December 1, 2013

First Sunday in Advent sermon

The Night Is Far Spent
Psalm 97, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 21:1-13
First Sunday in Advent
December 1, 2013

Imagine the world before electricity, even before natural gas, kerosene, or coal.  Nights would be much darker than they are now.  The fire place, and maybe a candle, would be the only light most houses would have. There would be no street lights, no vehicle lights, not even a flashlight for pedestrians.  And the sky would be dark.  In our time the night sky is filled with the reflected glow of city lights.  Even rural areas receive large amounts of light reflected from distant towns and cities.   In Powhatan we see the glow from Richmond.  In western Powhatan we can see the glow from the village, shopping center, and housing developments.   But without lights, even the large cities would be dark; deeply, impenetrably, and fearfully dark.
Now imagine that kind of darkness as a spiritual/moral condition of the soul.  That is part of what God meant when He had the Apostle Paul write in Romans 13:12; “the night is far spent.”  We see this idea in many other passages of Scripture.  Ephesians 5:11 says, “have no fellowship with the works of darkness,” and Ephesians 5:17, 18 encourages us to “walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God.”  Then, there is that phrase in Romans 1:21 that is so descriptive of the spiritual condition of people apart from Christ; “when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful: but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
This brings me to the first point of today’s sermon, and it is a major point in this passage, and in the entire Bible; there is a night of the soul.  There is a darkness in the moral/spiritual make up of every person that makes us unwilling to see God or the good and moral things of life. It is not that these things are obscured in darkness.  They are clearly visible.  The darkness is in us, in our souls and minds and wills, so that we are unwilling to see them.  In some places the Bible calls this condition, “blindness.”  In other places the Bible calls it being “dead” toward God.  Romans 13:12 calls this condition, “night.”  Though this night enables us to ignore God, it by no means enables us to ignore the results of our darkness.  We see its results everywhere.  We see them in the lives of people making tragic mistakes they will pay for the rest of their lives.  We see them in peoples’ character flaws and moral weaknesses.  We see them in the greed and corruption in government, business, education, and even churches.  We see them in broken churches, broken countries broken communities, broken homes and broken people.
This brings me to the second point of this sermon; “the night is far spent.”  We have been in this darkness for a long time.  It is not like we are in late evening, or even midnight.  We are in the deep, deep part of night.  Look back through history and you will see that the works of darkness have plagued humanity since Adam and Eve turned away from God. Their sin plunged the world into darkness, and we have been in darkness ever since.   At this time of year most people are playing Christmas carols, many of which address our darkness.  You will recognize these words from “It Came Upon the Mid-night Clear:”

Yet with the woes of sin and strife, The world has suffered long;
 Beneath the heav’nly strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong;

O ye beneath life’s crushing load Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and low.

And you know these words from, “O Holy Night:” “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining.”

But if the night is far spent, then morning is near.  That is the third point of the sermon.  That’s why Paul wrote, “it is high time to awake out of sleep.”  The night is passing.  The morning is quickly approaching.  One of the major points of Romans 13:12 is that Christ has come to this earth, and with Him came light.  If we remember that the Biblical image of darkness represents spiritual ignorance and sin, we can easily understand the Biblical language of light.  John wrote, “the Light shineth in the darkness” Jn. 1:5.  “The people who sat in darkness saw a great light.”  And no one who knows Christ can ever forget His words in John 9:5, “I am the light of the world.”
We saw streaks of morning light two thousand years ago when Christ became flesh and was born in Bethlehem.  We saw the light in Him who is the light of the world as He taught us about God.  No one has seen God, Christ said, but the Son, that is Jesus Christ, came into the world to show God to us. He, Himself is the revelation of God, and if we have seen Him we have seen the Father.  In His light we see the absolute goodness of God, for Jesus was completely without sin.  In His light we see the mercy of God, and the love of God, for greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends.  In His light we see that those who claim to love God must keep His commandments, not our own version of what we would like His commandments to be.  In His light we see that real faith takes God on God’s terms, rather than demanding God to take us on our terms.  He, who was obedient even unto death on the cross, is the great example of loving and serving God on God’s terms.
The light dawned brighter when Christ our Saviour went to the cross to bear our sins. It grew even brighter with His resurrection and ascension; with the coming of the Holy Spirit and the establishment of the Church, and with the completion of Holy Scripture.  But the full dawn is not here yet.  It will come only when Christ Himself returns to us.  Romans 13:12 is the perfect verse for the first Sunday in Advent because it looks back to the First Advent of Christ, and recalls His life and ministry.  It looks back to the Faith, the doctrines He gave to the Apostles, and which He commanded the Apostles to teach to the Church.  It also looks forward to the Second Advent of Christ.  His first Advent was almost in disguise.  Being born in a cattle shed, raised in a carpenter’s shop, and murdered on the cross is not the way most people expected God to come to earth.  But that was His First Advent in weakness.  His Second Advent will be a full revelation of His Divine power and glory.  Every eye will see Him, and every soul will recognize Him.  For some, that will be a day of sorrow, for He will end this age of darkness in which the things of Christ are distained.  He will finally and fully deal with those who love darkness rather than light, and they will be sent to a place, often called the outer darkness, the darkest darkness, to live in the deepest sorrow forever.  For some it will be a day of great joy, an awful joy, but a very real joy such as we can only imagine now.  He will gather His people unto Him and we will meet Him in the air to witness the passing away of this world of darkness and the inauguration of the new earth.  This new earth will be given to His people, and we will live there in perfect joy forever.  The darkness will be gone.  We will have forever put away the deeds of darkness, and we will live in the Light, for He who said, “whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness,” will dwell with us, and He will be our Light forever.  Sickness, war, strife, death, and sin will be banished forever.  And we will see and enjoy Him face to face.
At Christ’s first Advent He was despised and rejected of men.  He came unto His own and His own received Him not.  He came as light into darkness, but men loved darkness rather than light.  Let it not be so with us.  We are called to be children of the light, to walk in the light even as He is in the light.  Therefore, let us cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.  As Paul wrote in Romans 13:14, “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility, that in the last day, when He shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen”

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