November 27 2011 Sermon
I Cor 1:3-9
1 Corinthians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1Co 1:3 ESV)
Introduction: We’re trying to get ready for Christmas—there’s so much to do!—and we’re trying to wait. But sometimes, we have to admit that we can’t wait until the commotion is over. We are often so overwhelmed with the preparations for the party; with the celebration itself, that we wonder what it means when we talk about Love, peace, joy and hope. We are so consumed with the celebration of Christmas, that the one whose birth we are celebrating gets left out. We spend more effort preparing to celebrate, than we do preparing our hearts for his coming. I’ll dare to affirm that we could be more childlike in our Advent waiting and preparing. Children don’t sweat the details; they simply long for Christmas to be here, to receive and open and celebrate and share the Gift that brings joy to all the world. They know, they believe, they never worry about the fact that everything will be ready when it’s time.
In our text this morning, St. Paul assures us that we are just as ready for Christ’s coming—and that can enable us to do the thing we’re not so great at: wait.
THE ADVENT PEOPLE OF GOD
ARE CALLED TO BE READY AND WAITING—
CONFIDENT BECAUSE WE ARE READY IN CHRIST.
Yes, we are ready. In spite of all the preparations, the hustle and bustle, the fact is, if we didn’t do one thing between now and Christmas, we are already ready. There is not one thing lacking in our preparations. There is no reason for all the business and stress, and getting over tired that has become so much a part of this time of the year.
The Corinthians lacked nothing, says Paul. “In every way you are enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.” They had heard the message of Christ’s coming. They had repented of their sins. They believed and were baptized into Christ Jesus. They were ready in every way. They were not lacking in any spiritual gift. They were waiting for the Lord to return, for the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ in all his glory and the coming of the kingdom.
So too, we lack nothing. Our challenge is this: we want to focus on Christmas Day and its gifts, the stockings, the presents under the tree. We want to focus on the dinner, the food, the beverages, the desserts, the family and friends who will gather around the table. We focus so much on the things around us, the material things, and even the celebration, that we often miss the object of the celebration. We miss the true gift of Christmas, the one found in the manger.
What Paul is here saying, is “Look beyond the present day and your present gifts, to the Last Day and the Lord’s greater gifts.” Like the Corinthians, we lack nothing. We are prepared for his coming. Prepared by the testimony of Christ. The gospel has prepared us. We are ready, because we already have the fullest gifts. Our sins have been forgiven on the cross. In baptism we were joined to Christ and cleansed with his blood. We are already the children of God. Christ has come already to us in our Baptism. And he continues to come weekly in Holy Communion. You already have every good and gracious gift. There is nothing lacking. We have already received the gifts. All the preparations have been made and are completed. There is nothing left to do but wait for full fellowship with our Lord.
Yes, we are waiting for the day to come. We have begun the countdown. 28 days until Christmas. We can hardly wait for the celebration of Christmas. It is hard to endure the expectation, the anticipation. We can hardly wait to celebrate the revealing of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, born in the manger in Bethlehem.
But we are actually waiting for two other days. St. Paul was not writing about Christmas Day when he said to wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. For St. Paul and the Corinthians, that had already happened. He wasn’t telling them to go shopping. He didn’t say there are only 28 days left to buy presents. He didn’t say to decorate your house, put up the tree, and string the lights. They were waiting for another day. An even greater day.
His birth in Bethlehem was his incarnation. In it was revealed our Lord’s mission. Just as the crucifixion revealed his mission, it revealed God’s love for us, it revealed our salvation. But the great day they were waiting for was the day that would reveal him as the glorious Judge and King. The day when he will return in glory with all his angels and take his seat on the throne and reign in his kingdom. The day that we will be revealed as citizens of the kingdom of God. We will be declared guiltless because Christ’s righteousness has been credited to our account. We have been covered with the righteousness of Christ in our Baptism. So we wait, not with horror, but with eager expectation that day when he returns to judge the whole world. That is the day we await.
Until that day St. Paul says that our Lord Jesus Christ will sustain you to the end. He will preserve you in his kingdom. He will preserve you as God’s children. Through his word preached, through the Sacrament of his body and blood, he will preserve you as his own; he will keep you in faith. So that on that day he will hold you guiltless in the judgment.
So, now we wait, not just the Christmas celebration, but we wait here in this world as aliens and strangers in a strange land. This is not our ultimate home. This kingdom present that we see today is not our true citizenship. This is a fleeting and passing kingdom. But on that day the true citizens of God’s kingdom will be revealed. On that day the sons of God will be revealed. So today we wait that great day. The true preparation for Christmas is to wait; wait for the coming of Jesus on that great day when the true sons of God will be revealed and we shall see him face to face.
But Advent calls us to wait for another day as well. The day of our physical death in this world. The day when our souls are taken into our Lord’s presence. For each person, the day of his death is the day of the Lord’s coming. He will come for each and every one of us on the day appointed for our departure from this earthly kingdom. That is the day we are waiting for. That is the day that we hope for. There are many days on the church calendar in commemoration of the saints. The day of a saint on the church calendar is the day of that person’s physical death. Because on that day he was taken into the presence of the Lord.
So today we wait. We wait for the Great Day when the Lord comes back with his angels to reign in glory over all things. We wait today for the day the Lord comes for each of us individually and takes us to be with him. And for each of these days we are ready. We are ready because even though we are guilty, we are guiltless. “Jesus has cleansed his church by removing the sins of believers through his own blood on the cross. This cleansing has been applied to Christians through Holy Baptism. This cleansing is continued through the Lord’s Supper. Our faith is created in Baptism and preserved in the Lord’s Supper.
So, when Jesus returns, the church will be blameless, because God who is faithful keeps her in the cleansing flow of his grace. Even though we are faithless, God is faithful. “It is a trustworthy saying,” says St. Paul, “for if we have died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us. If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” Though we are loveless loners and runaway rebels, we are given fellowship with his Son. Through His Word and Sacrament he keeps us as his children and preserves our faith until that day; the day we await, the day he calls us to him.
Therefore, the church waits…made ready by the testimony of and about Christ. The church waits…ready because we are gifted in every necessary way. The church waits…trusting that Christ sustains his Bride ready to the end. The church waits…ready because she is guiltless through the imputed righteousness of Christ. The church waits… eager and ready to celebrate the full fellowship of and with Jesus Christ our Lord.