Jesus Christ is our HOPE.
This weekend marks the beginning of the Christian New Year. Not because of Thanksgiving, but because of ADVENT and the coming celebration of CHRISTMAS, the birth of Jesus. We have 4 weeks to prepare for the coming celebration of the birth of Jesus. Lots of us are worried about preparing for the family celebrations on Dec 24th and 25th. Let’s make sure we are awake to behold the coming of Jesus. Let’s read this weekend’s scripture lesson.
9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
The Day Is Near
11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Paul is writing to Christians in Rome. These believers were a mix of Gentile and Jewish converts to Christianity. The 13th chapter begins with Paul reframing ethics and righteousness in terms of the love of Jesus. Both the gentile and Jewish believers had ethical standards, but both were based in laws and ritual standards (Greco/Roman Law – the Law of Moses). Paul is seeking to awaken them from their darkness of these failed understandings to the light of Jesus Christ which has given us a new standard.
The new dawn that is coming is the light and love of Jesus Christ. Just as 2000 years ago we are in the early dawn moments of the full daylight of Christ. Be assured that daylight is coming – the darkness is past. Therefore, we should act as if it were full daylight. We can clothe ourselves with the light of Christ from our baptism as we put on the armor of light. In baptism we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ – not our own rules and regulations. We receive Jesus’ gift of grace. Because of this gift we have a different ethic and behave differently.
Verse 13 lists the vices that were prohibited in both Roman Law and Jewish Law. However, these vices were commonly practiced in Roman society. Paul is not giving more laws or reinforcing the old ones. Paul calls these new Christians to exceed the old laws and live by the law of love of Christ - “and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:9b-10.
To love oneself was a well-known standard in Rome. Everyone was looking out for their own best interests. The competition was keen and cutthroat. To excel was the goal. There was no thought or concern of how one person’s actions would affect others – to be the best was the only goal. Paul is instructing the Roman Christians to refocus their love towards their neighbors. They are to be in relationship with them in a loving way. Just as they have loved themselves and sought their own benefit, now they are to seek the benefit of others.
Love dawns into the darkness of the world with Advent. We see it rise in Christmas and we behold the full radiance of day in the Resurrection of Jesus. The source of that love and light is Jesus. The twinkling lights and jolly tunes will gratify the desires of the flesh for a festive season with family and friends. But as Christian folk we have more to celebrate – the dawning of a new day in Jesus Christ. As disciples we are called to wake up – no more sleep walking through life. Get dressed and put of the armor of love and move into the world boldly to defeat darkness and reflect the love of Christ into the lives of everyone around us.
WAKE UP and prepare for the new dawn of the light and love of Jesus to come into the world. It is not by our own efforts or righteousness that the world is made a better place. Only by the love of Christ lived out in the world through his disciples does the world witness Jesus. Jesus Christ is the HOPE of the World as the light sent from God shines into the darkness to show us all the way of salvation.