This is the fourth and final week of our Advent series entitled “walk in the light.” We read much about the Lord being the Light of the World that we must be in light and not darkness. Advent is a time to prepare, we are preparing for Christmas but more importantly we should prepare ourselves to be open to transformation, we want to be people of light, not darkness. Over the four weeks we looked at the weekend readings and pulled out some key themes that helped us ready ourselves for the coming of the Lord, and walking in the light.
It is light shines illuminating the good people while darkness allows us to hide those things we would be ashamed if other could see. Light produces goodness and truth and allows others to see our righteousness. As disciples of Jesus we are disciples of the light and we should let our light shine for all to glorify the one who we follow and love.
Over the past three weeks we have look at conducting ourselves properly. We should always be doing the good God wants of us because we do not know the time when Jesus will come again. We should live in harmony with one another to show that we are people who follow a Lord who asks us to love one another. It is not always easy to live in harmony but we need to live with one another to show the glory of the Lord. We should also be aware that the time of the Lord is a time when sorrow and mourning flee. Jesus is the “Joy of the World” and living in him we never need to worry about sadness and crying.
This week the readings have us look at Jesus as savior, he wants to save his people from sin. Jesus coming was to be a savior, his name means savior. In the reading from Isaiah we see the prophecy of one like Jesus coming, called Emmanuel, “God with us.” Paul’s opening to the letter to the Romans in the second reading is a look at faith and the prophecies that predict a savior. Paul wants us to know God had a plan all along to provide us a savior. In the gospel the angel tells Joseph (and us) Jesus’ purpose is to save his people from sin. When we look at sin we usually think of our individual sins, but Jesus came to point us toward a more universal problem. It is corporate sin that requires a savior, for individual sin we might have been able to get along with what we knew before Jesus’s arrival.
The readings this week for most ritual churches are from the Lectionary for the Fourth Sunday of Advent; Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24. The readings help us recognize that Jesus is a savior who has come to save his people from sin. We look at how sin is an all or nothing kind of proposition.
The reading from the prophet Isaiah centers on King Ahaz who was considering an alliance with local nations as an enemy is threatening. The King thinking if he has this alliance Judah can be protected and he will not have to worry. Isaiah comes to the King with a prophecy saying to trust God, not to trust in alliances with foreign nations. God wants the King to ask for a sign but the King is so caught up in his own means to power he refuses to ask. God gives Ahaz a sign without his asking, a young woman will become pregnant and bear a son. This could mean King Ahaz’s young wife will have a son who will be prince and eventually King of Judah, a symbol of God’s protection, and a demonstration the nation will survive the threat of destruction from an enemy. Particularly when added the name Emmanuel which means “God with us.” Today we see this sign differently than it would have been interrupted in the time of King Ahaz. The Hebrew word for “young woman” is translated to the Greek word “virgin” and the gospel writers see this sign differently, a better prophecy of Isaiah’s words. The young virgin is Mary, and the child is Jesus, not a symbol of God’s protection, but God Himself, who dwells among us. In the Christian church this prophecy is treated with great reverence, demonstrating that Jesus born of a virgin, is God’s only Son, the promised Messiah who will save all humanity, particularly from our sins. Jesus is God with us. Jesus’ birth is now prophetic and it put God’s promise of a savior into reality.
The second reading, the opening, or more commonly known as the greeting from Paul’s letter to the community in Rome starts with his own identification as an Apostle, sent by Christ to proclaim the gospel. Paul wants to establish that the message of the gospel has been promised in the Hebrew Scriptures and he refers to the prophets, law and other writings from the Hebrew Scriptures quite often in this letter. Paul also established in this letter the prophecy that Christ is descendant from the line of David, he is son of man and Son of God and through the resurrection our Lord. Paul received his apostleship through grace and he is working to establish faith among all, including the Gentiles and those in the Roman community. Faith is a stalwart for Paul, it is through faith that we are justified in God. We are not able to earn grace or mercy from God, it is God’s free gift to us. But we are expected to demonstrate faith through hearing God’s word and following. When we don’t follow we are pushing ourselves away from God, what we call sin. Sin is the thing Christ redeems, we are able to learn that God is Father and we become adopted sons and daughters through Christ’s teaching and redemption. We should avoid separating ourselves from God, sinning, so that we will always be disciples who are walking in the light of the Lord. Paul write much on this point in this letter to the Romans.
In the gospel Matthew tells of the dream of Joseph where he learns that Mary is carrying a child from the Holy Spirit, a son that is to be named Jesus, which is from the Hebrew Yeshua, meaning to deliver, to rescue, or as we say savior. The angel in the dream tells Joseph the name and that Jesus “will save his people from their sins.” So the name Jesus, is given because he is the savior of his people. The angel goes on to tell Joseph this is all to be done to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah that we read in the first reading, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” God with us. So we have a savior who is God with us. Who better to teach about God than God himself, in the person of Jesus, the one who has come down from God. God the creator is the one who is coming because his people need him, they need to know who he is and how to remain close. Sin separates, it breaks the relationship between God and his people. So God want us to know him better that we may desire closeness, desire relationship and desire to return the love that we receive from God.Who better to teach about God than God himself, in the person of Jesus, the one who has come down from God. Click To Tweet
It is hard to know precisely why God chose this moment to enter humanity, the creator becoming the created. We hear it is a time appointed by God, or the fullness of time. We believe it is the perfect time. The angel tells us it was the time to reconcile the relationship between God and man. So perhaps it was a time when relationships were most at risk to become irreconcilable, or maybe it was the moment when it was best to reconcile relationships. We do know God choose this moment because it was best for us.
We hear much about sin, the church teaches us we are sinners, but for God the key is separation, broken relationship. God wants to be close to us and have us choose to be close to him. So sin is the enemy, it is the thing separating creator and created. Jesus entry reconciles this relationship in so many ways, through teaching, through healing and through forgiveness and mercy. Jesus shows us and Paul tells us, (see Romans 8:38-39) nothing will separate us from the love of God. Sin therefore can only win if we allow it, we alone can break the relationship with God. Knowing Jesus, knowing the message of Jesus and having faith therefore gives us the tools to avoid sin, avoid walking away from God, avoid being left alone. We should not let this happen to us.Knowing Jesus, knowing the message of Jesus and having faith therefore gives us the tools to avoid sin, avoid walking away from God, avoid being left alone. Click To Tweet
Walk in the Light – save his people from sin
We may have many understandings for this word sin. The church teaches on sin in many ways; sin was the cause of the fall of man and angels, Satan is a fallen angel. The church speaks of sin when it speaks of last things, that we must be cleansed of sin to go before God. We hear much about sin and the sacraments, some cleanse sin, others require we are cleansed of sin to receive the sacrament. Much of the teaching about sin is concerning the moral life. We must love and the enemy of love is sin, and in particular deliberate sin.
The bible says much about sin as well, using various terms to represent sin. In some cases sin is a falling short of the mark. Sin can be viewed as a defiance or revolt, of what the Lord calls us to, to set ourselves against God. Sin can be an iniquity or guilt, recalling the way sin distorts the sinner’s inner being. Sin is also seen as casting aside God’s norms for human life. It can be seen as a lawlessness, a spirit of contempt for God’s law. Sin can be seen as a refusal to live in God’s justice. Sin is also seen as darkness, or falsehood, a refusal to live in God’s light and the truth proclaimed by Christ. All of which is defined in the church as an act of disobedience, a revolt against God.
Acts that choose to abandon, reject or despise God in some way we consider sin. We als consider it son when we act against those God loves. For example murder, done knowingly is considered sin because it is incompatible with love for God. If you love God than you love those who God loves, however committing an act against those God loves is consider breaking love with God and thus sinful.If you love God than you love those who God loves, however committing an act against those God loves is consider breaking love with God and thus sinful. Click To Tweet
To love means when we sin we must seek forgiveness and when we are sinned against we must provide forgiveness. As disciples and followers we must have a grateful heart, we must have a great love for God. If we love than we will put God first and all God loves before our own desires. A life led trying to love as God loves keeps us from breaking the relationship with God. If we lead a life that is about ourselves then we tend to put ourselves first and all others afterwards, this is a life that almost guarantees sinfulness and a broken relationship with God.
The first sin of man was a sin where the first humans put themselves before God, they wanted to be like God, they were prideful and did not care for God as they should. They thought what they wanted was more important than anything else. this selfishness led to their sin. It was a sin that broke the relationship with God and cost them a life in paradise. Could the sin have been avoided if one of the two of them spoke with love about putting God first and not themselves? Perhaps. But in fact their sin was corporate, they both committed the sin and both broke relationship. This is the kind of sin where it is is most difficult to seek forgiveness. United in their sin they must be united in the apology.
In the case of the first humans it might have been possible to get agreed repentance, but today our corporate sin is more difficult to even encapsulate, let alone for us to be united in apology. For example, in the last century humanity killed over one hundred million people in war. Is this corporate sin? It would seems many deaths is definitely breaking relationship with God. All those who died were children of God, loved by God and God’s own creation. How could God be pleased with their sudden life ending? However, humanity sees these as necessary deaths and so not sin, thus justifying its behavior. Many relationship were broken with God and we don’t even know the overall impact of all those lives lost. Each person had a purpose in God’s Kingdom, through their early death we must presume their purpose was not achieved. We may not see it as sin, but it is a definite breaking of relationship with God and those God loves. I think it has to be considered some sort of sin at the corporate level.
We see this kind of corporate sin in many places. The death penalty, government not supporting programs that help the poor and needy, the denial of immigrants who need asylum, the lack of help and forgiveness for those imprisoned, a lack of compete health care for citizens leaving people the risk of life long illness and even death. We as the Body of Christ must seek ways to help our brothers and sisters, all those who are from God, in order to be sinless, particularly in regard to not loving those God loves.) When we don’t love those that God loves we are saying we don’t care about God’s love. This is the heart of Jesus teaching, love all those God loves, pray for those, feed those, give drink to those, help those ill, clothe those and visit those in prison.When we don’t love those that God loves we are saying we don’t care about God’s love. Click To Tweet
We cannot serve the Body of Christ if we do not love the Body of Christ. Paul speaking about the Body of Christ, very specifically tells us, “If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) This is sin, specifically corporate sin. We are not helping, we are very likely hurting and in our hurting we are breaking a relationship with God. If we don’t follow Jesus teaching corporately than we cannot be forgiven of our sin corporately.
Certainly as individuals, we can ask for forgiveness, we can make retribution when we offend or do something to break a relationship, when we commit sin. But I don’t think Jesus needed to come to teach us this. God was teaching us all along to love and stay close to God. The Ten Commandments were all about loving God and loving others. The real redemption of Jesus comes when we as a Body are united in our helping and loving. When we united don’t sin. This corporate sin is why we need Jesus, only through our love for Jesus, following Jesus’ teaching and acting in the Body of Christ as Christ himself taught us is how Jesus our Savior can save his people from sin. If one part of the Body sins, all parts of the Body suffer.The real redemption of Jesus comes when we as a Body are united in our helping and loving. When we united don’t sin. Click To Tweet
Walk in the light
This message of sin is critical. We can’t be individually close to God and think all is well if other parts of the Body suffer. If others are suffering there is some way it affects us. Walking in the light means we work so that all are in the light not just our individual selves. John in his first letter tells us, “If we say, ‘We have fellowship with him,’ while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7) We are in fellowship when we care for all, not a select few who think like us, live like us, and pray like us. Walking in the Light requires the entire Body be in the light.We are in fellowship when we care for all, not a select few who think like us, live like us, and pray like us. Walking in the Light requires the entire Body be in the light. Click To Tweet
We count on God for answers and thus far all answers are “Jesus saves,” but we must live, walk, talk and love as Jesus loved. It is not good enough to believe in our hearts that we love Jesus and not do something to move the entire Body of Christ into the light.