Our Advent preaching series on the Four Last Things continues today. Sermon delivered on Advent 3C, Sunday, December 12, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.
Lectionary texts: Zephaniah 3.14-20; Isaiah 12.2-6; Philippians 4.4-7; St. Luke 3.7-18.
May the words of my mouth and Meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you oh Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, in the Name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Amen
Christ has gone before us to prepare a dwelling place for us in heaven. He has made the arrangements for us. The apostle John writes that all these truths have been written in Scripture so that: “You may know that you have eternal life”.
A story is told of a missionary couple. After having served for decades in Africa, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Morrison, were returning to New York to retire.
After years of service, they had no pension, and their health was failing. They were worried and discouraged.
They happened to be on the same ship as Theodore Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his African hunting expeditions.
No one paid any attention to the missionary couple. They watched the fanfare that accompanied the President and his entourage.
During the voyage, the missionary said to his wife, “Something is wrong. We have given our lives in service to God in Africa for all these years and no one cares a thing about us. Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everybody makes much over him, but nobody cares about us.”
When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The papers were full of news concerning the President’s arrival. Yet, No one was there for the missionary couple. They slipped off the ship and found a cheap flat on the East side.
That night the man said to his wife, “I can’t take this, God is not treating us fairly.” His wife replied, “Why don’t you go into the other room and tell that to the Lord? He did just that and returned some time later but his face was different.
His wife asked him what happened. “The Lord settled it with me,” he said. “I told Him how bitter I was that the President should receive this tremendous homecoming, when not one person met us at the dock.
And when I finished complaining, it seemed as though the Lord put His hand on my shoulder and simply said “You’re not Home Yet.”
Brothers and sisters, This earth is not our home.
Our fleeting years on this planet are but a small portion of our journey. There is another realm of life beyond this sphere. It is a place where we will know life in all its richness, in all its fullness.
As believers, and followers of Christ we are just pilgrims journeying to our heavenly home.
The Scriptures refer to us on this Earth as Strangers, Ambassadors, and Pilgrims!
Writing to the Church in Philippi, Paul said, “Our citizenship is in Heaven” (Philippians 3:20) Now Philippi was a Roman Colony and in these Colonies the citizens were predominantly soldiers who had served sometime in the service of the Empire and were rewarded with full citizenship. The great characteristics of these colonies was that, wherever you went in the empire, there remained fragments of the great capital of Rome.
A Roman dress was worn; Roman justice was administered; Roman magistrates governed; and Roman morals were observed.
In a political sense, the Philippians knew what it was to be citizens of a far-off city, a place where most of them had never even been.
On an immeasurably higher plane, believers belong to a “Heavenly City”. Through the use of this analogy, Paul was saying to the believers: Just as the Roman colonists never forget that they belong to Rome, you must never forget that you are citizens of heaven.
Therefore your conduct must match your citizenship.
Just before His impending death, Jesus spoke to His disciples about this place called heaven.
He left them with these reassuring words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And I go and prepare a place for you, so that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)
When Jesus shared that there was a dwelling place being prepared for us, “in my Father’s house,” it changed forever the whole character of the abode of the dead. No longer was death to be viewed as a journey to an unknown and frightening destination.
For the first-time, people were able to see death as a going home. Going home to the Heavenly City. Going Home to their Heavenly Father. Going Home and entering into the presence of their Creator where all would be joy, where all would be peace, where all would be love”.
It was seen by these believers as the place where they would be reunited once again with loved ones and friends who had died in Christ.
“In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.”
The Greek word translated ‘dwelling places’ also means ‘abiding places.’
And this was a very familiar image for the people of this time.
It was customary for traveling dignitaries in those days to send some of their party on, in advance to find lodging and make arrangements for them in the distant cities.
Many times, a disciple went ahead of Jesus to make arrangements before He arrived for a gathering. And that is exactly what happened on the night of Supper in the Upper Room. Two of the disciples at Christ’s bidding, went before Him to make the arrangement for them to gather in the upper Room. The meaning of our Gospel passage is so wonderful, and it is clear Christ has gone before us to prepare an abiding place for us in heaven. He has made the arrangements for us. Sadly there are many who seem to believe that life on this planet is all that there is, that there is no abiding place.
This story may be helpful if I may share with us today:
In a mother’s womb were twin babies.
The first baby asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The second baby replied, “Why, of course.
There has to be something after delivery.
Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense,” said the first.
“There is no life after delivery.
What would that life be?” “I don’t know, but there will be more light than in here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.”
The doubting one laughed. “That is absurd! Walking is impossible.
And eat with our mouths? Ridiculous.
The umbilical cord supplies nutrition.
Life after delivery just can’t be. The umbilical cord is too short.”
The second baby held his ground. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”
The first baby replied, “No one has ever come back from there.
Delivery is the end of life, and in after-delivery it is nothing but darkness.” “Well, I don’t know,” said the twin, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”
“Mother?” The first baby guffawed.
“You believe in mother? Where is she now?” The second baby calmly and patiently tried to explain. “She is all around us.
It is in her that we live.
Without her there would be no life.”
“Well. I don’t see her, so she doesn’t exist.”
To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.
I believe there is even a greater life after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality when it comes….”
Beloved We can be confident that heaven is our final destination.
That Heaven is our true home.
The apostle John writes in the gospel that: all these truths have been written in Scripture so that Quote “You may know that you have eternal life” (John 20:31) Not a hope of eternal life, not a wish of eternal life, but to KNOW that you have eternal life!
My Beloved, Please hear me on this!
Since we are assured of heaven, we need not fear death, we need not fear dying. Physical death is for the believer a triumphant gateway to the glory and to the splendors of our heavenly home.
And We cannot help at times but to wonder what heaven is like.
The only place we can go to find out what heaven is like is God’s Word.
In the letter to the Believers gathered in Corinth we are told this: “No eye has seen, No ear has heard, No mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 Beloved, whatever we can imagine heaven to be like, it isn’t!
Praise God! It is much more.
It is vastly superior to anything our minds could ever imagine.
Nevertheless, there are some things about heaven that we do know.
God has revealed to us some very important truths about our heavenly home. Hear God’s Promise to those that die in Christ: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”.” Revelation 21:4 Heaven is our ultimate dwelling place our eternal home. Heaven is the place where there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow.
Beloved, we cannot even imagine the glories of Heaven.
Remember what the Scriptures tell us, “… now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” 1 Corinthians 13:12 This is to say, Here on earth we see things imperfectly.”We know in part’ and our knowledge is in part.
Yet for those who know Christ as their Savior and Lord, these truths have been written in Scripture that you may know that you have eternal life.
Brothers and sisters let’s yield to the saving grace of Jesus and you will know where you are going.
Do you know where you are going, when you leave this life. When you leave this side of eternity?
You can know you can know with certainty.
Heaven is a gift that is freely bestowed upon those who are trusting Jesus Christ to save them. If you are trusting, then Jesus is preparing a place for you. My Beloved, for those in Christ, a new and beautiful day will dawn, when we close our eyes in death. Those who know Christ as their Savior and Lord can have assurance. Assurance that He is preparing a place for you.
Remember, Your citizenship is in Heaven and You’re not Home yet.
In the name of God, the Father, the son and the Holy Spririt. Amen.