Let us then lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light.” From St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Today marks the first Sunday in Advent. The theme of the coming of the Day of the Lord, or the advent of the Lord to judge the living and the dead is a constant in our teaching of the Gospel. Jesus describes it in the context of the great flood in the days of Noah. No one expected the flood that would destroy the world, despite the warnings of Noah. They ate and drank, got married, and generally lived without a care in the world. They never expected the flood. This event, the flood and Noah’s ark, are a kind of pre-figuring of the day of judgement.
The flood represents the wrath of God. He was obviously not pleased with his creation. Their so-called freedom, gained when Adam and Eve rejected Paradise, had completely corrupted them. The ark of Noah pre-figures the salvation of Jesus for the few humans who were judged as righteous.
They, along with the mating pairs of all the living creatures were given a new life, free from the corruption of the past.
Jesus warns his listeners that so will be the day of his coming. No one knows when it will happen, and no one knows who will be saved from the wrath of God. He indicates this by saying two will be working in the field where one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal where one will be taken and one will be left. Which one would you rather be?
St. Paul’s advice is simple; Be prepared. And how do we get prepared? We are to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. So what are the works of darkness? St. Paul mentions of few of these in the letter to the Romans, chapter 13, as to what is stated in the Law of Moses: Don’t cheat on your spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of. This adds up to loving others as well as you love yourself. This is the armor of Light.
What are some other works of darkness? St. Paul mentions drunkenness, debauchery (or excessive indulgence in things that feel good), licentiousness (or promiscuity), quarreling and jealousy as good examples, but these are by no means all of them. Works of darkness are anything that you do in secret that you wouldn’t want anyone else to know about. Works of darkness are things that contradict the natural order of creation. Works of darkness are being critical of others behind their backs. I think this is something we all struggle with.
Sometimes I am critical of the way other people do things when it’s really none of my business. I think that is because I lived with a lot of criticism when I was young. Sometimes it feels like a normal thing to do, just to tell someone else what they should or should not do, because I know what is best. Do you ever feel that way?
Besides, it is easier to ignore my own character flaws when I am critical of someone else. But where does that leave us in the end?
When we worry so much about the behavior of others, or the quality of their spiritual life, we take the focus off of our own and we fail to grow closer to the Lord. We are blocking our own path to the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What is the Armor of Light then? The Cross of St. George, a red cross on white background is commonly depicted on a shield like one that might be carried by a knight. The logo of the Anglican Church in North America features this shield because of our heritage in England where St. George is the Patron Saint.
The shield is also a representation of the Shield of Faith, mentioned by St. Paul in the letter to the Ephesians. This shield protects us from the assaults of the devil. St. Paul wrote more about the Armor of God in this letter, and that we are to take it on to withstand all evil. There is the Belt of Truth, Breastplate of Righteousness, the shoes of the Gospel of Peace, the Helmet of Salvation, the Sword of the Spirit and the Shield of Faith.
St. Paul says these are the pieces of equipment we need to live every day! This Armor of Light is a graphic representation of the Christian Life, where we are strengthened and protected by the word of God, which comes by reading the Holy Scriptures. Remember the Collect prayer from two weeks ago? Allow me to recall it now:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;
Are you reading the Bible every day? I know that when I do, the whole day seems to go much better, and when I don’t my mood can sour pretty quickly. A great way to start the day with a little Scripture is by reading the book, “My Utmost for His Highest,” by Oswald Chambers. Each daily reading of Holy Scripture is accompanied by a teaching that really illustrates it and makes it applicable to life.
Another way to put on the Armor of Light is to focus on the Cross of Christ. When we focus on the Cross, we recall the high price that was paid for our salvation. Oswald Chambers called it the tragedy of God. The Cross is the great point of spiritual power, wrote Chambers. We lose power when we fail to focus on the Cross. When we do focus on the Cross, the power of God is released in our lives. That power helps us to overcome temptation. It helps us to pray for the needs of others, and it helps us to stay on the path that leads to eternal life.
Finally, we can put on the Armor of Light when we pray to our Father in heaven, in the Name of Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. Prayer can take many forms, too. It can be the wonderful formal prayers we find in our Book of Common Prayer, among others, it can be the familiar Lord’s Prayer, and it can be informal, as in a personal discussion with our Creator. It doesn’t matter much what you have to say. As I am often reminded, a mother does not care much what her son has to say, as long as he calls every now and then.
She just wants to hear his voice. So it is with our Heavenly Father. He just wants to hear your voice.
The Armor of Light is our protection against the evil spirits of the world. It’s easy to take it for granted that we are safe from these assaults when we don’t see the attacks that are fended off by the angels.
Just as it is a habit of our brave men and women of the police to put on body armor before a shift, make it a habit to put on your Armor of Light every day. Focus on the Cross, read your Bible, and say your Prayers. You will not be sorry you did. Amen.