Sermon delivered on Advent 2C, Sunday, December 9, 2018 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.
If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.
Lectionary texts: Malachi 3.1-4; Luke 1.68-79; Philippians 1.3-11; Luke 3.1-6.
In ancient times, when a king was going to visit a city, he would send before him someone to herald his coming, someone to announce that he would be arriving soon. The herald would go around the city, and go before the leaders of the city, telling them all, “The king is coming. He will be here any day. So clean up your lives. Make sure you are all in obedience to the kings commands so that you will not be punished when he arrives.”
This herald also served as a city inspector. He would go around the city and make a list of things that needed to be fixed. He would tell them, “Clean up your city. Sweep your streets. Get rid of all the garbage lying around. Round up any criminals to make the city safe. Fix the roads; make them smooth and straight. Make sure the town is gleaming. Make sure the city is fit for a king to ride through.” It was an embarrassment for that city, and the people of the city, if they were not prepared when the king did arrive. It was also an insult to the king if they had not prepared properly for his arrival. If he came, and they were not prepared, he might pronounce some judgment and punishment upon the city and its rulers.
This is what we are seeing going on in today’s reading. The King is coming, and He has sent a herald to announce His imminent arrival. The king, of course, is Jesus Christ and the herald “the one who will pronounce His coming” is John the Baptist. John has come as a herald to make sure that the king’s subjects are well prepared for the king’s coming. John has come to prepare the way.
As Father Kevin mentioned last week the name of this season comes from the Latin word adventus, which means coming. Advent, then, is not simply the lead up to Christmas, but rather it is a season of preparing for the coming of Christ. This advent of Christ takes a threefold form which includes his coming in the flesh as a baby born of the womb of Mary, but also his coming in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his coming to us today in the midst of our daily lives. Last week we were reminded of the focus of our preaching this advent here at St, Augustine’s; Death, Judgement, heaven and Hell. Last sunday we looked at Death and this second Sunday of Advent I want to bring to our attention Christ’s coming in glory at the end of the age to judge the living and the dead.
We often think of judgment, the final judgment as this terrifying, harsh, dark thing, we see it uncomfortable, and it is scary.
But the judgment is supposed to be good news.
Because when we’re faced with the injustice, wars, corruption, sinfulness, killings, when we see these tragedies that we don’t even have words for in the news again and again, and the raw heartache and pain and the pure evil that is in our world, the only thing I know to say is that Jesus sees it too, and he’s coming back; he’s going to clean house. He’s coming to judge that evil, and he’s going to bring healing. He’s the only one who could bring healing, and he’s coming. Sometimes, when we see just unspeakable horrors being perpetrated, the good news we need, the only hope we have, is the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ. Because he can make things right.
Judgment is supposed to be good news. As N.T. Wright likes to point out, that’s why we see things like Psalm 96:11-13:
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD.
Why? Why this jubilee? For he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.
The whole earth, all of creation, is dancing for joy because the Lord is coming to judge the world, with righteousness, with truth. And don’t we need some righteousness and truth in this world? Well, they’re on their way. The Lord is coming to set things right. Judgment is what gives us hope, even in the face of the darkest evil, because the light is gonna shine in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5).
When we think about judgment this does not sound like Christmas, right? That’s true, but we are not here for Christmas, we are here for Advent. Because Advent is a season when we’re expecting Jesus, watching for his coming—not just in Bethlehem, but also to his coming back to this world to judge what is evil, heal what is broken, and make things right again.
And in a world of brokenness, a world of evil, we need that promise and hope of judgment.
As we look to the hope of judgement we need to understand that each person will have to account for his conduct, and the deepest secrets of his soul will come to light. How well each person has responded to the prompting of God’s grace will be made clear. Our attitude and actions toward our neighbor will reflect how well we have loved our Lord. “As often as you did it for one of My least brothers, you did it for Me” (Mt 25:41).
Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” Death is not the end of our existence. That is what is so awesome about it. We are not mere material beings that simply go out of consciousness and decompose in the ground. This word from God stands over against the common evolutionary idea expressed, When the writer of Hebrew 9:27 says, “After death comes judgment,” that is exactly what it means. God does give damnation after death. And it is the most terrifying prospect in the universe, that we might be met after death with a holy and angry and omnipotent God holding us accountable for whether we trusted him and worshipped him and followed his ways in this life. That is a fearful prospect.
So when when the bible says that we have an appointment with death and after death with judgment, it means that it will be terrifying and a furious fire and a great act of divine vengeance even on those who claim to be part of God’s people, but are only external Christians.These are sobering realities. May God use them to wake us up and make us alive to what really matters in this world!
Advent – we reflect on Coming Death, coming Judgment, coming Heaven, and coming Hell. Remember, It is appointed for men once to die and after this the judgment. Death is appointed, and no one is exception. You only die once, and death is not the end; Judgment is our destiny’s door.
In the Name of God, the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit Amen.