ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
Romans xiii. 8.
OWE no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
St. Matthew xxi. 1.
WHEN they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name ‘of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
(1928 Book of Common Prayer)
This Sunday, December 3rd, marks the beginning of the new liturgical year, and it is most fitting that these Sundays preceding Christmas prepare our hearts to receive the Son of God afresh. St. Paul admonishes us to lay aside sin and the works of darkness and to put on the light, i.e., to put on Christ and walk in his righteousness. Why? Because the night is far spent and the day is at hand. When Christ makes manifest our works in that great and terrible day, we want our works as his children to be works of light, and works of righteousness that make us not ashamed before our Lord.
The world wants a Jesus who is meek and mild, affirming and non-judgmental, inclusive, loving and kind. And so he is—to those who trust in Him and seek to do His will. However, Jesus can be harsh, and rough to those who are not His, and this His enemies hate. He called the Syro-Phoenician woman who came seeking healing for her son a dog. She was an Other not of Israel, and not one to whom He was sent. In deep humility and faith, she admitted she was a dog, but even dogs got crumbs from the children’s table. The Lord had not seen such faith even in Israel, so her son was healed.
The Pharisees and Sadducees received even harsher treatment from the Lord, as did religious hypocrites. The Lord did not hesitate to call them out and metaphorically skin them alive. Some repented, and followed him. The rest hardened their hearts and chose to murder the Lord.
In today’s Gospel, the Lord used violence against the money changers in the Temple, men who were cheating worshippers by using unjust exchange rates. They got to taste the end of a whip, have their merchandise overturned, and be driven out of the temple by the Lord of the Temple Himself. If any of these men repented of their evil works and followed the Lord, the scriptures do not say.
You see, Jesus did not come to affirm and enable us in sin, wickedness, and things contrary to the will of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is not an SJW. The Gospel is not a Gospel of affirmation, but of transformation. It is a Gospel of repentance, of faith in Christ, and of transformation from darkness to light, from wickedness to righteousness. It is a Gospel that allows us to cry out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” and He hears us, and forgives for Christ’s sake, for the sake of the One who bore our sins on the cross shortly after he drove the money changers from the Temple. Then He takes us and throughout our lives transforms us into His image.
This first Sunday in Advent reminds us of these these things, and admonishes us to pursue transformation and His righteousness, if we are His children. It calls you who are not His children to come to Him, to find forgiveness, and to pass from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, from death unto life. My prayer is that you will. Amen.