Clothed and Ready

This is the time of the year when it gets especially hard to get our kids up in the morning.

But recently, Samuel, our 7-year-old, has devised a plan for these cold, dark mornings.

A few weeks ago, he decided to start picking out his clothes the night before, so after his nighttime shower, he gets dressed in his clothes for the next day, gets the covers and goes to sleep and when his alarm clock goes off at 6:30AM, he hops out of bed, fully dressed from head-to-toe, ready for the day.

Jesus calls us to be ready for the day when he will return and all the earth will see him coming on the clouds with power and great glory, and with a loud trumpet call, when he will gather his elect.

Jesus promises he will return to earth with peace and with power and tells us that we should be ready for him.

But unlike with the alarm clock on our bedside tables, no one knows when the hour or the day will be. Not the angels in heaven or even, interestingly enough, the Son, but only the Father.

And since we don’t know when he will arrive the only thing to do is to remain ready, dressed for the day to come.

Advent comes as a wakeup call, inviting us to consider whether we are spiritually ready for the day of the Son of Man, which Jesus promises.

The title “Son of Man,” is interesting because it’s Jesus’ preferred way to refer to himself.

We often gravitate towards names for him like Messiah, Savior, or Lord, but Jesus almost always uses this enigmatic moniker, which Biblical scholars themselves acknowledge is a mysterious one.

In fact, Jesus uses the title “Son of Man” for himself about 72 times in the synoptic gospels, (that’s Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and every time, he’s doing one of two things:

Either speaking explicitly about his mission to suffer, die and rise again, or to point out his role as the risen and exalted figure appointed to set all things right at the end of time.

And scholars still debate about why he used this title rather than another one.

Certainly, the book of Daniel speaks of one like a son of man (or one like a human being) who was to come at a future date whom God would give glory and kingship and everlasting dominion that would never pass away.

And, too, Caesar, the roman king spoke of himself as the ‘Son of God’ as a way to claim divinity and power, and so perhaps it was for this reason Jesus invoked a title of contrast with worldly power.

But its also true that the name was very commonly used in the 1st century in Aramaic, Jesus’ native tongue, to simply mean, “a human being” or as a pronoun that could stand in for “I.”

Whatever the reasons may have been, ultimately the title “Son of Man”
doesn’t tell us who Jesus is as much as Jesus tells us who the Son of Man is, and one thing is for sure — it absolutely has to do with God’s incarnation.

It means that God was truly born into time and became human like you and like me.

It means that God in Christ really took up flesh in this world.

God was born into THIS world with its political unrest and turmoil, with its earthquakes and natural disasters and war, with its shootings at its colleges, nightclubs, and Wal-marts; with its disappointment and fraud and sickness,

God came to be with us in THIS world because this world is not as it should be,
and in order to declare that this world, as it is now, will not always be the way that it is.

One day, God promises, the mountain of the Lord shall be established as the highest mountain, and all the people and nations of earth will come and say,
Let us go up to this mountain
And enroll in the school of God
So that we can learn
to make our pistols into plyers
And our rifles into rachet sets
And our guns into garden tools,
And then, on God’s Mountain,
every hurt will be healed
War will give way to peace
And enemies will become friends.

Jesus’ death and resurrection made God’s vision of peace a cosmic reality and when Jesus returns this vision of peace and justice will become reality for everyone, everywhere, and God will reign
in every hemisphere
every home
and every heart.

On that day to come when the Son of Man – God in the flesh – returns, God’s reality will be our reality, completely and fully.

God gives us this promise, and God is trustworthy, so we are to remain ready for that day.

And we might wonder how to remain ready.

Perhaps worshipping God is the place to start.

And perhaps we should also carve out time to read scripture and devotional writings and pray.

And perhaps we should we also meet with one another and talk about our faith.

We can serve on ministry teams and supporting the ministry of the church.

And you probably have even better ideas.

But the thing is: and let’s be honest,
it takes an awful lot of energy to do these things and after all, we’ve been waiting for Jesus’ return for a very, very long time.

We think most of his first disciples expected him to return in their lifetimes and they were disappointed and so what makes us think this is the time he will return?

Even Paul, writing to the Roman church seems to sense they feel like the day may never come, and so, he is encouraging the believers not to give up and not to get frustrated and sleepy and go back to a lifestyle born from a belief that this world as it is, is all there is.

My goodness, if it was easy for the early church, just a generation removed from Jesus’ own earthly ministry, to get discouraged or lazy or to lose hope, how easy is it for us to lose the fervor of remaining ready.

Part of being ready for God, I think, is being awake to the very moment we are living.

It can be so easy to overlook the present moment for the sacred gift it is, to become disconnected from the holy all around us, and to numb ourselves in all sorts of ways;

To spend our time in the nostalgia of the past or to put all our hopes in an idealized future we perceive to be greater in personal happiness, in order to, escape from the crashing sacredness of this moment in time.

I think God wants us to be discontented with the world as it is!

After all, we have been given a vision of a better world where God reigns in love, but rather than escaping from the brokenness of the world, by looking back or forward, we are called in the way of Jesus to engage with the brokenness of the world, face to face, and to be present in the world, now, and just like Jesus, to bring our full humanity to bear in our love and service to our neighbor, believing God not only promises to come at the end of time, but comes into this day and into this moment, wherever and whenever we keep our heart open to God.

God truly comes to us in the grand small moments of human community:

Singing happy birthday around the candle-glow of human life celebrated, in a boy scout troop working on a merit badge together, in a date where two people risk vulnerability to start a new relationship,

God comes to us in the careful planning of the details of a funeral service for a sacred human life, in preparing and serving a meal together as a way to gather our gratitude,

God truly comes to us, in helping a child with homework, in the creative endeavor of writing a poem, thank you card or letter to the editor, in cleaning the house and folding the laundry and bringing order into the world,

God truly comes to us in speaking to the person at the checkout counter or the person in line to celebrate your common humanity, in giving baskets of food to members of the community for their Thanksgiving Day meals or giving presents from our Christmas Giving Tree to children in the community, in standing up for those who are persecuted for their lifestyle or for who they love, or for their nationality, race, or ability level.

God truly comes to us
in bread and wine,
in the promise of baptism
and the word of forgiveness.

In baptism, Paul tells us we get to ‘put on Christ’
That is that we are clothed with Christ, which is a memorable way of saying
that by God’s grace we have put on his righteousness, so that we are already dressed for that day to come.

Our youth group is ordering our new T-shirt for 2022-23, which may be my all-time favorite EYG t-shirt design.

The design was created by William edwards, Clare Martin and Addie Perryman.

Our theme is “One in Christ” and each shirt will have a large number one on the back made up of lots of Bible verses that speak to how we are diverse people
but in Christ we are united into one family and community.

The idea is that it’s like a team jersey but unlike the World Cup or any other team sport – we’re not only clothed the same, we even have the same number.

In our baptism, all of us as God’s church, are all ONE in Christ.

So that there is no need to stress about what we’ll wear on the day Christ returns. God has already picked out our clothes and dressed us in mercy and love and forgiveness.

So my friends, may we know ourselves to be clothed with Christ, rising in the morning to get out of the bed already dressed when our feet hit the floor.

May we know we are clothed in the humanity God has given us as a gift and we are ready for the day when all will be made well and all people will join us on the mountain of the Lord,

So, on that day to come,
And in each day until that day,
let us walk with joy in the light of the Lord!

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, 2022
Isaiah 2:1-5
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

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