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“Light in the Darkness” Sermon: 12/3/2017

Sunday, December 3, 2017

First week of Advent
Sermon Text: Mark 13:24-37/1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Rather than use the traditional themes of Advent: hope, peace, joy and love; I’ve chosen different ones this year based on the Scripture readings for the week. This week’s theme is “light”—we’ve heard various readings about Jesus being the light of the world, we carried light into the sanctuary this morning and we have lit the first Advent candle.

Advent is the time before Christmas when we prepare our hearts and minds not only to celebrate Christ’s birth which happened many centuries ago, but also to watch, work and wait for His return again. Like those virgins in the parable we heard about a few weeks ago, we want to be like the 5 virgins who were prepared with enough oil for their lamps to join the bridegroom’s procession when He came.

There are times when we feel that the world is in darkness—reports of war and the threat of war, violence in the home, shootings upon defenseless people, human trafficking, illnesses that cannot be cured, people living in tents and under bypasses, mass migrations due to war or natural disaster. Add to that readings like this from Mark 13: “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”

What are we to think?  Probably the same thing many of previous generations of mankind have: the end is surely near! With all the suffering going on in the world, this has to be the end of the ages and Christ will come again soon! We long for light in our world! We long for this: “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” We long for His coming again. And we say: “Marana-tha!  Come, Lord!”

The end of this reading from Mark 13 comes with the admonition by Jesus to “Keep awake!” Jesus uses a parable here---the parable of the doorkeeper: “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore---keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn---or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”

The servants have no advance warning when the master of the house will return. The doorkeeper must keep alert throughout the watches of the night. One moment’s sleep might give an intruder the opportunity to sneak in, or the master might return and charge him with dereliction of duty. He must endure the test of absence and uncertainty. Jesus’ warnings affirm that only those who are valiant under fire and vigilant during the delay will be vindicated in the end. We are to work faithfully because the Master will return; we are to work with assurance because it is the Master who returns.

We wonder as we are in the midst of darkness in the world and in our own lives, why do these things happen? Jesus offers no explanation except to say that Christians may rest assured that all is within the scope of God’s grand design. In trying times, they need not be unduly alarmed and should guard against being swept up in “societal movements”. Spiritual vigilance and prudence are the only things that matter. Christians can be assured of two things: that the coming of the Lord is certain and that it will occur someday.

Okay, Jesus is coming again. We need to watch and wait and while we wait we are to be working to bring in the kingdom of God by spreading the good news. But sometimes I don’t feel like I’m doing enough, praying enough, connected with God enough. What’s wrong? Am I failing at being a watchful doorkeeper? Am I sleeping on the job? Will that keep me from being one of the elect that Jesus will gather? Where is the light in all of this?

The light is in our reading from 1 Corinthians 1: I give thanks to my God for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind---just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you---so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Here is the light: “the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus.” That grace was God come down in flesh, Jesus our Lord, whose birth we remember at Christmas---born in lowly stable, laid in a manger, our Emmanuel. That grace was God laying down his life for us as Jesus took upon himself our sins and shed his blood for us upon the cross. That grace was God acknowledging the work that Jesus did and raising him from death to life and sitting him at his right hand. That grace is our sure and certain hope whether we see the end of days or when we stand before him at the day of Judgment. We do not lack anything. Oh, yes, we are to wait and watch. Oh, yes, we are to use our spiritual gifts. We are to live righteously. We can feel as if we are falling away. We can feel as if God is distant and not hearing our pleas. But the truth is this: God will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful. You may feel as if you are full of blame or not worthy to be called but it is not about what you have done or failed to do but because of what Jesus Christ accomplished through his death and resurrection. Give up on doing what is right? No, it is not permission to do that. But it is permission to set aside fears of not being blameless for the light is this: ALL who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will be considered blameless when Jesus Christ returns. If you have faith in Christ, even if it is weak, you ARE and WILL BE saved. Now that’s what I call LIGHT in the darkness! Thanks be to God!