Sermon 1686 Romans 13.11-14 December 1, 2019
Are we ready?
Probably more than half of Americans would say, “No, we are not ready for the holidays,” even though Thanksgiving and Black Friday are now in the rear view mirror. It’s a battle zone out there. Who can really be prepared for what you will encounter in the shopping aisles or on the city streets?
Are we ready?
Many would say, “Yup, I’ve got everything I need. I have my overnight shipping membership, so no more Christmas Eve afternoons spent at a drug store looking for knick-knacks. Yup, I got all my credit card balances transferred over to a new card that won’t charge me a plug nickel for a year, so I’ve got room to charge. Yup, I’ve got a room full of beer, wine and booze ready to guzzle. I’ll come out of it the second week in January.” A lot of holiday comedy movies revolve around characters like this who smugly think they have it all figured out.
Are we ready? At this moment more than a few are in the stores or electronically plugged into the virtual malls getting things crossed off their to-do lists.
Are we ready? Paul tells us we are ready, because we are
Armed for the Holidays
Timely weapons (11-12a).
Glorious weapons (12b-14).
“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here (11-12a).”
After outlining almost all of Christian teaching to the Romans, Paul has just summarized the entire Christian life as “Love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (10).” That’s how God wants us to live, loving one another. That’s how God wants us to live, doing no harm, in word or deed, to one another. As we live this way we are armed for the holidays with timely weapons.
I always wished our culture had a holiday before the holiday. The Old Testament did. It was the Feast of Unleavened Bread the week before Passover. For a whole week, no yeast in the house! It was to remind God’s Old Testament people that they were to free their lives from malic and greed, especially as the great holiday of the Passover approached. It seems we have patented an anti-holiday before the holidays. We have Christmas office parties where bosses and workers with a snoot full say things they later wish they hadn’t or act, well, let’s just say, inappropriately with others, though some of this behavior can lead to divorces or extended prison sentences. Our sinful human nature loves it. It can either make us wallow in the booze with the rest or proudly hold our nose up at them and think we are so much better. We’ve already seen our children take an interest in the newspaper. On Thanksgiving Day they poured through the toy flyers. They pestered us all day for this present or that, and if we say no, well, Santa will certainly bring everything on that wish list from a dancing Baby Shark to the newest iPhone. Why, oh, why did we ever get married and have such selfish children? We practically had to beat them so we could watch the three football games on Thanksgiving in peace!
See what I am saying? It would be nice if God judged us only for what we are doing right now. But he wanted our whole life to be sinless and holy. I blew that when I was two, if not earlier. I still catch myself having a hard time with that “do no harm” stuff, and not just once in a while--a lot, every day! If that is how I arm myself for the holidays, I make the Grinch look like Good Saint Nick.
Jesus is the wakeup call. He always was and he always is. The message of his birth woke the shepherds. “Good News for all people, a Savior.” He woke Jairus’ daughter from death. “Little girl, I say to you, get up.” He roused his drowsy disciples in Gethsemane, “Arise, here comes my betrayer.” But what would you expect from the light of the world? He came to beat back the darkness of sin. He came to shed the light of God’s love into this world sunk in the gloom of selfishness. He did not rest until his head sunk in death on the cross. Only then was his work finished. Only then was the debt of sin, the debt of our sin and the sin of the whole world paid in full.
Because of that, we look forward to his return. That’s the day Paul is talking about. Some years ago I was sitting across a restaurant table from a classmate of mine. People consider him somebody. He asked me what my career goals were. I told him, “Get to heaven.” I’d have a different answer for him now. “Stay alive until Jesus returns.” And then, if that’s not in the cards, “Keep believing until the day my soul leaves this beat-up, worn-out body.” The time is coming. We are ready for the holidays when we are armed with Jesus’ forgiveness.
Armed for the holidays. What glorious weapons we have!
“So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealously. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature (12b-14).”
How should you and I as forgiven Christians live? Paul commands us to behave decently. Do what people do in the daylight. Clothe yourselves with Christ. Take him everywhere you go. Let’s look at both of these glorious weapons at our disposal.
We daily see stories of people who are ashamed of what they have done or people around them have done. They deny they did those terrible things. They may pay a lot of money to try to make it go away. The general sentiment around these things is that nobody needs to know about it. Now look at what decent behavior is. We don’t have to think about it, because we don’t have to cover it up. It would make the most boring investigative hearing ever. “Where were you on Monday morning at 8 am?” “Driving the kids to school.” “GPS monitors reveal that you frequently spend time late at night at this location, but then your cellphone goes dark. Do you have an explanation for that?” “It’s my home. I turn my phone off when I go to sleep.” “So you are saying you stay in bed all night?” “No--never.” “What sinister purpose would make you get up in the middle of the night?” “My wife says, ‘Put the dog out.’”
Guilty as charged. Guilty of leading a boring life looking out for the people I love. Guilty of showing animals more affection than they deserve. And you are my co-conspirators! We are determined to show a public face that is the same as our private face. It is called honesty and integrity. I think that is one reason this congregation draws people to it. We are authentic. It’s not “what you see is what you get” exactly. That sets the bar too low. That excuses, almost baptizes, our faults under a blanket of proclaimed piety. It’s, well, I think it’s time for part B to explain.
We are armed for the holidays with glorious weapons and the most glorious weapon is being dressed with Christ.
Remember, Paul wrote, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
First of all, we put on Jesus when we were baptized. “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3.27).” Christ’s holy life is credited to our account. When God looks at us, he sees the wonderful life of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ holiness wins our prayers access to God the Father. Jesus’ holy life is why the Father always makes his face shine upon us and gives us peace. The robe of righteousness I wear is not a robe I have fashioned out of my own deeds. The robe of righteousness we wear has been given to us by faith in Jesus Christ. The robe of righteousness we wear is Jesus Christ’s holy life. “God made him, who had no sin, to be sin for us that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5.21).” There is no shame in that apparel. We are armed for the holidays.
Now here’s the second part. Ever hear the saying, “Clothes make the man?” That’s why we expect professionals to dress like professionals. I am told bankers are suspicious of fellow bankers who do not wear white dress shirts under their suit and tie. Even our Seminary tries to instill that in our future pastors. You see pictures of classes or chapel on the website and the men are dressed in sport coats and ties or sweaters and ties. Why do they do that? Come to think of it, why do some of our local schools, maybe the ones you send your children to, demand school uniforms? “Clothes make the man.” You dress like a somebody and you start acting like a somebody. Well, God has dressed us in Christ. He treats us as we are not that we may become what we are not. We become little Christs. We show God’s love. We turn a deaf ear to the sinful human nature. Rather than gratifying the shameful desires of our sinful human nature, you know, that stuff that goes on under the cover of darkness which leaves heartache, shame and ruin behind, we set our minds on things above. We strive to please God in everything we do. This is the armor of light. This is the clothing that gives light. Those who wear this clothing are welcomed guests at any Christian gathering. Those who wear this clothing show their heavenly calling in the gracious words they speak. Those who wear this clothing show they are imitating Jesus with their kindly actions. Those who wear this clothing will be welcomed forever in heavenly dwellings. And they will make this Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s celebrations a whole lot better, too.
Armed for the Holidays
Timely weapons (11-12a).
Glorious weapons (12b-14).
Are we ready? With these timely and glorious weapons, we are always ready. In Christ, we are armed for the holidays.