First Sunday in Advent
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
After a full Thanksgiving meal, people usually get tired and like to take a nap. Is it the full belly or the warm house on a cold day that makes us drowsy? Maybe it is the harried life slowing down long enough for us to take a breath and our bodies say, ‘let’s take advantage of this break’.
Every Sunday afternoon, after church, my father would take a long nap. We children were not to disturb him for any reason. I asked my mother why he took a nap every Sunday and she told me that he had always done that for as long as she had known him. She said it helped him recharge his battery for the upcoming week.
As I grow older, I have learned how physically and emotionally draining our lives can be and how important it is for us to rest from our labors. I have also learned that I like to sleep. I really enjoy curling up in a nice warm bed, especially when it’s raining or snowing outside. Oh, it’s cold outside, but it’s sooo warm under the covers.
It feels so good and it is good for us. Yes, sleep is very important to our health. We need rest. Sleep rejuvenates the immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems. It is observed in all mammals, all birds, and many reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
Yet in the same way, too much sleep can also be detrimental. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine "sleeping more than 7 to 8 hours per day has been consistently associated with increased mortality." ‘Increased mortality’, that’s just a nice way of saying, you die faster.
Too little is bad for you and too much is bad for you, so why do we sleep? No one really knows for sure. We know that sleep helps us regenerate energy and keeps us mentally acute. At the same time, sleep puts us in a state where we are most vulnerable.
And what do we do when we sleep? Do we get any work done? Do we communicate or learn from one another? It is the opposite. We are solitary when we sleep. No interaction with any other human being, animal, or our environment happens when we are asleep. I told you earlier that I enjoy sleeping, but if I had the ability to be healthy and mentally sharp without sleep, I would not sleep at all. Think about how many more hours in the day we would have if we didn’t need to sleep for that 1/3rd of our lives.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, the metaphor of sleep is used to describe our state of awareness to our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul says:
…the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand… Let us walk properly as in the daytime. [Rom 13:11-12, 13]
This is the message for us today… WAKE UP!! You are no longer to revel in the sleep of lawlessness! You think that you are walking upright and in the path of God’s will, but you are merely going through the motions! Your arms and legs move about but your hearts and minds are dead to the Word of God.
Wake up and smell the righteousness of God Almighty. Be honest with yourselves. Do you walk properly as in the daytime, or do you walk in drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality? Do you covet what others around you have in jealousy? Do you constantly quarrel about what you deserve or how your way is the ‘right’ way? No my friends, do not be deceived by your own self-righteousness. You only live to gratify the flesh and its desires.
Could it be that sleep is a systemic symptom of sin? I don’t know, yet I wonder. In Genesis chapter 2 verse 1, it is written:
Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. [Gen 2:1-2]
This was rest, not sleep. For we see in Genesis 2:21, God put Adam into a deep sleep: “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.”
These are two different states of being and two different words. The next time this word of sleep is used is in Genesis 15:12 “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.” Sleep is not a natural state for those who walk in the path of God, the path of light. The Apostle Paul puts it succinctly, “So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” [Rom 13:12b]
Because, what happens in the darkness? Have you ever noticed? What do people do when covered by the night or in dark corners? Do they act as if they are in the light? When do most crimes occur? When does the most debauchery occur? Is it in the daylight? Or if it is in the daylight, is it in full view of everyone, or is it in dark rooms behind closed doors?
No my friends, sin hides itself. It covers itself in darkness because it cannot stand the light of truth. Think of your own actions. Think of what you do in the night, in darkness, or behind closed doors. Would you so easily do them in the light of day where everyone could see?
You don’t need to answer me. I know that we are all born to sin. I know that we cannot walk in the light of God because we are all sinners. Think about every morning when you wake up from the nights’ sleep. How long does it take you to fall into sin?
Basically, as soon as you start thinking, you start sinning. Maybe you become angry because you’re late for work. Maybe you find a hole in your favorite shirt that you were planning on wearing and you curse. Maybe your spouse or child or parent makes demands of you and you snap at them and cause discord.
I remember, when I was a small lad in Sunday School, how my teacher taught us that we could not live a day without sin. There was no way we could last 24 hours without breaking a commandment.
She was right. The first thing I did when I awoke the next morning was get into a fight with my brother. I didn’t even make it out of my room. Not 5 minutes had passed in this new day and I had already sinned.
I don’t need to tell you that we cannot win against sin. It is going to happen. We are going to do it. And because of this, we are lost and truly condemned to die.
So is that it? Is it over? Have we lost before we have even begun? No. We are not lost. Before you came into existence, Christ was there. Before our sin and death was realized, our salvation in God’s Son existed.
The one true God, our Father in heaven, knew of our transgression against Him. His only Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, came down from heaven and was made man. He came as king to all who believe, not as a ruler as we know in this world, but as Lord over all of heaven and earth.
Christ came to us not as the king of armies and earthly power, but humble, meek and as a servant to all human kind. The prophet Zechariah spoke of this king of ours in verse 9 of chapter 9:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.
He lived every day of his life without sin. He fulfilled the Law of God Almighty because we could not. He gave himself up in sacrifice with the burden of our sins so that we would be made pure and righteous before our Father in heaven.
Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day, He took His life up again just as he had laid it down. All this, He did for us, His chosen people, so that eternal death would be vanquished and that we may live to praise His holy name untiringly.
No more shall we need to die that little bit every day. No more shall we endure the darkness. At last, we shall cast off the darkness and walk in the light. All of this is ours because God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not die, but have eternal life.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Today begins the worship, praise and thanksgiving of the Son of God. He comes into the world the same way he left; in humbleness and as a servant. Not once does he hate, covet or deny the Father in Heaven as the one true God. Yet he suffered all the consequences of those who do.
Jesus wept over those who have died to sin, but we are not one of them. We are merely asleep in this mortal life. And those who have fallen asleep in the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior will arise again in His Father’s kingdom.
Wake up! Let us walk properly as in the daytime, for salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand.
Jesus Christ is our Salvation as well as the King of heaven and earth. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!