If you read our Gospel passage alongside of our first reading in Romans, the message is sobering. Paul is telling the Roman Church to anticipate the soon coming of Christ. Matthew writing to the Church in Jerusalem, and the Apostle Paul, writing to the Church in Rome, are both confirming that these are serious times. Paul is expecting the physical return of Christ soon, and in his lifetime, and we know it does not happen then and almost 2,000 years later, we are still waiting. Christ is coming! That’s the message of Advent. Christ has come to His church. The church was born on the Day of Pentecost, and Christ is present in the Church as the Head of the Body of Christ. Christ has come and continues to come, again and again into our world and into our lives, but we still wait for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44)
It’s a sobering thought. Paul is saying: “Take this seriously. Do not take it lightly. Do not fall asleep on your watch. Remember from the beginning how excited you were, and how much hope and anticipation filled your life as you experienced this life we have in Christ Jesus. Don’t fall into a routine and take things for granted. Stir up again that hope that is you.” (Romans 13:11-14) You know it’s easy to fall into routines that seem mechanical, isn’t it? It’s easy to get caught up in our affairs (and I think it is responsible and good for us to be responsible and take care of our affairs, to look and plan for the future; to invest in our children, our personal future, to invest in the community and other social concerns). It’s good to take care of those things, but not to lose sight of why we serve Christ and why we come together as a worshipping community. It is necessary to remind one another that it is Christ that has given us reason and purpose for a meaningful life.
We are defined in scripture as a Church of Jesus Christ, not just a church. The Greek word “Ecclesia” comes from the official court setting of ancient Athens and it means assembly; a group of people called out for a specific reason or purpose. The word has taken on a more generic meaning in our time. There are progressive Jewish synagogues that refer to their meetings as church service, and there are some Buddhist Communities known as “sanghas” that call their meetings church services. To be more precise we are more than a church. We are the Church of Jesus Christ. We define ourselves and our teaching from the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. You can’t call a local parish a church of Jesus Christ unless it follows, discusses, and teaches the words of Jesus Christ.
This morning our reading in Romans says: “The night is almost over and the day is near. Turn aside the works of darkness. Let’s live like people of the day, not people of the night”. (Romans 13:12)
A light shining in the darkness! Picture if you will a night of darkness. Darkness everywhere, and in that darkness, people are stumbling. People are cursing, crying, and walking aimlessly in all directions with seemingly no purpose or direction. And, now picture if you will a light beam slicing the darkness like a piercing strobe light, and as it pierces the darkness and everything the light touches starts to brighten up; a cornucopia of light patterns begins expanding in all directions replacing the darkness with light.
We are not only invited and welcomed into the light of Christ, but we are also commissioned to bring others into this light. That’s our job, to bring people to the light so they can see, so that their eyes can be opened, and they can understand and see the meaning of life, purpose, hope, healing, and a new anticipation for the future. And, as we come nearer to the light we are filled with deep peace and joy, realizing that the brighter the light becomes, the more we want. We have what we could call a dis-satisfied satisfaction. Happy, yet wanting more of God, peaceful yet desiring more peace in our lives; enjoying the experience of knowing God yet wanting to know God in a deeper way.
The light of God pierces our soul and everything around us is brought into that light. And just as the light of Jesus penetrates our darkness, we are called to point others to that light, to bring them into that wonderful experience that we enjoy. Life, vitality…we are drawn like butterflies to that light. We are drawn to the glory of God. The more we get, the more we want of that glory. It fills a spiritual hunger and thirst. And it is God that has put that desire for the light inside of us that desire to know God and to be known by God, “getting brighter and brighter until the perfect day”. (Proverbs 4:18)
May we follow that light and point others to the light by our example and by our voice, so they too can experience this wonderful presence of God in their daily affairs.