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. --Romans 13:11-14
It is impossible not to know that Christmas is coming.
Christmas sales are going on in any store you enter. Christmas ads fill up the majority of commercials on TV. There are reminders to get your shopping done in newspapers, on the internet, in your emails, on your smart phones, even via text message! Stores pretty much do everything short of sending an employee into your house while you are sleeping to tap you on the forehead and whisper: "Christmas is coming soon!"
Christmas isn't the only day that's fast approaching.
We're in the season of Advent. Advent means we remember to prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus. At Christmastime...to be sure, but also for his next arrival on earth--on the Last Day.
And while you probably won't receive any text message reminders and there probably won't be any full page ads in the News and Observer, Paul tells us this: the Day is coming!
I. Sooner Than You Think
Take a look at what Paul wrote in Romans 13:11 "The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed."
If you are like most people, then you are already making decision about when to prepare for Christmas this year. When do I put up the lights? When do I put up the tree? When do I buy the gifts? When do I wrap the gifts? When do I make the chocolate covered peanut butter bon bons? When do I eat the chocolate covered peanut butter bon bons?
If you were wondering when you should start preparing for the day of our salvation, Paul tells us that we should already have been preparing! Look at his words: "The hour has already come!" You should have been preparing for Jesus' return, years ago!
You might say, "Why? Isn't he coming back in a couple thousand years?"
Because of one simple truth that we learn from Matthew 24: No one knows the day or the hour. It could be any time.
The only thing we know is that it is nearer now than it was last Advent. In fact, it's nearer now than it was when I started this sentence. It's always getting closer. Because unlike Christmas, which, in 25 more days will be 364 days away, the number of days to the day of Jesus' second coming are always getting shorter!
But Jesus' return is not meant to be frightening. Look at what Paul says in verse 12, "Night is nearly over; the day is almost here."
This is a great metaphor! Because night time is generally scarier than daytime. At night you hear noises. You can't see. Shadows deceive you into thinking the Grinch is around the corner ready to steal Christmas! If you have ever been a little kid pulling the covers over your eyes, then you know what a relief it is when the light of the sun finally peeks into your room. "It's daytime. The scary stuff is gone."
When the day of Jesus' second arrival comes, the scary stuff will really be gone.
No more evil. No more sin. No more danger. No more catastrophe, sickness, hatred, or sadness.
No more guilt. Only heaven.
For we will be in the light of the day! We will be with the Light of the World. We will be with God himself enjoying the sun-like rays of from the face of the Son. Soaking in the fresh air of heaven. Relaxing in the cool breeze of the Spirit's gentle movement.
II. Get Ready Now!
It's amazing how often society reminds us that Christmas is coming. But it's even more amazing how many people, come December 24th, will be scrambling to the local Radio Shack to pick up their wives a curling iron that also plays the radio. "Because that's what she wants, right!?!"
Don't make that mistake with the day of your salvation. Get ready now!
If you are wondering, how to prepare for that...look at the next verses from Romans: "Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light... Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh."
This principle makes sense. Because if you are planning on going Christmas shopping anytime soon, there is one thing you NEED to do. (Unless maybe you go shopping online, but still...bear with me.) You NEED to put on clothes. Take off your footie jammies and put clothes on first!
If you don't, just wait till you see the looks you get at Crabtree Mall!
The same is true in preparing for Jesus' second coming. We take off our old clothes. Get rid of our deeds of darkness. Get rid of a inner psyche that says, "I don't need Jesus. I don't believe in him. I think it's a sham."
That's not ready. Not at all.
Instead, clothe yourself with Jesus. And that doesn't mean go get a WWJD shirt and wear it around town! It means to contemplate what he has done. Meditate on the true meaning of Christmas. Take in the precious truths of the Gospel --Jesus became a human at Christmas only so that he could die a human 33 years later and, in turn, save you from your sins and give eternal life to you through faith in Him!
What happens when you do that? A miracle.
The Holy Spirit works through his Word to clothe us with Jesus Christ. His life. His works. His sinless day to day activities. His God pleasing accomplishments.
This is faith. We might not think of it as clothing, but it is. Holy Spirit produced faith places Jesus' cloak of righteousness on our souls. It means you are forgiven. Forgiven for not preparing. Forgiven for not caring to prepare. Forgiven through faith in Jesus.
Forgiveness as clothing? Through faith in Jesus that's exactly what it is. It's even better than Calvin Klein.
Then, once you have been clothed with Jesus, don't go back to bed! That's like putting on your fresh TJ Maxx clothes for work and then getting back into bed.
Act like it's daytime!
Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone acted like daytime was nighttime? How would your coworkers feel if you brushed your teeth in the water fountain at work? How many men would you meet at the nightclub other than Bob the Janitor? Would your boss would be so keen about wearing your footie pajamas at the investment meeting. How would the other drivers on Six Forks feel if you were sleeping while you were driving? Although, I'm pretty sure that fireflies would be just fine with you trying to catch them in the hot sun.
It doesn't make sense to do nighttime things during the day. Paul tells us that it's the same spiritually. Since it is almost day, we need to act like it's day! We must stop living in darkness. He says, 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.
In other words, stop it! Take off the coat of drunkenness. Get rid of that old, sinful relationship. Throw out the sailor language. Cast aside fears and doubts! Put on the love of Jesus. Live for Jesus. Now is the time!!!
It starts in the heart. Read with me verse 14 again, "Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh." In other words, stop worrying so much about earthly things!
"But, pastor," you might say, "that's hard to do during Christmas. If I stop worrying about earthly things, then, I'm going to miss an awesome deal on a pair of diamond earrings."
Yes, you might. But if you don't worry about spiritual things, you may miss out on the diamond studded streets of heaven. I'd rather pay three dollars more for a pair of Doc Martins and be in heaven, then save a bit and endanger my faith!
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to get kids to go to bed the closer it gets to Christmas? They get so excited, they can't sleep! And the night before Christmas? They just want to stay up all night, watch the presents arrive, hand off a few cookies and rip off the wrapping paper before you can even put a scoop or Folgers into the coffee maker!
Wouldn't it be amazing if that was how we prepared for Christ's second coming? If we with tepid excitement, we came to church to prepare our faith. If we happily sat our kids down, to prepare their hearts for Jesus. If we asked for another handful of five more invitations to our Christmas service, because it's so exciting to prepare for Jesus' return!
Brothers and sisters, get ready. Prepare now. Get ready for Christmas. Get ready for Christ. Get ready for your salvation! Amen.