Advent Proclaims: Redemption Is Drawing Near!
November 29, 2015: The First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33: 14 – 16/Psalm 25: 1 – 10/1 Thessalonians 3: 9 – 13/Luke 21: 25 – 36
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
I don’t know if you are aware of it, but God visited us in the past few weeks. We are thankful for this. We had a first Clergy Conference of the whole Philippines, a gathering where God spoke to us and gave us a direction of keeping the straight path.Once in a while, we get off the right path. Once in a while, we need an alignment and we need God using people and circumstances to get us back on track. We are thankful because we know that God is with us. God is the Alpha and the Omega and what He started He will continue and to complete because He is faithful. What He started in us is a good work and this is the truth.
The Season of Advent marks the New Year on the Christian calendar. What better way to start the year, but to prepare which is the message of the Advent Season. We need to heed God’s word and His direction. What better way for us to plant. Many cycles start with planting. Today, we are planting a church in Pasig. This is the start of several others that we plan to do – planting churches in Metro Manila. The object is not to divide Cathedral of the King, but to expand the kingdom of God.
On the other hand, our goal, as Cathedral of the King, is not to build a big church for us. God takes care of the numbers. Our part is to proclaim the kingdom of God. We started several months ago in Pililia, Rizal and it is doing very, very well. We do these things because our Lord told us that in preparation for His coming, we are to get busy with the right things and to occupy until He comes because our redemption draws near.
During the Clergy Conference, Bishop Mike Davidson said that a Church must know the direction it is going. If somebody asks a member of a church what the vision of the Church as spoken through the Bishop, he must know. We need to know the direction that we are going. This is simply what we, as Cathedral of the King, have for a direction as a Vision/Mission Statement: to know God and to make Him known. Each Ministry should tailor their Vision/Mission statement supporting this general Vision. All that Cathedral of the King does as a corporate Body and as individuals point to this Vision. The reason we are here right now is we want to know God and we want to make Him known. The reason we have a TV Ministry, print, and website is because we want to make God known. The reason we break bread in the Eucharist is because Jesus reveals Himself and makes Himself known in the breaking of the bread.
We may not have come up with our Vision Statement, but we have been doing it and this is our goal and motivation in everything we do. Don’t do things because it is an order. Do it because it comes from your heart. A heart that doesn’t have to be told, but a heart that says, “I want to know God and I want to make Him known.” The more we know God, the more the desire in us to make Him known. It is not just because of a motto, a slogan or an order, but because it comes from our heart. Evangelism, witnessing, the exercise of gifts, worship, what we do in Ministry, what you do in your personal time, your service, your involvement, your life – all are done because we want to know God and we want to make Him known. As we make Him known, we grow in the knowledge of it. As we grow in the knowledge of Him, the desire in us grows to make Him known. It is a growth cycle.
1 Thessalonians3:6-9 says that serving others fulfills the giver. It gives him joy and fulfillment and causes growth. “For then we really live when we see the fruit of our planting in you.” This gives us joy, life, and fulfillment and causes us to grow in the knowledge of God, thus preparing us for His Son’s coming. This is why it is more blessed to give. Joy and eternal life are experienced when we sow seed in the lives and hearts of others.
As parents, their joy consists in providing for their children, giving their children happiness. Sometimes, parents overdo it to a point of spoiling them, but the desire is pure. Parents are not perfect yet and sometimes overdoing it causes more harm than good. Their desire is to see them happy, raise them right, and teach them in the way that they should go. Parents find joy in satisfying their children. Until we reach a certain level of maturity in that, there is a tendency to be selfish.
This is who God is – He wants the best for us. We don’t seem to understand it, but this is His part and He finds joy and fulfillment in blessing us. This is the heart of the Father, of our Lord Jesus. St. Paul understands this so this is why he longs for a chance to complete what’s lacking in the Thessalonians. He longs to see them, to minister to them, and to serve them because it fulfills St. Paul too. Romans 1:11-12: “For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established (strengthened). St. Paul wants to make God known to the Romans and he wants to impart a gift to them. When we impart spiritual gift to someone else, there is a mutual benefit. It is symbiotic. When we bless others, we bless ourselves, which is God’s very design in His kingdom.
1 Peter 4:10 says that good stewardship is using the gifts God gave to us to serve one another. In the parable of the talents, if you hide your talents, God is displeased with you; but if you use your gift for the benefit of others, then you will also benefit from it. Do we have the same attitude? Has shyness or timidity overcome us? Each one of us has a gift. Pray for a revival of gifts, a manifestation of gifts right in the midst of the congregation.
We are trying to trim liturgical fat, stop doing unnecessary things so that we can make room for the Holy Spirit to move through the people He gave gifts to. I would like to see and hear prophecies, words of knowledge, healing and miracles. They have become dormant in the vessels that have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Good stewardship is using the gift that God, through the Holy Spirit, gave to us. Are we being good stewards?
If we read our Bibles and read the “end time verses” and we cross-reference it with the evening news on TV, we will know that we are in the end times. Jesus said that there will be wars, rumors of wars and hearts of people will break hold and there will be love of money and self. The signs are here. There will be dismay, perplexity, and men fainting if they are unprepared. This is the very reason Jesus gives us a warning so that we can prepare and so that the day will not overtake us like a thief. In Jeremiah 29:11, it says that God’s plan for us is not for calamity, but for welfare, for a future and a hope.
Psalm 91 says that you won’t fear the terror by night, the arrow that flies by day pestilence, destruction; a thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your other side, but it won’t approach you. This is because you have made the Most High, your dwelling place. You have prepared. Others' calamity, your redemption; their anxiety, your peace; their destruction, your salvation. Jesus said, “My peace I give to you.” It is not the world’s peace. They have dismay and turmoil but you can have the peace of God. When these things come, when the wrong seem oft so strong, lift up your heads because God is the Ruler and realize that your redemption draws near. Redemption, salvation is closer now than we first believe. Therefore, as in Romans 13:12-14, we lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light and behave properly as we put on our Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke 21:34 says, “Be on guard so that your heart is not weighted down with dissipation, drunkenness and worries and so that the day won’t come upon you suddenly like a trap as it will to those who are not prepared.” Hebrews 12:1b says, “Lay aside every encumbrance (the unnecessary because you don’t need them in taking the right path)” “Lay aside the sin which is so easily entangles us.”
It is very ironic that the same time the Church proclaims that we need to prepare, the world does not prepare. When Jesus said, “Prepare and beware of being carried away of drunkenness and partying and dissipation,” this is the very time the world has many parties. When people need to prepare, that is the time that they do not prepare and they do exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. They are weighted down with the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of the world and desire of things. These things choke the Word, the message of preparation, and the warning.
Challenge ourselves to go against the flow of the world and the culture of the world at this time. December is the time we do most of our shopping. Challenge ourselves to not do the unnecessary; do what is necessary. Go against the flow of consumerism. Hate advertising campaigns that say that this is the season for shopping. This is an assault on Christmas and Advent. This is an assault on our faith. This is the Season to prepare for the coming of our King. Let us not bite into it; instead go against it. Go against consumerism. This is not the message of Advent.
What I would like to challenge you with is that what you would spend on unnecessary things, give as a special offering. I have a few ministries that could use as a blessing for their work. It won’t really hurt you if you don’t spend on unnecessary things and give to charity. Like David, I would challenge you to give to a point of sacrificing. Not to a point of convenience, but to a point of giving. It is making an effort; making a sacrifice; give. Confront the world’s ways and implement God’s ways for this is the time for preparation not drunkenness and dissipation. Then, the kingdom of God being near would be good news to us because we are prepared. The gospel (good news) of the Kingdom is supposed to bring excitement when we prepare. It is supposed to bring anticipation.
In the Roman Catholic, the words during the Eucharist right after the Lord’s Prayer, it is spoken, “Deliver us Lord from every evil and grant us peace in our day; in your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord.” It is supposed to be joyful; with hope. It is not something we fear, but we are prepared and we heed the warning. We don’t engage in dissipation and drunkenness. If we are not busy with what the world is busy with, then, it will be a joyful hope for us. It is much like Noah being protected by the Ark. It is not something that is for calamity, but for redemption and salvation. It is drawing near and we wait in joyful hope because the kingdom and the power and the glory is God’s. Our hope is in Him, the Sovereign God. He is the same One who sent Son so that we might have abundant life. This is His will for us, but we need to heed His word and prepare.
Jesus said, “Behold I am making all things new.” The corruption started with man and spread throughout creation. Naturally, restoration starts with man. Man is God’s masterpiece. Man is the steward of the earth and then, sin entered into man so it affected his stewardship. God restores man so that the rest of creation will be restored. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship; His Obra Maestra; His masterpiece.
The famous Mona Lisa painting in a museum in Paris, France, is very heavily guarded because it is priceless; so valuable and precious. This is the work of man. Each of us is God’s workmanship, more precious than the Mona Lisa; perfected and very good. We are still in the process of being fully restored, but created very good, so how much more precious are us in the eyes of God?
Creation rejoiced because God made it very good. In the Song of Creation, when the work was finished and God rested, all creation sang - the lightning, the storm, snow, hail, seasons, rain, animals, mountains, hills, insects and even snakes – in thankfulness and in response for His workmanship, for His creation being very good. Man, after being corrupted, is being recreated. We are in the process of re-creation which is good, enjoyable, and something that we look forward to. If God wonderfully created, He more wonderfully re-creates.
In the Collect for the Second Sunday of Christmas, it says, “O God, who wonderfully created and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature…” If creation was very good, recreation or restoration is more wonderful because God gave His own life to make it happen and He is still making it happen. We have more reason to rejoice now than at creation! It is more wonderful; a glorious, joyful event come to its fullness at the coming of the Lord.
We are to lift up our heads! Salvation not destruction draws near. We have hope, not fear. Advent is joyful hope. All creation understands this too. Romans 8:18-23 says that all creation long for the revelation of the sons of God so that they can again rule by serving and have dominion by being good stewards of all creation. This is an awesome privilege and honor to be chosen by God to be the stewards of the earth. As He promised, the days are coming when He will fulfill the good word that He has spoken.
God gave us a good word. Cathedral of the King, God gave us a good word. Church of God, God gave us a good word. As individuals, God gave us a good word. His promise is that the days are coming when He will fulfill the good word. He who promised is faithful, so do not lose hope. He wants life for us. He wants the best for us.
This is the way it is in the kingdom of our soon and coming King.