Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Remain Steadfast - December 15, 2013 - Third Sunday in Advent - Text: James 5:7-10
In the Old Testament Lesson for today we are encouraged by Isaiah’s prophecy to be strong and not be afraid. We are encouraged with the promise that the Lord, the promised Savior will come and we are encouraged that the Lord will bring us, His faithful people, into His eternal kingdom. In the Gospel Lesson we encouraged in our faith that Jesus is the one promised, that He is the Savior. We are encouraged to believe this, that Jesus is the Savior, even in the midst of John the Baptist’s doubt. We are encouraged to believe because Jesus shows Himself to be God in flesh, through the signs, wonders and miracles He has performed. As we come to this third Sunday in Advent we continue to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Jesus’ first coming into the world. We do not celebrate yet. We still have some time to prepare and that is how we spend our time this morning, continuing to prepare ourselves.
In our text for this morning, the epistle writer, James urges us to be patient. Can you imagine how difficult this is? Think about when you were a child, as Christmas approached. It seemed as if it took forever to get here. As we grow older it seems as if the time passes too quickly and one Christmas rolls into the next. And yet, James urges us to be patient. One thing I will tell you concerning patients, that is I would encourage you never to pray for patients. Maybe you have done that before. What happens when we pray for patients. When we pray for patients, the Lord gives us tribulation so that we will learn patience.
James urges us to be patient. He urges us to be patient as the farmer, in our wait for the Lord. James says, “7Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains”(v. 7). I remember as a child, planting a seed and then waiting and waiting until finally I could wait no longer so I dug it up to see if anything was happening. Yes, the seed was growing and in my impatience, I dug it up and killed it. It is difficult at times, being patient with the Lord. God’s time is not always our time. We rush and rush and get no where and we wonder where is God in all our rushing. Why does not God work according to our time and our schedule? James urges us to be patient. Easier said than done.
James even urges us to work on our faith as we patiently await. He says, “8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (v. 8). Of course we understand that James is not speaking specifically about waiting for our Christmas celebration. He is actually talking about waiting patiently for Jesus’ return, His second coming. Remember, I told you before that the readings for the end of the church year and the beginning of the church year, the readings for Advent, often have a duel purpose and here we see this duel purpose. We are to be patient and to be ready for the Lord’s second coming even as we are to be patient this time of year as we await our celebration of His first coming.
James urges us to be patient and more, he also urges us to remain steadfast in our faith. While we await the coming of our Lord James urges us to not grumble against one another, he says, “9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (v. 9). To wait patiently is difficult. Too often, while we attempt to wait patiently, we tend to get on one another’s nerves. Grumbling is easy. Remember, we are conceived and born in sin, so sinning comes easy to us, it is after all our nature. We live in a world where temptation and sin abound and so it is difficult to resist temptation and to not sin. As we are in the midst of the season of Advent and as our world and culture are in the midst of what is called the holiday season, people are busy running here and there, buying this and that, having this party and that get together, often so busy that it seems there is little time to stop and rest and contemplate what this season is really all about. And so our nerves get frazzled, our tempers shorten, our patients runs thin. Certainly this is the time of the year when it is difficult to “be still” and know that Jesus is the Lord.
Yet, James continues to urge us to be patient and to remain steadfast in faith. He uses the prophets as an example of suffering for their faith, as ones looking forward to, pointing to, but never enjoying the fulfillment of their prophecies, he says, “10As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (v.10-11). I believe the prophets had a very difficult job. Here they were blessed to be able to speak about the coming events of the Lord, yet they were never able to witness those things about which they spoke. James urges us to remain steadfast in faith and he gives us the example of Job. The Lord allowed for Job’s faith to be tested, beyond what you and I could possibly imagine and yet, he remained faithful.
Perhaps the key to Job’s steadfastness and the key to our own steadfastness might have been his eternal perspective of life. When difficult times come it is important to remember that they will last only for a while and as Paul says in his writings, the present sufferings are nothing compared to the glory which will be ours in heaven. Our life on this earth is but a twinkle of the eye compared to our forever life in eternity. One key to remaining steadfast in our faith, then is, to keep our focus where it needs to be, on our eternal well being, not on the difficulties of this present, short life.
James urges us to remain steadfast in faith. Certainly you have heard me time and again and you will continue to hear me time and again tell you that the way we keep the faith, the way we remain steadfast in faith is through making regular and diligent use of the means of grace. Unfortunately recent surveys among Christians has shown that this is another thing we are failing to do. Ever wonder why the world is in the mess it is in? Ever wonder why we struggle with temptation and sin? Making regular and diligent use of the means of grace is not simply a nice catch phrase, but it is what needs to be done and can only be done as the Holy Spirit has His way with us, moving us to be in the Word, to read and to hear His Word, to remember our Baptism, to confess our sins and hear His most beautiful words of absolution, and to partake of the Lord’s body and blood through His Holy Supper. These are the external means through which our Lord keeps us steadfast in our faith.
As James urges us, so he reminds us that the Lord is compassionate and merciful. We know that the Lord is compassionate and merciful because we know that our purpose in life is that God has created us in order to give all things to us. God has not created us in order to get anything from us, as if there would be anything that we could give to Him. God has created us in order to love us and to give to us all His good gifts and blessings.
Our Lord has shown His compassion to us through such events as the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, and the immediate promise to send a Savior. God has shown His compassion on us through the nation of the children of Israel, a people God chose and blessed, yet a people who continually rebelled against God. Even so, as our Lord has chosen us to be His people, we are a people who continually rebel against God and yet He continually calls us back to faith, forgives us, and showers on us all His good gifts and blessings.
Our Lord showed His mercy in giving the life of His Son on the cross. Jesus came, as one of us, one with us, one like us, except without sin. Jesus came to do what the nation of Israel could not do. He came to do what we, what you and I cannot do. He came to live perfectly. He came to fulfill all God’s laws and commands, perfectly and He did. He came to take all our sins, our sins of impatience, our sins of not remaining steadfast in our faith, our sins of omission and commission, our sins of thought, word and deed. He came to suffer the pangs of eternal death for us, in our place.
Our Lord shows His mercy in giving us His Word and Sacraments, the means of grace. Our Lord continues to come to us to gives us His good gifts and blessings, whether we want them or not. He sends His Holy Spirit to work in us, to stir in us to make regular and diligent use of these means through which He comes to gives us all His good gifts and blessings.
Our Lord will show His mercy even as He comes again. Yes, there will come a day when we will meet the Lord, when we will stand before Him, face to face. That day will come sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. That day will come either when the Lord actually returns, on the day of judgement or on the day we die and go to Him, but it will come. Our Lord continues to shower us with His grace and mercy until that day.
So, what does this mean? James urges us to be patient and to remain steadfast. In and of ourselves we are unable to be patient and to remain steadfast, so, thanks be to God that our Lord works to help us to be patient and to remain steadfast. Our Lord works to get us ready. Our Lord works to get us ready for our celebration of His first coming as we celebrate Christmas and He works to get us ready to celebrate His second coming, either when He actually comes on the day of judgement or when we pass away from this earth in death.
Not only does our Lord work to get us ready, He also works to keep us ready. He works through the external means that He has given us, His Word, as we read and hear His Word proclaimed, through Holy Baptism, as we remember that water and His name were put on us and through this means He put His name on us, put faith in our hearts and wrote our names in the book of heaven. He works through confession and absolution and His Holy Supper to give us forgiveness and to strengthen and keep us in faith.
Our Lord gets us ready and keeps us ready because He will keep His promise, our Lord will return. Just as Jesus kept God’s first promise and came into the world to give His life as a ransom for us, so Jesus will keep His promise to come again to take us from this vale of tears to be with Himself and all the saints in heaven.
We are still thirteen days away from our Christmas celebration. Be patient, do not celebrate just yet. Remain steadfast in your faith in and in your resolve to not celebrate until that day. Because then, on Christmas Day we will begin our celebration and we will celebrate for the full time of celebration, the twelve days of Christmas. May the Lord get you ready and keep you ready. May the Lord work in you to be patient and most of all to remain steadfast in your faith until He comes again. To Him be the glory. Amen.