“Steadfast in Faith”

 

November29, 2020

First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 64:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Mark 13:33-37

 

Bishop Ariel P. Santos

 

We start the New Year with the First Sunday of Advent. We look back to the first coming as we look forward to the second coming of our King.  It is the same King who came before and will come again. Both events are good news of great joy, not fear.  When Christ was born, the angel said to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy.” God does not change yesterday, today and forever, so Jesus is the same King who will come again and His coming is always good news.  He will come to be ever with us.  We are to be prepared for this.

 

The Season of Advent constantly emphasizes: be on the alert by being busy and being diligent.  Diligence is the careful and persistent work or effort.  Preparation is conscientious, careful, constant and steadfast.  One parable said, “Blessed is the servant whom the master, when he returns, will find him busy with what the master instructed him to do.”  We have tools for preparation.  St. Paul said in 1Corinthians 13, “These three things remain:  faith, hope, and love.”  In our Church, traditionally, we have joy included, but we have different traditions where peace is also included.  There is no set thing about the themes but the emphasis is preparation.   There is faith, hope and love, but the greatest of them is love. 

 

We prepare for the coming of the reign in the kingdom of love by walking in love even right now. Some are so spiritual that they will wait for the coming of the Lord and until then, they do not do earthly good. St. Paul says that if we are living by faith and waiting for the coming of the Lord, we cannot wait passively or idly.   We prepare His coming by obeying His instructions.  The servant in charge of the food that his master gave him for as a task is the faithful one whom his master finds, when he comes, feeding his fellow slaves.  He loves his master by obeying him and he prepares himself by feeding his fellow servants.  

 

Our gospel mentioned “be on the alert” several times.  In other translations, it says, “Be awake.”  In Greek, the root word of “be on the alert” means to be aware of and to be attentive to the here and now in anticipation of the future.  The present is a prerequisite to the future.  Preparation is a prerequisite to the coming of our Lord.   Jesus is not King-elect waiting to be proclaimed.  He reigns now; His kingdom is here. We are His subjects now as He is seated on the throne when He resurrected and ascended on high. We are bona-fide citizens now. We are to take care of the present. I am not saying that we do not hope for the future.  We look for resurrection of the dead and the life of world to come and we don’t look forward to it in idleness.  St. Paul said that if we hope in Christ only in this life, then we are most to be pitied. 

 

The gospel is not just about the afterlife, especially not an ethereal, celestial, non-material nirvana.  It is good for today, for this world.  The apostolic preaching was mainly for the present life. How many apostles in the Book of Acts talked about heaven after life on earth? No one!  They preached a gospel for earthly living.  St. Paul said to be saved from this present perverse generation.  We are in the world but we are not out of it.  We are here to change the world today.

 

The good news is heaven coming to earth, not we leaving earth and going to heaven.  His kingdom is coming to give us hope because what we see is not all there is to life. It gets better.  We now see the fallen world imperfect because of sin, but this is not all to the life that God gave us. It gets better.  In creation, everything was good and was marred by sin, but God is in the business of restoring the goodness of His creation.  This year, 2020, is a year of oppression.   We have a global pandemic, natural disasters and calamities that came.  But we, like John the Baptist, are a voice in this wilderness (dry, desolate, and desperate).  In this place, we are a voice of hope and we proclaim to a desolate and discouraged people that our King is coming.  We are to put our faith in Him and we are to proclaim that man’s evil works will perish and will decay.  The power and pomp of nations which oppressed us and unjust will pass like a dream away.  The Word of God will endure forever.  God’s kingdom will endure forever which is founded on justice and righteousness.   The injustice and unrighteousness will be taken over by the reign of our coming King.

 

The armor the Lord is strong. He stands in the midst of all the nations and He will right the wrong. We do not need to escape because He will right the wrong.  Righteousness and justice will replace the corrupt system of the world.  There is hope in this world because Christ is coming in His fullness.   Some people want to escape now and want to take their own lives. There is a song by Don Mclean entitled “Vincent” after Vincent Van Gogh with this line, “And when no hope was left in sight, on that starry, starry night, you took your life, as lovers often do; but I could have told you, Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”  I don’t agree with this.  This world was created good by God.  We were created good.  In fact, when God saw all that He created, He said, “It was very good.”  It was meant for us for good because God is good all the time. We don’t have to escape from it; we just have to ask God to come to it so that we will be restored as in creation.

 

We have hope!  There is hope! The oppressive, corrupt kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and He will reign forever.  There will be a new heaven and a new earth.  God will restore us and cause His face to shine upon us and we will be saved.  Things will get a lot better.  Eye has not seen, nor ear heard what God has prepared for us.  Therefore, we need to be steadfast in faith from present to the end.  

 

Reading from 2Peter 3:10b-13, I have paraphrased it to read, “In a process of purification, evil works will be burned up (reference to Babylon burning in Revelation) and every activity of man on earth will be laid bare. Since all these (worldly) things will be destroyed, the pomp and power of nations will pass away, don’t you see how vital it is to live a holy life? We must be consumed with godliness as we anticipate and help speed up the coming of the day of God and look forward to a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness reigns.”

We can hasten the coming of the reign of the kingdom of God by being steadfast in faith now until then.  We say, “O come, O come Emmanuel,” and “Thy kingdom come,” because we are tired of man’s will being done which is corrupt and self-centered.   We can hasten the coming of God’s kingdom by letting righteousness reign in our own lives, in our own hearts, and in our local community.  We begin in our local church, the yet imperfect, but developing, evolving, maturing microcosm of the Kingdom and the preview of things to come.  As we demonstrate God’s goodness as a community or as a church, we give hope to the community.

 

We are being restored in God’s image and ever-growing in love for Him, and as such, we might become a habitation of His presence and ministers of His life.  When the people see this, they would say, “We want that! Let us go the Lord’s mountain and learn His ways.”  This is how we proclaim to a desolate people the coming of their King and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.

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