This week begins an Advent series entitled “walk in the light.” We read much about the Lord being the Light of the World that we must be in the light and not darkness. So it seems like a good time to prepare ourselves for the annual time of preparing, Advent, to look at the light and how we can walk in the light. Over the next four weeks we will look at the weekend readings identifying some key themes that will help us ready ourselves for the coming of the Lord, and walking in the light.
Advent is a time of preparation, it is the four weeks leading up to the Nativity event; Christmas. Although the Nativity took place over two-thousand years ago, we relive the time today so we can understand better the meaning of Jesus coming as a child. But Advent also reminds us to think about the Second coming, when Christ will come again and judge us for eternal glory or destruction, depending upon how we live our lives. This preparing allows us to pause and think about how we are living and if we should make any changes that will help us live life better as a follower of Jesus.
It is a busy season, Christmas has turned into a time for children. gifts and telling loved ones how we love them. It is also is a time that creates extra tension to buy the perfect gift, have the perfect party, help those who are in need. We put more pressure on ourselves than usual at this time of year, so it is a good time to find moments to pause and reflect on who we are and whose we are.
In the readings this week we are challenged to conduct ourselves properly. Paul challenges us to be ready and to not fall victim to the desires of the flesh but to live for something more than ourselves. In the first reading from Isaiah we are told of a world where there is peace, not war, all will be obedient to the desires of God, and ready to walk in the light. In the gospel we read Jesus preaching about a coming that is of an unknown time and so we should be prepared. If we knew the time we would be prepared, don’t let this unknowing allow us to be caught off guard. To walk in the light we must be ready and we must conduct ourselves properly. We will look at some ways we can be ready and proper.
The readings this week for most ritual churches are from the Lectionary for the First Sunday of Advent; Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44. The readings guide us to focus on proper conduct so we can walk in the light.
The reading from the prophet Isaiah begins to give a glimmer of hope provided by a messianic vision and restoration of Zion, “the mountain of the Lord,” Jerusalem. There has been a disastrous situation in Judah and God will punish the people; but first there is a promise of hope. All nations will converge on this holy city, coming in peace, hearing the word of the Lord. This note of hope is a very important message. Despite the arduous times brought by the sinfulness of the people, peace is the outcome of reverence for God through obedience, practice of virtue and love of neighbor. The reading takes the weapons of war and turns them into farm tools, declaring no nation will lift up its arms against another nation. It is a message of hope, looking forward to the coming of the Messiah to bring peace, glad tidings and joy to all people. There will be no more sin or evil, all of that will be a lost memory. We will have the Son of God, the Light of the World, we will walk with him, face to face, and it will be a time of great jubilation. It is a time to “walk in the light of the Lord.” The Lord will be so near we will see his light radiate from his being, touching us, sanctifying us. We are challenged to accept this transformation from war to peace, from sinful nature to conducting ourselves properly. We have his word to know we can and should change.Despite the arduous times brought by the sinfulness of the people, peace is the outcome of reverence for God through obedience, practice of virtue and love of neighbor. Click To Tweet
The second reading, Paul makes an appeal for believers to wake up, even while living in a world that encourages sinfulness. He uses the imagery of night turning to dawn, calling all to wake from their slumber, to be prepared and ready for the coming light. Paul’s language uses light as armor, he says, “put on the armor of light,” rather than “walk in the light.” He knows if we put on Christ like a robe we will be protected, and we will be able to conduct ourselves properly. The influence of a world which encourages sin will not penetrate the armor of light we are wearing. Paul challenges us to put on this armor and make no provision for the “desires of the flesh.” For Paul the desires of the flesh are the things of the ego, the part of our personality looking for cheap accolades and delusions of greatness, seeking popularity from self-aggrandizement. The flesh is that part of our personality that works to satisfy basic needs, urges and desires, it wants pleasure and immediate gratification. Paul says we must conduct ourselves properly; we should seek fulfillment rather than pleasure, we should work toward the ultimate rather than the immediate, people should be more important than things, intimacy should be more important than images and exclusivity should be our desire rather than experience. We can conduct ourselves properly when we are cloaked with Christ, when we desire to walk in the light.We can conduct ourselves properly when we are cloaked with Christ, when we desire to walk in the light. Click To Tweet
In the gospel from Matthew, Jesus is preaching a warning about not knowing the time when the Son of Man will return to bring a new heaven and a new earth. It will be a time when all evil is swallowed up, vanquished, not even a memory. So it is a time when we want no part of evil or wrong doing in us. We want to be ready and thus we should be preparing. We should be working to conduct ourselves properly according to Paul and we should be walking in the light as promised by the prophet Isaiah. Jesus gives the example of the story of Noah before the flood. People were living their lives, planning marriages, working, partying, living life as normal. When the flood came there was no time to change, to conduct themselves properly, it just began to rain and never stopped for them.
Jesus says if someone knows the time and day that a thief would break into their house they will be prepared and catch the thief. But we don’t know the time or day, so it is best for us to be prepared always. This season of Advent is a season of waiting and preparing, so we should be especially readying ourselves in this season. We should use this time as the opportunity to heed Jesus preaching on being prepared.We don’t know the time or day, so it is best for us to be prepared always. This season of Advent is a season of waiting and preparing, so we should be especially readying ourselves in this season. Click To Tweet
These readings today are saying in as many ways as possible to be prepared, wake-up, be ready, for a time is coming when you will be rewarded or face destruction. We don’t know that time but we know it is coming. If we woke up in the morning and knew it was our last day of life how would that change our day? We should change our day to be that day every day. When the time comes for the Son of Man to return we want to be walking in the light of the Lord. We want our conduct to be proper and pleasing to God. We should include things like loving our neighbor, loving God and helping those in need. We should conduct ourselves in such a way that the desires of the flesh have no control over us. We should live every day as if we are in heaven now, and we will be in heaven when it is the time for heaven’s promise to be fulfilled.We should live every day as if we are in heaven now, and we will be in heaven when it is the time for heaven’s promise to be fulfilled. Click To Tweet
Walk in the Light – conduct yourself properly
In order to walk in the light, we must live a life that is conducive to being a witness, an example to a life marked by Jesus Christ. Jesus came to teach us how to live, how to be close to the Father and how to know God. Jesus not only taught us how to live, he lived the way he wants us to live. In fact Jesus is the only human who lived the life that God desires us to live. Much of Jesus teaching centers on seeking out what is best for others, helping others, taking care of the needy, feeding the hungry, visiting the ill and imprisoned, clothing the naked, in other words putting others first.Much of Jesus teaching centers on seeking out what is best for others, helping others, taking care of the needy, feeding the hungry, visiting the ill and imprisoned, clothing the naked, in other words putting others first. Click To Tweet
Paul tells us we should conduct ourselves properly. We shouldn’t be drunk, or have orgies, or be promiscuous and lust after others, or jealous and create rivalries. He says we should not have provision for the desires of the flesh. We should not be seeking our own pleasure, instant gratification, or a me-first approach to life. To live in proper conduct we can follow Jesus’ example and live as Jesus lived. We will look at several areas where we can perhaps improve and push down the desires of the flesh. We will look at: pleasure versus fulfillment, immediate versus the ultimate, things versus people, images versus intimacy and experience versus exclusivity.We will look at: pleasure versus fulfillment, immediate versus the ultimate, things versus people, images versus intimacy and experience versus exclusivity. Click To Tweet
When we look at where we can go wrong most we can look in the area of relationship. If we put the wrong priorities on what gets our attention we don’t help those we love, even if seems inadvertently. If we challenge ourselves to love those closest to us as a start, we will be able to expand this love and care to others, even people we do not know. It is all a matter of make good relational habits.If we challenge ourselves to love those closest to us as a start, we will be able to expand this love and care to others, even people we do not know. It is all a matter of make good relational habits. Click To Tweet
Desires of the flesh creates a separation, in fact sin means missed the mark. Sin separates us from others, from God even from ourselves. We can’t be okay with God if we mistreat one of his children. We never have regrets with a “what” but always with a “who.” We must work to be in right relationship with the who’s in our life, not the what’s.
Immediate versus ultimate – the desire of the flesh has us focus on immediate satisfaction, what pleases us in the moment even if in two moments we don’t even remember the satisfaction. The piece of chocolate cake that we know we don’t want to eat because it is not healthy for us, but we eat it for the pleasure we feel while tasting it. Can we even describe the memory of the pleasure we felt eating the cake? In fact many times our memory might be a regret for taking it when we really didn’t want it. I am not trying to make chocolate a bad guy, just that impulse to do something that is not in our best interest or won’t help us deepen our self-control. Compare that to going for a walk, and burning some calories or building up heart muscle. We don’t see any immediate result but in time we note some wonderful changes; we are stronger, more happy with how we feel, liking how we look and proud of what we have been able to accomplish.
If we bring this idea to people, we can compare “flipping off” that bad driver versus allowing them to have the path before us. We may be satisfied with the “flip-off” like we told the driver what for, but it is meaningless after the immediate. Giving the right a way however we change our attitude and approach to driving and perhaps we made the other driver happy too. In time who knows our simple act of kindness can become contagious and road rage could become the rotary dial telephone.In time who knows our simple act of kindness can become contagious and road rage could become the rotary dial telephone. Click To Tweet
Pleasure versus fulfillment – We can say similar things here as in immediate versus ultimate. But pleasure is really a devil in disguise. What things bring us pleasure? Things that are self-satisfying, thinking only of ourselves. It is really just a feeling, and it is personal. Things like driving a convertible on a nice day, picking flowers for our desk, a delicious meal, walking on a warm sandy beach, sitting with a delicious cup of coffee. Nothing wrong with any of these but their enjoyment is for you and short lived. making you the priority (this is how the devil tricks us, making us think we are more important than anyone else.) No effort is put forth and nothing expensive required, so the result is simple and finite. Fulfillment comes with great effort and time invested. Creating a beautiful home, growing a beautiful garden, earning a secondary degree, working toward a successful career, enjoying a wonderful friendship. All of these are satisfying, require investment and generally include others. If you are the only one who thinks your home is beautiful, than is it really?If you are the only one who thinks your home is beautiful, than is it really? Click To Tweet
If we look at relationships here we can see easily that a one night stand is pleasure and a long loving marriage is fulfillment. While the one night stand will bring pleasure, maybe for both, but do you care how the other feels as long as you are pleased? However, a long marriage only happens when you invest in your spouse, you care more for them than yourself and they do the same for you. This is God’s meaning for marriage, a creating of a relationship that brings new life to each other and those around you and hopefully new life in children you will love together.
Things versus people – we can think here of owning and buying “stuff” that makes us happy. We like the latest iphone, or a sporty automobile with lots of extras, an expensive steak at an expensive restaurant, two houses, each with boats, lots of extra toys for playing, like water skiing or snow skiing, perhaps a beautiful painting by a famous artist, even a fancy television to watch your favorite show. Again nothing wrong with any of these but if there are hungry people we are not helping, or someone who needs clothing, or a homeless person that could use some of our things for their support, well then we are conducting ourselves improperly. If we take better care of our car or a dog than people we don’t’ know, are we living for others or for ourselves. If we like our stuff better than we like other people, we should think about how we are living our life. Is it more important to protect our right to live as we want or to welcome the immigrant who could lose his life if he doesn’t leave his country? We have to check our priorities and make sure others have a place at the top of our priority list.We have to check our priorities and make sure others have a place at the top of our priority list. Click To Tweet
Images versus intimacy – This can be very specific, do we spend more time looking at pornography or caring for people in our lives. Do we more see the beautiful man or woman crossing our path or the spouse or partner walking next to us. We can’t love images or body parts, we can only love people. We can’t be intimate with images or things only with people we spend time getting to know, sharing about ourselves and recognizing each other’s good and bad and accepting both. If we put things before people we are missing the message of Jesus completely. Jesus stopped to heal the blind stranger no matter where he was going or how much he had to hurry. Connecting with people, being intimate, not meaning in a sexual manner, allows us to demonstrate love and accept love in return. If images get more of our time then intimacy we are not conducting ourselves properly.If images get more of our time then intimacy we are not conducting ourselves properly. Click To Tweet
Experience versus exclusivity – Given the open promiscuous nature of our society the obvious example is a long resume of a sexual partners compared to an exclusive relationship. We may think being with many partners is pleasurable, but there is no fulfillment, we may even have immediate satisfaction but there is no ultimate joy. We don’t need to experience everyone or everything to be human, but we do need to have deep and loving relationships, exclusive relationships that create the image of God in our life. God loves everyone, as deeply as God loves God. As humans we don’t have this ability, we always tend to love one over another, perhaps with the exception of our children. We won’t have two people we love equally, just as we can’t love God and love money, one will get more of our attention.We don’t need to experience everyone or everything to be human, but we do need to have deep and loving relationships, exclusive relationships that create the image of God in our life. Click To Tweet
It is true for all things. We can’t be as good at fifty-two one week jobs as we could be at one year long job. The exclusive job will get our most thought, I best effort and the most care. God made us for relationship, to love one another and go so deep in that love that we effect each other’s behavior even when we are not physically together.
To conduct ourselves properly we must put others first, their desires over ours, their joy over ours, their betterment over ours. This is the Jesus message, this is conducting ourselves properly, and this is walking in the light.
Walk in the light
Paul list sins that makes us risk conducting ourselves improperly. I shared a list of behaviors (thank you Andy Stanley) that allows us to live in a proper manner. The desire of the flesh makes promises; we will have pleasure, immediate gratification, many things, lots of happy images and lots of experience, but it in fact separates us from true good. True good comes from ultimate satisfaction, fulfillment, people, intimacy and exclusivity. Investing in proper conduct and fighting off the desires of the flesh allows has us walk in the light, to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man. Conducting ourselves properly in fact helps us live a life that is blessed, which means fortunate or happy. Jesus is the one who wants us to be blessed. Jesus is the light that shines and shows us the way to be blessed. We should consider ignoring the desires of the flesh, conducting ourselves properly so we will be in the light.Investing in proper conduct and fighting off the desires of the flesh allows has us walk in the light, to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man. Click To Tweet