First Sunday in Advent Trinity Lutheran Church
27 November 2016 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Well, it’s Advent. The beginning of the church year. The church is all decorated. Big time. Why? Well, because there is an urgency. No, not a pressingness to get your hunting, partying, shopping, and cooking done. And, good grief, it’s not the “Urgent” of your favorite 80s rock band Foreignor! It is an urgency of a totally different sort. An urgency of what is most important. Salvationly significant. Salvationly central.
The text says: “You know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand.” What day? The Last Day. Judgment Day. All of Advent preaches that Jesus will reveal Himself in glory for everyone to see and He will judge the living and the dead.
So what? How do you live as you wait for the Last Day that in very near? Wait! Don’t answer. Let the text, God’s Word, give you the answer. It’s how you’re awakened from slumber – roused from the sleep of sin and sin’s eternal damnation. I’ll summarize it with one word. Yes, I can do that. But I warn you. The word that I’ll use has been banned from your vocabulary – from the church’s pulpits – from the lips of her pastors. I’m not joking. This is true. But I will tell the truth. It will come from my lips and all heaven will break out among us. The word is spelled R-E-P-E-N-T!
Yes, that’s right, repentance is the life of the Christian in this world since “salvation [the Last Day] is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Repentance is living in and from your baptism into Christ!
According to the text what does your repentance look like? It is a twofold shape. First, “let us cast off the works of darkness … orgies and drunkenness, sexual immorality, sensuality, quarreling and jealousy … making no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.” Quite simply, you who are baptized are to turn away from sin that squanders life in frivolity and self-indulgence. Turn your back on sin that dulls the mind and impairs the body that God has crafted to be temple of the Holy Spirit. Die to lewdness and lust that casts a dirty shadow over the Creator’s design and purpose for sexuality, for your being a male and female. Die to always living in lethal contention with those you love. Die to all the jealousy and envy and that keeps you from living in peace with your neighbor, family members, church members, your pastor and with God.
All these things the apostle catalogues as “works of darkness.” They are not character flaws or bad habits. Not just bad behavior patterns. They are manifestations of your sinful nature, your old Adam, your flesh, that desires to live in the death of darkness apart from God’s saving light. The “works of darkness” are symptoms of a life lived in captivity – under the domain of the prince of darkness – Satan himself!
Well, Advent spells death to the deeds of darkness. Death to the attitudes and actions that creep out of your soul’s cellar! Orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, lewdness, quarreling and jealousy that come from your sinful nature CANNOT BE DOMESTICATED. They are wild, wooly and ferocious beasts! They cannot be house broken or tamed. They cannot be transformed into nice little pets that you can keep on a leash. There is no such thing as an old Adam or sinful flesh whisperer! There is only one thing that must be done to the works of darkness. It is this: PUT THEM TO DEATH. They must be stripped off like infected and contaminated clothes. Repentance is not renovation. It is death. Death to sin. Daily. This is what Paul means when he says, “cast of the works of darkness,” or “make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.”
But that’s not all. There’s more to repentance. And it is the most important part. It’s this: “put on the armor of light … walking properly as in the daytime … put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, repentance is also a turning in faith to Jesus who has Good Friday-ed you and by His blood has forgiven you. He is the Savior of sinners. Savior of you. Winning your salvation on the cross. Delivering it in your baptism. So, when St. Paul says to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” he is exhorting you to live in and from your baptism where “you have been clothed with Christ,” (Galatians 3:27).
Yes, repentance is living in and from holy baptism. In your baptism you died and were buried with Christ. Repentance is daily dying to sin. Repentance is daily arising from death to new life through faith in Jesus who died for you. Dying. Rising. That’s the baptismal life Paul described in Romans 6. “We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so, we also should walk in newness of life.” The daily life of the Christian then is turning from sin and embracing by faith the gift of Good Friday’s forgiveness delivered in holy baptism.
Now, you see just how radical it is to be a Christian is. The Christian repents! The baptized fight against sin. And it is a deadly battle. Daily turning from sin. Daily dying to it. “Casting off the works of darkness.” “Making no provision for the flesh.” Not gratifying your sinful desires. Daily turning to Jesus who died for you. Believing that His Good Friday death counts for you. Trusting that He’s given you all of His righteousness in your baptism. “Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” who is the armor of light.
This is what is means to “walk properly as in the daytime.” Repentance is what it means to be a Christian.
The season of Advent prepares you for such a life. After all, “You know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand.”
In the Name of Jesus.