Advent 1A - Romans 13:11-14

Romans 13:11-14 (NIV)

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. 

The time is drawing closer, closer to when our daughter and her family arrive. The manse will be filled with two young parents and two young children.

In about nine days, 12 hours and 50 minutes a plane will land at Auckland international airport with family we love who are coming to share Christmas and to worship the Lord Jesus Christ with us.

Diane and I are very aware of what having a one and a four year old with us for close on four weeks is going to be like – probably with a few surprises too.

We’re getting ready: toys, books, treats, cot and beds. There are things to put away and tidy up – there are things to bring out and do before the arrival time. But the hour is nearly here for us to be active so our family will be welcomed appropriately.

In order to be ready for the invasion of exuberant toddler youth we must be prepared – with activities organised, treats and food in the pantry, beds made, cupboards secured, hearts warmed and beaming smiles.

Our routines are changing as we prepare the house for guests – safe for small children.

The long wait for our family’s arrival is drawing closer and so too is our Lord Jesus’ return. We must all be aware and awake, excited and prepared for Jesus’ immanent return.

Jesus is nearer than we know, as Olaug recently found out when He called her to eternity and the fulfilment of the baptismal promises He made her.

So, are you aware and awake to the fact that Jesus is returning soon to claim those who are His?

What has been a dark time of struggle for many folk is soon to come to an end: 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.

The times of our failures to love as God loves are coming to an end – the failure to love is being turned around by those who are baptized and believe. Instead of reflecting on the darkness of our old selfish sinful nature we are to reflect the light of Christ.

In the Gremlins movie on TV last night the evil creatures cannot stand the light – likewise the deeds of darkness St Paul mentions: … carousing and drunkenness, … sexual immorality and debauchery, … dissension and jealousy cannot stand the light – especially the light of Christ. These behaviours of the old nature are to be put aside – expunged from our thinking and acting.

Instead of trying to numb our senses with drugs and alcohol, escaping reality with temporary “pleasure” which leads to immoral and dangerous behaviors which then result in damaged relationships we are to put on the armour of light.

That is, we are to reflect the light of Christ so that those who are out in the dark, indulging the flesh, may see as St Matthew 5:16 (NIV) tells us, 16 …your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

What this means is that we Christians who have been given the forgiveness of sins, are to reflect the light of Christ in our lives by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit we received as a result of our being Baptised into Christ.

Galatians 5:22–23 (NIV) reminds us of what people are to see in our lives: 22 … love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

The fruit of the Spirit is the reflection of God’s love at work in our lives – they are God’s gift to us but which will also benefit those who are out in the darkness.

St Paul is teaching us that the reflection of God’s gifts are God’s armour of light – the whole armour of God enables this light to shine through us and bring others into fellowship with Jesus (and ourselves).

With the armour of God we can withstand the schemes of the devil which include carousing and drunkenness, … sexual immorality and debauchery, … dissension and jealousy – schemes which we easily fall into if we do not wear the armour God gives us: Ephesians 6:11–19 (NIV)

11 …, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is …against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 … put on the full armour of God, so that …, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

     There’s not much point in only putting on the belt of truth if we don’t have the breastplate of God’s righteousness…, your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.

We need all the armour – the shield of faith to disarm the flaming barbs the devil sends to distract and damage our faith. The helmet of salvation which is the Word of God for our protection – remember how Jesus quoted the Scriptures to the devil when He was tempted in the wilderness?

The Word of God enabled Jesus and enables us to withstand the temptations of the devil.

Likewise the sword of the Spirit is also the Word God which is to enable us to move through the battlefield of life to bring to the feet of Jesus those who would stand against Him. Souls are won for Jesus by those who know the Word of God and with the Holy Spirit’s guidance are able to share it.

     Prayer too, is part of the armour – you might say communication with the commander, the Lord Jesus, who knows the field of battle and all the tricks of the enemy – tricks which he uses against those Christians who are dozing or asleep on their journey through this life.

     It’s easy to doze and sleep when we should be alert - especially today as the devil brings out deeds which were formerly done in the darkness of night but which are becoming the norm in the daytime too now – murder in the womb, fornication and twisting of time honoured truths about God’s creation – saying “what is, isn’t” and the disregarding of all that God says and teaches through the Scriptures.

     To resist the world and the devils lies is to invite persecution as we are tempted with the lie that it doesn’t really matter what we do or how we live.

     The devil wants to replace the truth for a lie – he, the devil is a wolf in a sheep’s clothing, hiding and pretending to be something he’s not, deceiving the vulnerable with half truths and blatant lies so that people live their lives trying to gratify the desires of the flesh.

     As St Paul encourages us, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. What we are taught from the pages of the Old Testament about the way God wants us to live is not redundant – St Paul has reminded us of this.

The Law of God shows us how to love others – that’s why Martin Luther in the Small Catechism says after each commandment: “We are to fear, love and trust God so that we …” and then he lists what we should not do followed what we should do when he says, “…but help …” with explanations of how we can help.

     As the notes in the Lutheran Study Bible for our text today say,

“The requirements and essence of God’s Law have not changed from the Old Testament. The Law shows us how to love others as we have been loved by God in Christ. “All have sinned and fall short” of God’s requirement to love Him and others (3:23). The Gospel calls us to rely on God’s mercy in Christ, which then motivates us to love as we have been loved. The context of Romans assures us that God declares us righteous, not because of our ability to love, but solely because of Christ, who “is the end of the law” (10:4).”

          If we genuinely want to be ready for Jesus return we will be clothing ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and all that He teaches in the Scriptures.

Amen.

Father, You have loved us in Christ and declared us to be Your righteous children. Empower us to love and serve others through Christ. Amen.