properly in our own times. Long before this season even begins we are assaulted by Christmas and a secular Christmas at that. On or even before Thanksgiving we are blinded by the garish lights and sparkling tinsel. We are assaulted by the sentimentally, syrupy Santa Claus songs of secular society. We are bombarded with advertisements and offers meant to make this coming Christmas like none other. We are not, to be sure, aware that any Advent is present at all.
So we are thankful that the Church still calls us into Advent as we gather here this morning. Advent is a Latin word meaning coming to. And the liturgical season which bears its name is all about God’s coming to or into His world. More specifically, of course, it is about God’s comingfrom Heaveninto the world in the life of His Son Jesus Christ. And so Advent is in one way about the historical, salvific life of Christ. Advent is also about the future when Christ shall come to judge both the quick and the dead. And so it is about death, judgment, heaven, and hell. But in between time past and future time is time present, where we find ourselves today. And in it, we learn that Advent is a time of Christ’s coming to us nowin heart and in soul. And if it is that, then we learn also that Advent is a time of penitence, a time for casting away the works of darkness and putting upon us the armour of light. (Collect)We pull out our purple Altar frontal and vestments to remind ourselves that this is a season of fasting and abstinence. This is a season of preparation- when we prepare our hearts and souls for the Coming of Jesus Christ once again at Christmas time. It is a time of reflection. Looking into our hearts we struggle to clear away the dust and cobwebs which cover bad old habits, persistently present vices and the temptation to avoid facing ourselves in the light of Christ’s coming. It is a time of true meditation and contemplation, in silence with stillness. In this season we pray that we shall be inspired and incited with a sense of promise, expectation, and hope. In this season we pray that we may yearn the more earnestly to do what we must so that we might be found worthy on the great and dread Day of Judgment.
I have said this, and still, it is not easy. Nobody, not even Jesus Himself, said it would be.But the alternative to embracing Christ’s Advent coming is perilous and fearsome. The dangers are great. Father Ronald Knox paints us a picture of the common variety of men who, in the course of life’s short span, never get around to contemplating God’s coming in Jesus Christ, and what they end up with. He writes of those who never think about the Advent themes of death, judgment, heaven or hell. He speaks of pagans and also of lukewarm and half-hearted Christians. Hear what he says:
Very few people feel sure that they are going to hell. Those who die in the faith, but without charity, mostly think, wouldn’t you say, that they are all right, they have just scraped through. And those who have lost the faith, or who die in sin outside the influence of faith, probably lay some flattering unction to their souls-it will be all right, they think, they will be given another chance. Up to the moment they are taken away, this world of creatures treats them no differently than any soul predestined to eternal life…So perfect is the illusion of security around them, that they forget God, and forget that they are forgetting him…And then, quite suddenly, the bottom falls out of that world…God, who gave that material world he has come from all its reality, is now the only reality left; and with a great hunger of loneliness the heart that was made for him turns back to him-and God is not there. The sinful soul has created for itself, as it were, a godless universe.’
Life is at its end, and so many people are left with nothing. The material world and its gods are gone. The body is expiring either painfully or just naturally. And the soul is left with a godless universe. God who was always approaching, always coming, was treated as nothing and no one, and thus is absent to the barren soul. Those who have spent their lives either ignoring salvation or presuming that their superficial religiosity would save them, face the dark void.
Quite frankly, such a prospect should frighten the living daylights out of us. It should awaken us out of our slumbering sleep. It should make us appreciate all the more the Church’s Advent, her season of solemn warning an impending doom. It should awaken us to the fact that Jesus Christ’s Advent- His coming to us, is reflected in the three ways that we experience time- in the past, in the future, and in the present. He came to us in the past in our flesh at the Incarnation. He will come to us in the future to judge both the quick and dead. He comes to us now through His Word by Grace and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus comes to us now to make us living members of his Body, partakers of the life that He lived in time past, reconciled to Eternity, and offers to us as our only meaningful future. Jesus comes to us in Advent to visit, wash, cleanse and defend us as we pray for entry into His Kingdom. But how do we embrace this hope of Christ’s coming to us now? How do we welcome His persistent coming, answering that knock on the doors of our souls, responding to that tap at the window of our spirits? We find ourselves, if we are honest, examining our own sins. We look into ourselves and admit who we are, what we have done, and what we need. We seek that something which comes from God, and yet too often thensink back into ourselves, into our fears and anxieties, into our desires and wants, into those gods that keep us from the sacrifice needed to welcome His coming. He has come, we believeit,we say. He is coming, and we want to be ready, we exclaim with the best of intentions. We cry, Hosanna to the son of David; blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.(Matthew xxi. 9) But we slip back, maybe to our stallsin the temple where we engage in false commerce and evil exchange. We seem lost once again. We have given up so many false gods, only to be threatened by the demonic spirits of cynicism, despair, and hopelessness. Our houses seemed swept clean and in comesnotChrist, but the devil. The devil is always comingalso. We have tried to walk honestly as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. (Romans xiii. 13), but we feel the impending sense of doom. It seems that for every step forward that we take, there are two steps backward.
So what are we to do? Today we are called to remember that the process of Christ’s comingto us is no easy business. It does involve tension, struggle, and pain. Our Gospel lesson this morning reminds us that the one who comes to us, though superficially welcomed with the songs of Hosanna,cannot be received casually. If He is to come into the temple of our souls in time present, as He did in the temple of Jerusalem in time past, we are to know that He intends to purge and to cleanse. He intends to drive out and banish all false commerce, wrong thinking, wicked speaking, and evil living. As His tough love intended to make the temple at Jerusalem a house of prayer long ago, so too does He intend to make our bodies and souls the temples of His prayerful Spirit in this world now. Advent is all about Hiscoming.He comesto us with the piercing eye that sees what is in us and what must come out of us. He comes to us to elicit a full and honest confession of who we are now because of what we have been in time past. He desires that we should name, claim, confess, and experience sorrow for our sins. This we must do if we intend to have any part of His coming sanctification, His coming redemption, and His coming salvation.
Our Epistle this morning reminds us that this comingof Christ’s tough love to us in Advent is not matter of sentimentality or emotion.Owe no man anything but to love one another (Romans xiii. 8), St. Paul exhorts. This is the love that offers itself to others in forgiveness and hope because it is chiefly concerned with receiving the coming love of God in Jesus Christ. This is the love that keeps the commandments because this is the foundation upon which Christ’s loving redemption can be built and can weather any storm. Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Ibid, 9) To prepare for Christ’s coming we must love all men. This will enable to see more clearly andknowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Ibid, 11)
On this first Sunday in Advent St. Paul exhorts us with urgency to cast off the works of darkness and put upon us the armour of light…that we may welcome the Lord’s coming love, and put…on the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans xiii. 12, 14) The end of each day reveals the shortening of the time we have to open our hearts to the Advent comingof the Lord’s purgative love. The night is far spent, the day is at hand (Romans xiii. 12). This Advent let us welcome Christ’s coming in a meaningful way. Let us welcome the coming of Christ’s loving correction and even chastisement, as He comes to purge and cleanse the temples of our souls. Let us allow Him to prepare us for a deeper sense of His comingat Christmas. If we don’t do this, we shall find sooner rather than later, that it will be…too late -too late, when we awaken to the fact that we had forgotten that we had forgotten Him. Amen.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons