Walking in the Light…of Love
V.13a Let us walk properly as in the daytime…
Dear friends in Christ, blessed New Year to all of you! Yes, indeed, today marks the beginning of the season of Advent in the church year–a whole new year!--delightfully out of step with the secular world. Advent means “coming” and is a special time of penitential reflection in the life of the church as we not only prepare to remember our Lord Jesus’ first coming in His birth at Christmas, but also know that as He once came, so He will come again–to Judge the living and the dead. This is a continuation from the way we ended the church year last week with a focus on Christ's imminent return as He promised. So, even as we remember with joy how Jesus came in humble meekness–born of the Virgin Mary in a lowly stable–yet we are also mindful that He will come again–as the Victorious Lord–to forever end the darkness of sin and death that so cloud our broken world.
St. Paul is picking up on this theme in our epistle reading for today. His rather lengthy letter to the church at Rome is drawing to a close. He has written extensively about the righteousness that belongs to the Christian by faith in Jesus alone as Lord and Saviour–and that this is for all people who believe–Jew or Gentile. As the letter draws to a close, Paul directs our attention as to how the righteous (those made righteous through faith in Jesus–Christians) are to live their lives as living sacrifices within the Body of Christ, but also how we are to subject ourselves to the governing authorities that God has instituted. Paul now breaks in with the strong admonition that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Indeed, he writes, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the Law.” So we see that love is the fulfillment of the Law of God. Paul particularly mentions some of the commandments from the Second Table of the Law that deal with our neighbor. He continues, “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Why is this so important? Are we not made righteous purely through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the Law? Yes, we are! But those who have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus now want to live and to love as Christ our Lord would have us. Paul is encouraging us Christians to do good works. How? By following the Ten Commandments. How do we fulfill them? Through love. Putting others before ourselves, rather than walking in the darkness of sin and the selfish desires of our flesh.
Beloved, Jesus is coming soon! “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Christ’s death and resurrection have provided salvation for us through faith in Him, but He will come again and lead us to experience it yet more fully in the New heavens and the New earth that He will usher in at His Second appearing. So, “the hour has come for you to wake from sleep!” Wake up, beloved! “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Jesus’ return is drawing nearer each and every day. Do not dwell in the works of your flesh–your selfish natures that seek only your own personal good and the gratification of your desires. Rather, cast them off! Throw them away! Do not cloak yourselves in the temptations of your own perverted flesh–do not succumb to the siren call of the devil and his evil horde–do not bend to the pressures of the unbelieving world around you. Instead, put on the armor of light that is yours through faith in Jesus Christ: fasten the belt of truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, have the gospel of peace as shoes for your feet, take up the shield of faith, along with the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Thus armed and armored, you now heed His call to faithfulness and perseverance by the Light of His Word of Truth and Grace.
As Paul urges, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Beloved, remember your Baptism! Remember who you are in Christ Jesus: a redeemed and forgiven child of God–one who has been washed clean of all sin and who has been clothed in Christ’s own perfect righteousness! You belong to Jesus! How can you walk in darkness when you are clothed in the One who is Light incarnate! It cannot be.
And so we Christians turn away from the sexual deviances of our day, no matter what form they may take, instead honoring the gift of marriage between one man and one woman. We preserve and advocate for the sanctity of all human life–from the tiniest embryo in the womb–to the elderly and disabled–and everyone in between. We do not take that which the Lord has not given to us, but rejoice in His generosity to all people, especially how He uses us to serve those who are in any need.
I know, beloved, I know how tempting it is to sneak into the darkness every now and then–to give in to our base desires–to satisfy the wants of our flesh in thought, word, and deed. But Christ Jesus has called you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light! Each week throughout this season of Advent, we will light yet another candle on our Advent wreath–marking the approach of the celebration of Christmas when He who is the Light of the World took on human flesh and dwelt among us. Each week, another candle is lit, and yet more light will shine forth until Christmas Eve when that fifth and final candle–the white Christ candle at the center–is lit in joyful exuberance of our Lord’s coming to us.
Receive Jesus’ light each and every day as you immerse yourself in His Word that not only guides you into the truth of what is right and wrong, but also reminds you of God’s work of salvation on your behalf through the suffering of the Lord Jesus on the cross, who is the Lord our Righteousness. Come, this day, and partake of His body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar that you may be fed and nourished with the light of His love–strengthened to resist the darkness both around you and inside of you. Rejoice in His mercy and forgiveness that He freely gives to you in this blessed meal. He who is Light itself will drive the darkness of sin and death from your hearts by the power of His redeeming grace and Spirit.
And when you DO give in and are overwhelmed by the darkness–come to me, your pastor, and confess those sins which so darken your heart and mind. Come and be absolved–forgiven–by the Word and Command of Jesus–and rejoice in the power of the light of Jesus to overcome even the darkest of sins.
Furthermore, dear friends, remember that when you are baptized, you receive a lighted candle from our Baptismal candle–indicating the light of Christ that shines in your hearts that have been cleansed by the healing tide of Baptism through water and the Word of promise in Jesus. Enkindle that light in your heart each and every day by simply making the sign of the holy cross and remembering your Baptism in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The love of God has been made manifest to you in the Person and work of Jesus on the cross–and has been gifted to you, personally, in God’s Word and Sacrament. Rejoice, therefore, with great joy! For you are indeed children of the Light! Children of the heavenly Father through faith in Jesus Christ your dear brother, who is the Light and Life of the world to come. For He descended into the darkness of your sin and death on the cross so that He might rise in victory three days later–all for you! And so now you forever and always walk in the light of His forgiving and healing love. Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.