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Video of the Divine Service here.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I am not a morning person. I’m the sort of person that when I get up in the morning, after my alarm goes off—and I may or may not have touched the snooze button a time or two—when I get up, I look longingly at the warm covers and think about how long it is until I get to go back to sleep. I’m not a morning person. I sympathize with those who suggest that particularly high school students would benefit from having a 10-5 day rather than an 8-3 day, because then they can get more sleep. I don’t want to get out of bed; I have to get out of bed.
Like the sinful flesh that pulls us back, lulls us into closing our eyes, drags us down into the sleep of sin and death. So St. Paul gives us a bracing wake-up call: You know the time! The hour is now—it’s already—for you to rise from sleep. Like rising from the dead. Like Jesus rising from His grave. Rise from sleep, because the night is almost over and the day is almost here.
It’s not just that we rise every day from sleep as from death; Paul pictures the entire history of the world as a single day, and we are now in the night. It goes all the way back to the first few days. Evening and morning, the first day. Evening and morning, the second day, and the third day, and the fourth, fifth, and sixth days. Then the rest of the seventh day. And not too many days later, the serpent spoke of sleep as if it were being fully awake. And Adam and Eve turned off the lights and plunged the entire creation into darkness and night.
Night and darkness and sin and death, until the prophet said something different: the people walking in darkness have seen a great light and those who lived in the land of deep darkness, on them a light has shone (Isaiah 9:2). The sun of righteousness has risen with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2). The light of the world has come. While you have the light, walk in the light. Believe in the light. The light has come and those who walk in the light can see where they’re going. They have Him, the Word, for a lamp to their feet and a light to their path. No one who lights a lamp puts it under a basket or in a corner. He puts it in the middle of the house so it gives light to everyone. And Christ’s Church, with Him at the center of His House, becomes a light for the world and a shining city on a hill, so that people will come up to the mountain of the Lord, from which His instruction goes out, and He will teach us His ways and we will walk in His ways (Isaiah 2:3-4).
We walk in the light as He is in the light, but it’s still like having a light lit in the middle of the night. The world still walks in darkness. As if we lived on opposite sides of the globe, while they are in darkness, we are in light. So we still wait for the day when it will not just be a light in the darkness, but the darkness will be light, as it is for the Lord: even the darkness is as light to You (Psalm 139:12). In the midst of the darkness, Paul and Advent give us the bracing call to wake up! Don’t forget that this is not the day, but the day is coming. Don’t be pulled back into the warm dying of the works and desires of the flesh, the distractions of this world, the narcotic of sin. You know the time! The world does not. The world knows nothing of waiting, and longing, and hoping. That’s why they know nothing of Advent. It’s not surprising that they have to go directly from Halloween to Christmas, with perhaps a brief Thanksgiving interlude. No waiting, no hoping, no longing. Everything now, immediately, because this is all there is. Get what you can while the getting is good. Buy on credit and worry about it later. You only live once.
Advent, with St. Paul, and with Jesus, says, “Wake up!” You know the time. The hour is already for you to rise from sleep. Put off the works of darkness and put on the weapons of light. We fight against darkness, not in flesh and blood, but in the principalities and powers of this present darkness. We fight to hold to the light. We fight against the creeping darkness because we know that the light has shined in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. We already have the victory in Christ. All the works of darkness belong to the night, which is almost over. The day is near; every day, salvation is nearer than the day before; redemption draws near; Jesus draws near. You know the time! The hour is already for you to rise from sleep!
You have been washed clean by the cold water of baptism, made new. And now we break our fast with the Body and Blood of the Lord. And then we get up and go out to do the work the Father has laid before us. Those in the darkness do not know what they are doing, but we have the light and so we see. The prayer of the Church is and has always been, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” And in the light of that promise, we pray for His protection at the end of the day, at the end of our lives, and at the end of the world. But just as boldly, we pray for each new morning, for the morning after our deaths, and for the morning of that eternal day, which is coming soon. You know the time. It’s time to get up, because it will soon be time to rise from the dead. We walk in the light, because the break of day draws near. The night is long, but the sun is about to rise.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
–Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 11/30/19