Sermon 1st Decenber 2019 – 1st Sunday in Advent
Text: Romans 13:11-14 – It’s getting close now.
Having turned 60 a few weeks ago I got asked quite regularly – “how do you feel”?
Do you feel older?
And I reply by saying – truth be told, I don’t feel any different today than I felt yesterday.
And when I think of it, yesterday I didn’t feel any different to the day before.
And the day before I didn’t feel any different to that day before that.
And it got me thinking – at what point do we feel that change?
The change is so gradual that you don’t really notice –but can I say, I feel no different to when I was 18?
And at what point will I realise that I’m older.
Sometimes that reality only arrives when you try to do something when you’re 60 that you did when you were 18 and realise – I’m not as young as I used to be.
And that’s how life can sometimes catch you unawares when you suddenly realise that life has changed.
As we begin our Advent season this is also the focus that comes through in our bible readings – particularly in the reading from Paul to the Romans and in Matthew’s Gospel.
St Paul says to the Romans: You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.
As Christians it’s interesting to sometimes reflect on the reality that we have one less day today than we did yesterday until we are in heaven.
In Genesis 6 it says that God has limited our lifetime to a maximum of 120 years.
That means for me, I am technically “over the hill”.
I have lived half my life and now the 2nd half begins.
Let’s put that in mathematical terms.
Let’s say God is very generous to me and I live to 100.
Roughly speaking that’s 36,500 days.
At 60 I now have 14600 days to go.
And each day it goes down by one – and everyone keeps telling me how quick the year goes – and each time we celebrate Christmas it’s another 365 days off the balance.
St Paul is wanting us to reflect on our lives.
As Christians we are comforted knowing that whatever day God calls us home that our eternal life is assured.
But what about those who have not yet heard the Good News?
That’s where our concern should be.
Do we have someone in our life that we want to – need to – share the Gospel with?
Then today is the day to do it.
I know it’s hard – I have family and friends and I keep hoping and praying that I will have an influence and I try to live my life like St Peter encourages:
But make sure that in your hearts you honour Christ as Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you have. Be ready to give the reason for it. But do it gently and with respect.
I know it’s hard to start the conversation and sometimes we can actually harm a person’s coming to faith with the wrong words and the wrong time.
And that’s why Peter says – always be prepared.
Be prepared for when that opportunity arises.
So when Paul talks about the time being short he talks about living our lives that might give an example for a person to ask us about the faith we have.
He says: Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
One of the best ways that we can witness for Christ is to live as Christ in the world.
Living lives that are different.
Living lives that set an example to others.
Living lives that stand out to others so they one day ask us about the hope we have.
If we want people to ask about the hope that we have then we are called to example that hope in the way we live our lives before others.
Using words of hope that uphold the Christian faith.
But something we can do which is urged to do is to offer prayers.
Even praying with the person.
So often we hear even from secular sources during tragedies “our thoughts and prayers are with you”.
When a person is going through a traumatic time, to offer to pray will most likely be welcome.
And in that prayer we can witness to God’s love and care for that person with gentleness and respect with the words that we use as St Peter encourages us to do.
Just as we can be accused of being hypocrites when we live lives that don’t reflect God’s love we can actually witness to God’s love when we live lives worthy of our calling.
As Jesus said before his death – love one another as I have loved you and by this all will know that you are my disciples.
As someone once wrote – you may be the only bible a person ever gets to read.
You may be the only Jesus a person ever gets to meet.
There would not be a Christian that doesn’t have someone close to them that doesn’t yet know about God’s love for them so we are not alone in our struggles.
And there is probably very few people out there that do not have some contact with a Christian that can share the Good News with them.
The time is drawing near for Christ’s return – a day closer than it was yesterday so let us seek opportunity to share God’s love and the best way to do that is to love one another as Jesus has loved us.
To love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us.
I know it can be hard and as each day passes it gets even harder.
But I’m so thankful that we are actually working with God in this.
That it is God’s desire for all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
And while we do not know the time – the day nor the hour of Christ’s return what we do know is that each day it is delayed is another sign of God’s grace and his desire for people to be saved as we are told by St Peter:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
So keep being the bible in living out God’s Word – keep being Jesus by loving as he loves.
And always be prepared to share the hope you have so all may come to know the truth.