Advent 1, 2018
Today begins the new year of our church calendar, the first Sunday of Advent. Happy new year!
The season, which is largely ignored by the world, is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord.
When we speak of the coming of the Lord, there is of course our annual celebration of the Holy Nativity, the Christmas, and there is the second coming, the one foretold in the Gospel we heard today.
St. Luke quoted the words of Jesus in his prophecy of his coming back to the world for the day of redemption.
“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars,” Jesus said.
There was a sign in the stars when Jesus was born, too. Matthew chapter 2 tells of the Wise Men from the East who said, “We have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”
The signs we heard about today are more like the end of the world type. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to duck and cover. Those of us who lived through the cold war know what that is all about.
But Jesus says to stand up and raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near.
Matthew’s version of this prophecy says that Jesus will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
It all sounds a bit scary, but it is not a day to fear, rather it is a day we can look forward to.
St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians this prayer for them:
…may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
The Lord wants us to abound in love for one another, and that we should be holy and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus.
Advent is a reminder to look at the way we live, to see how we are living as Christians in a fallen world, and how we can do better.
We heard from the First Letter to the Thessalonian, chapter 3 today, but there is much more to read in this short letter that would help us. In my bible, Chapter 4 of this letter begins with the section titled “A life pleasing to God.”
Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that each of you abstain from unchastity (or sexual immorality) that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor… For God has not called us to uncleaness, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards no man, but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
It seems that St. Paul believed that the Lord would return in his lifetime, given his description of the event in chapter 4.
At the sound of the trumpet of God, the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
Paul later says that the coming of the Lord will be like a thief in the night, so we should be awake and ready, for God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Why do we need salvation? Because hell really does exist, despite the beliefs of many modern people.
And heaven really does exist, and it’s my job to see that all of you get there!
As far as when the Lord will be coming again, we don’t know, and we will never know until it happens. So it’s best to stay ready, as many of the parables of Jesus tell us.
St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians,
“For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
“But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief.”
“For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.”
He means that it will be a surprise, but you will not be caught off guard if you remain in the Light of Christ.
There is no other way to the Father, than Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Advent is the season of preparation, not only for the remembrance of the Incarnation, but also to remind us that we need to be preparing for the second coming.
The best way is to read your bibles, or as the collect says, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures.
And remember to love one another as Jesus loves us, and live as he has taught us, walking in the ways of holiness.