This is a confessional address, which is much shorter than a typical sermon. The service today was a confessional service in preparation to receive Christ’s Body and Blood in His holy Supper. Following the service was our Altar Guild’s “Hanging of the Greens” ceremony.
About 200 years after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, a man named Montanus started his own breakaway-Christian sect. He claimed that God spoke directly to him when he was in a trance. After such a trance, he said he knew the day when Jesus was returning. So, Montanus and his followers gathered near a town called Pepuza, which today is in Turkey, to see, firsthand, the glorious return of Christ!
So, the people stood there, staring at the sky, and nothing happened. And we can add even more than that. For Jesus has yet to return on the day that any religious leader has ever predicted that He would do so. Such false teachers must foolishly believe that Jesus’ words don’t apply to them. Jesus clearly says, that “about that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, or the Son. Only the Father knows” (Matthew 24:36).
So, while we wait, we travel between two chasms that threaten to ruin our Advent preparations. We do not become foolish like Montanus, thinking we can identify the time when Jesus will return. But we also refuse to ignore our Lord’s promise that He will return, by living unrepentant lives. We don’t live as if we are certain that Jesus won’t return during our lifetimes.
We live, knowing that our Lord will soon come back. Then, He will return to take us, body and soul, to live with Him in eternity. And so we wait. But we don’t wait in apathy or complacence. We wait fervently. We zealously go about our God-given tasks, realizing “the Lord isn’t slow to keep his promise, as some understand slowness” (2 Peter 3:9). Yet, knowing that, we balance our fervent expectation. For we know that “with the Lord, a day is like 1,000 years, and 1,000 years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).
The Apostle Peter tells us how this fervent expectation shapes our lives. “You should live holy and godly lives,” he says, “waiting for and hastening the day of God… Based on his promise, we wait for a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness is at home” (2 Peter 3:11-13).
If we are to be that eager for Christ’s return, so we are even “hastening the day of God,” then why hasn’t Jesus already returned? It’s is because He loves us. He has delayed His return because “he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And how do we hasten the day of God, using St. Peter’s expression? We do so by faithfully turning away from our sins. We do so by living the life that God has given us to live.
That’s even why we have different seasons of the Church year, like Advent. They remind us, ever anew, of our need to repent, and so to hasten the day of God. And if our sins bother us so little, how then can we call others to join us in the Christian life of repentance? For Peter tells us that we are “to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with [Christ]” (2 Peter 3:14).
So, the season of Advent calls us to repent. That means we are to turn away from our sins. But we don’t stop there. We are, even more, to turn to that which makes us spotless, blameless, and at peace with Christ. And what does that? What makes us makes us spotless, blameless, and at peace with Christ? It’s the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Advent calls us to live holy and godly lives. And our lives are holy, not because we’ve made them that way, but because we are in Christ, and He is in us. Our lives are godly because, it is not we who live, but Christ who lives in us.
So, Advent is all about the holy blood of Christ coursing within our veins, changing our lives as we wait for the new heaven and the new earth. Advent does not focus on what we do. No, it’s about being in Christ, who is the spotless and holy One, who Himself makes us spotless and holy.
So, come now and receive the real body and blood of Jesus. For only the real body and blood of Jesus makes you spotless, blameless, and at peace with Him. Amen.