Romans 13:11–14

1st Sunday in Advent – 11/27/2022

This morning, you rolled out of bed, stood before your open closet, eyeballing hanger after hanger of your clothes, and said to yourself, "What should I wear today?" Obviously, not pajamas. No, neither is something you might dress yourself in for a night out on the town. It's daytime, after all. It's church time. What you wear ought to be something fitting for one who goes to meet the Lord, who comes to us in His Word and Sacrament. It ought to be something proper and decent.

On this First Sunday in Advent, the first day of our new church year, the apostle Paul shakes us awake and stands us up before the wardrobe of our lives. "Wake up!" he says. "It's late, very late." It's so late, it's early. The dawn is beginning to shine. Rise! "Get dressed for the day!" Rummaging deeper, he pulls out a seamless, shining baptismal robe—the robe of Christ's righteousness. "Clothe yourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ," he says. "He comes at the crack of dawn!"

How are we dressed this morning as we look to the dawn of Christ's second coming? Is it merely a sleeper's pajamas that we are wearing? Are our hearts and minds dressed for sleep even though the dawn of Christ's second coming is upon us?

All too many people, I'm afraid, are living their lives impervious to this dawn. Their life is nothing more than a fanciful dream of their own making. They imagine that Christ's first coming was only a figment of someone's imagination. They insist the Bible is nothing more than fiction from some bygone era, having no relevance for them today. For them, Christmas is a prosperous ringing of cash register bells and a celebration of materialism. There is no place in their holiday for a Savior who exchanges his cradle for a cross. Consequently, there is no concern about Jesus returning as a judge.

It's all too easy for us Christians to be caught in our sleeper's pajamas. Oh, we acknowledge that Jesus is God and Lord. We rejoice that with His first coming, He brought life and salvation to the world. But we let the world, with all of its charms, lull us back to sleep by allowing worldly desires and priorities to take center stage in our lives.

Now is not the time for any of us to stay in our pajamas in this sleep-inducing world, that is, to be spiritually slothful. The hour has come for us all to be roused from our slumber and be dressed for the day. The Risen One is bringing us His glorious day!

Unfortunately, even if we do take off our sleeper's pajamas, we are so often prone to clothing ourselves with nightclubbers' costumes rather than the clothes of the light. In this world's last dark hours, we insist on wearing the clothes of darkness.

This ought not to be! As our text tells us, "the night has advanced" for those in Christ Jesus. Those who accept Christ as their Savior are called "children of the light," and they must live by the light. Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica: "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of the day; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober." "Those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night." (2 Thess. 

Here in Romans, Paul also exhorts us to "cast off the works of darkness." Then he identifies some of them: orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, sensuality (shameful indulgence in one's lusts), quarreling, and jealousy.

Isn't it curious how we tend to live and behave differently at night, under the cover of darkness than we do in the light of day? Light has a way of bringing everything into clear view. In the light, our actions cannot be hidden. In the light, we see others as they are, and we are seen for who we are. We, therefore, tend to walk, live, and dress more decently during the day. At least, we try to give the appearance that we are moral, upright and law-abiding citizens.

But at night, all hell breaks loose! Inhibitions seem to fly out the window. We let all those lusts that we tried to keep at bay during the day run wild under the cover of darkness. The supposition is that no one can see us in the darkness of the night. The thief steals at night. The adulterers sneak off to their rendezvous at night. The orgies and drunken parties occur in the nighttime hours.

Christians, however, have been brought into the light. Through faith in Jesus Christ, the Word of God has given us eyes to see beyond the present and into eternity. We are free to see the Son of God rising in the east. Whether it is nighttime or daytime, Christ's light illumines our world with His truths.

The One Who is the Light of the World and has revealed God to us in His own flesh is returning to judge the living and the dead on the clouds of glory. All our works and lives will then be exposed to the light of His truth. Every motive of the heart, every thought of the mind, and every action taken in the body will then be under the scrutiny of God's pure righteousness.

In this light, the futile ways of our flesh will then be seen for what they are. The accepted philosophy, "Let us live for today, for there is no tomorrow," will die a sudden death. The utter futility of indulging our fleshly lusts will be glaringly apparent. All procrastination about getting serious about our relationship with Christ, our hearing of His Word, and our regular attendance to worship will end in bitter regret.

But you and I, baptized believers in Jesus Christ, do not need to be dressed in the deeds of darkness. The light that drives away the darkness has shone into our lives in the face of Jesus Christ. We sing of it in that beloved Christmas Carol, "Silent Night": "Radiant beams from Thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth... The One born in Bethlehem, yet of one substance with God the Father, has sacrificed Himself to redeem us from the futile way of life we have inherited from Adam." Christ has set us free in His blood so that we no longer have to live for wickedness but are free to live for goodness, truth, purity, and righteousness. Earlier in this same book of Romans, Paul exhorts us: "Consider your members as instruments of righteousness to God." Christ's atonement frees us to be Children of the Light rather than Children of the Darkness.

In the light of Jesus' cross and open tomb, our hearts are also drenched in hope at the prospect of his second coming. The final deliverance from the futility of this dark world is coming on the wings of Christ's appearance. Every day we live brings us that much closer to that morning when our final deliverance from all of sin's effects in our lives will be at hand. No longer will we have to fight temptations to do evil. No longer will we be assaulted by disease and death. No longer will we have to suffer the consequences of our sins or the sins of others.

The sheer joy of what morning brings ought to wake us up before the dawn of Jesus' appearing. It's like a child on the night before Christmas. The excitement of what Christmas brings leaves him restless all night. He couldn't sleep in, no matter how much his parents pleaded. He's up before even the rooster to greet the day.

Christians, rise with joy! This world's last dark hour is here. It will not be in a cattle stall or on a cross that we will meet Jesus. We will greet him as he rides the chariots of the clouds in victory and splendor. He will gather His saints from the four corners of the earth. It will be light forever; there will be no more darkness. Joy, peace, and glory will be the order of the day!

How, then, ought we to dress for this dawn? How do we rub the sleep from our eyes? How do we wake up from the night of darkness and live in the light? We struggle to stay awake every day. Continually, the priorities and philosophies of the world, our enemy, the devil, and even our flesh wage war against us. Their goal is to lull us into spiritual sleep so that we are not prepared in faith to catch the sunrise.

Paul exhorts us to, literally, "Put on the weapons of the light... clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ." We are not defenseless against the darkness. God has given us weapons of light. Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, He has given us the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). This Word of forgiveness and life in Jesus Christ slashes away at temptations, equips us with the truth that we might not be deceived, and brings already into our present lives the fruits of Jesus' victory.

That sword of the spirit, the word of Christ, becomes visible to us in the sacraments. In the waters of Holy Baptism, we are clothed with Christ Himself. Holy Scripture states, "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Gal. 3:27). His Word of Promise elevates baptismal water above ordinary water. It becomes life-giving water—a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit. Through this means of grace, the spoils of Christ's victory—forgiveness, life, and salvation—are imparted to us. In Baptism, Christ gives us the clothing of light: faith, purity, hope, truth, joy, and goodness.

In like manner, the sword of the Spirit, the word of Christ, empowers ordinary bread and wine to be the hosts of the very body and blood of Christ. The apostle Paul writes: "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ?" "Isn't the bread that we break a part of Christ's body?" (I Cor. 10:16) The light of salvation flows into us through His flesh and veins, reaching every corner of our being.

Regular hearing of the Word and reception of the Holy Sacrament is thus required if we, the Children of the Light, are to walk in the light of His truth and righteousness now and to remain awake in faith as the dawn of Christ's second coming and our final deliverance approaches.

Do you and I fully understand, then, what time it is? The Lord's apostle is crying out, "It's the wee hours of the morning." Open your eyes wide even before much of this world has had a chance to blink at the SON's first light in Bethlehem. Be dressed and ready to go. The dawn has come. "The day is almost upon us!"

This first Sunday in Advent, the eternal alarm clock is ringing. Rise, all you sleepy heads! This world's nightmare is about to end. Open your eyes to see that the night's thick shroud has already been pierced by Easter's bright rays. Daylight's splendor is about to shine all around. "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you" (Is. 60:1).

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