The First Sunday of Advent
Scripture Text: Isaiah 2:1–5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:8–14; Matthew 24:36–44
A sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, Year A • Download PDF
The season is Advent, so we should not be surprised that metaphors of coming and going and traveling are used. Isaiah exhorts, let us go up to the house of the Lord, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. The psalmist is happy whenever anyone says, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” We should be just as happy, though we know only too well that the majority of the typical church membership is absent most Sundays of the year. That should not make us less glad since our happiness is not in what others do or do not do, or even in what we do. Our joy comes from the Lord. So, let us be glad when anyone — pastor or not —says, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Church is where we hear the Word of God, both law and gospel, accusation and grace. Church is where salvation happens because that is where the Word is heard and believed. Church is also where we are called throughout the millennia, as Paul exhorts us down through the years, to walk properly as those who are clothed in Christ, clad in the armor of light.
Attired in light or in armor, we are clothed in Christ, with nowhere to go at present (unless you count going up to the house of the Lord). Instead, we are a people waiting for the return of Jesus. In the optional Gospel Lesson the First Sunday of Advent (Matthew 21:1–11), it is the blessed Jesus who is the one on the move, the one coming in the name of the Lord. Interestingly, in the primary Gospel Reading, we are not so much coming or going as being still, ready for the sudden and final appearing of the Lord, that happens at a time we cannot anticipate.
In our First Lesson (Isaiah 2:1–5), the prophecy declares that one day everyone will be on the move. All nations will stream to the mountain of the Lord. It is difficult for me to not imagine Jesus on the mountain with his disciples gathered around to hear his teaching. But the day is coming when not just a few disciples will gather on the that holy mountain. In that day, all nations will bow before him and walk in his light. In that day, he will judge the nations, and there will be peace on earth. Advent reminds us to call that day today. Come, let us walk in the light that is our Lord, and let us do so today.
Advent makes us all into pilgrims. The journey begins today; it may begin any day. Ironically, it is the busy days before Christmas when we are to put away worldly concerns and focus on the coming Savior. This is a time for joy instead of the stress that commonly accompanies this season before Christmas here in the West. What a blessed Christmas it will be when our chief concern is, "Let us go up to the house of the Lord!"
So, while we have the dawning of this coming Light, it is time to walk in his Light. The night of this last age is nearly over, and we must prepare to wake up and leave the darkness. There is no way to do so but to dress in that bright armor who is Jesus. To put on the Lord Jesus Christ is to be ready, even as we are waiting, to walk in the shining light of day. Advent is a time for us to remember to get dressed up in the Lord, to conscientiously clothe ourselves with the Light of the World.
Who knows (Mark 13:32) when the end (Matthew 24:13) will come and the Son of Man appears, “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30b)? Whenever the end — or shall we say the beginning — arrives, it will be a surprise. He has told us so, that even he did not know when that Day would be. So, because we do not know when he will appear — because it will be at an unexpected time—we simply must be ready at all times. We must be waiting, clothed in Christ Jesus because Advent is a time of making ready for the unexpected arrival of the Great King.
And what will be the effect of his coming again? Those who are not ready, who have not been waiting, who are not clothed in him, will be cast into the outer darkness. But those who are ready, who have clothed themselves in Christ through faith in his righteousness, in fact, will not be surprised at all. Oh, you will surely be surprised at the hour in which he appears. But you will not be surprised at the result.
He will call you forth from your pew, your kitchen or field or other workplace. He will call most of us from our graves. From wherever he calls us, the saying will be heard by all the faithful: “Come, you who are blessed of my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). This is who and what we await in this season of Advent. Surely he is coming quickly. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20–21).
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