The Advents of Christ and the Call of God, Genesis 3:6-21; Mark 1:1-15; Revelation 3:14-22


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“The Advents of Christ and the Call of God”

Genesis 3:6-21; Mark 1:1-15; Revelation 3:14-22

December 22, 2019

Faith Presbyterian Church – Morning Service

Pr. Nicoletti

 

We continue our Advent series this morning. We have considered how the advents of Christ relate to the humility of God, the power of God, and the comfort of God. This morning we will consider together the advents of Christ and the call of God.

 

And once more, we will hear from three texts. One we heard from last Lord’s Day, but we will be looking at it this morning from a different angle.

 

Today we hear from Genesis three, Mark one, and Revelation three.

 

With that in mind, please do listen carefully, for this is God’s Word for us this morning.

First, from Genesis 3:6-21, where we enter the scene after the serpent had tempted Adam and Eve to eat the fruit that God had forbidden them to eat:

 

3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God [of Yahweh God] walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden. But Yahweh God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then Yahweh God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 Yahweh God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And Yahweh God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

 

Next, from Mark 1:1-15:

 

1:1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

 

And finally from Revelation 3:14-22, we hear a letter dictated by Jesus to the Apostle John:

 

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

 

From Genesis to Revelation, this is the Word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God)

 

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” [1 Peter 1:24-25]

 

Let’s pray …

 

[…]

 

Our texts this morning probably seem like odd ones for the fourth Sunday of Advent – for the Sunday before Christmas. Maybe they even seem like disappointing ones to you.

 

Genesis three and Revelation three are odd in some ways, but there’s a Gospel reading too, so maybe you let those slide. But then you look at the Gospel reading … and it’s from Mark?

 

Who preaches from Mark in the lead-up to Christmas?

 

Matthew and Luke each give you the story of the Nativity as well as the events leading up to, and coming after, Jesus’s birth. John gives you his prologue on the incarnation. But Mark just skips the whole thing! Why look at Mark chapter one on the Sunday before Christmas?

 

Well … this morning I want to argue that Mark, by jumping right to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, can actually in some ways help us better see the meaning of the Nativity – the meaning of the birth of Christ.

 

So hang in there with me for a little while and let’s see where these texts bring us.

 

What all our texts have in common is that they all show us how God comes to his people in order to call them to himself.

 

They all show us how God comes to his people in order to call them to himself.

 

But they also show us more than that. Because they show us what it looks like when God comes to his people to call them to himself in a fallen world – in a sinful world – in a world that is in rebellion against God … in a world where even his people often reject God’s call on them.

 

And as we consider each of these texts, a three-fold pattern emerges.

 

First, when God comes to his sinful people, he always calls them to repentance.

 

Second, when God comes to his sinful people, our response is often to deny our need for repentance.

 

And third, when God comes to his sinful people, he seeks to cleanse them from their sin if they would repent and believe.

 

So: When God comes to his sinful people, he always calls them to repentance.

 

When God comes to his sinful people, our response is often to deny our need for repentance.

 

And when God comes to his sinful people, he seeks to cleanse them from their sin if they would repent and believe.

 

We see that pattern in all three of our texts: Genesis three, Mark one, and Revelation three.

 

This morning I want to consider how we see that pattern in these texts, and then what it has to do with Christmas, and what it has to do with us.

 

Let’s begin with Genesis chapter three.

 

In Genesis chapter three our first parents rebel against God, their Maker. They eat of the fruit that God has called on them not to eat. And then God arrives – he comes to his people. He comes to his now sinful people.

 

And the first thing he does is call them to repent.

 

Adam and Eve flee from God, and God asks them “Where are you?”

 

Now, of course, God knows where they are. So why does he ask? God’s question there, in many ways, is really an invitation. He is calling them to come out and stand before him. God’s sinful people, for the first time, have run away from him when he came to them, rather than running towards him. And God’s first words in response are a call for them to turn around and come to him – to repent (since “repent” literally means “to turn”) and to come towards him.

 

Then, when Adam explains why they are hiding, God’s next response is again an invitation – a call – to confession and repentance. He asks two questions: “Who told you that you were naked?” and “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

 

God again calls on Adam and Eve to repent – he calls them to come out to him and to confess what they have done.

 

When God comes to his sinful people, he always calls them to repentance – to turn away from their sin and towards him. That is the first thing we see in Genesis three.

 

But then, right on its heels, we see our second point in Genesis three: That when God comes to his sinful people, our response is often to deny our need for repentance.

 

And we see that in multiple stages with Adam and Eve.

 

First, when Adam and Eve sin and bring guilt and shame on themselves, their very first response is to try to cover over their shame themselves. Before their sin, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. Now, having embraced sin and death they feel shame over who they are, and their first response is to try to cover their shame themselves. In verse seven we read that rather than call out to God and repent of their sin and shame, they grasp at fig leaves and try to sew them together into loincloths to cover their nakedness … all in a feeble attempt to hide – to deny – their need for repentance.

 

But when God comes, they know the fig leaves are not enough. So what do they do? Now do they repent – now do they own their sin and turn from it?

 

No. They don’t. Instead they hide. Hiding from God, of course, is stupid. But, sin in general is stupid, so this should come as no surprise. [Collins, 173-174]

 

More than that, their hiding from God is especially sad – particularly when we compare it to how they must have run to God every time he came to them before their rebellion. [Collins, 174]

 

Rather than confess their sin, Adam and Eve again try to deny their need for repentance – now by hiding from God.

 

And finally, when God calls them to repent – when he calls them to come out, when he asks them if they have sinned, yet again their response is to deny their need for repentance.

 

Adam responds by telling God that it’s not he who needs to repent, but the woman. Eve responds by saying it’s not she who needs to repent, but the serpent.

 

Again and again in this one text we see that when God comes to his sinful people, their response is often to deny their need for repentance.

 

But then, we also see our third point: When God comes to his sinful people, he seeks to cleanse them from their sin if they would repent and believe.

 

We considered this last week, but it comes into play again this morning.

 

Even in their sin, even in their denial, God then spells out for Adam and Eve exactly what his intention is for them. Judgment is coming upon them, yes. Discipline is coming upon them. They will face consequences for their sin. They have brought those consequences upon themselves. But in all of it – through all of it – God’s intention is to cleanse his people.

 

In verse fifteen he promises a Savior – one from the line of the woman who will crush the head of the serpent, and release Adam and Eve and their descendants from the curse of sin and death.

 

God promises to cleanse his people from their sin if they would only repent and believe. And finally, as God proclaims that to them, Adam responds in faith.

 

In verse twenty he names his wife Eve, the mother of all living, as an act of confessing his faith in God’s promise, in verse fifteen, that through the seed of the woman life would come, and life would reign, rather than the death that they deserved. [Collins, 174]

 

God responds by clothing Adam and Eve in animal skins in verse twenty-one. Last Lord’s Day we pointed to practical help and comfort those offered. But they had a symbolic meaning as well.

 

For here we have the first animal sacrifices – the first animals slaughtered as a result of human sin. Many would follow. And all, the author of Hebrews tells us, pointed forward to the sacrifice of Christ. All pointed to the cleansing work Christ would accomplish in his death on the cross.

 

Adam and Eve repent and believe in Genesis 3:20, and God’s response, in verse twenty-one, is to clothe them, to cover their shame himself, and to point them to Christ, who would bring them ultimate cleansing and freedom.

 

When God comes to his sinful people, he always calls them to repentance. When God comes to his sinful people, our response is often to deny our need for repentance. And when God comes to his sinful people, he seeks to cleanse them from their sin if they would repent and believe.

 

And this pattern here in Genesis three is significant, because this is, after all, the very first time that God comes to his people after the fall. We have been focusing this month on the comings – the advents – of Christ: before the incarnation, in the incarnation, in our lives today, and then at his final coming.

 

And as we think of the comings of Christ to his people, Genesis three in some ways stands as the prototypical advent of Christ. Because it is the same pattern we see emerge again and again – including in his incarnation.

 

It can be easy for us to miss this, but it really is crucial that we see it clearly: The God who shows up in Mark one is the same God who showed up in Genesis three.

 

Both texts show us the same God. Both texts show him coming to his sinful people. And both texts show him working in the same way.

 

Because just as he did in Genesis three, when God the Son shows up in the person of Jesus Christ, he again shows up calling on his people to repent.

 

We see this first in the ministry of John the Baptist. God sends a forerunner before him, to prepare the way – to begin the preaching that God himself would do. And his message, we read in Mark 1:4 was a call to repentance and a promise of cleansing for all who did repent. We read that: “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

 

And then Jesus comes. And Mark flies through the preliminaries, and then comes to the content – the summary of what Christ has to proclaim to his sinful people. And what is it?

 

In verses fourteen and fifteen we read: “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”

 

“Repent and believe in the gospel.”

 

When God comes to his sinful people, he always calls them to repentance – he always calls them to turn from their sin and rebellion, and to turn towards him.

 

We see that right there in Mark 1:15. Jesus came to call his people to repentance.

 

And the other two points played out in the rest of Jesus’s ministry as well.

 

As Christ came to his sinful people, their response was often to deny their need for repentance. This was the pattern throughout Christ’s ministry: scribes, Pharisees, priests, who denied their need for repentance … who reached for fig leaves by trying to cover over their sin and shame with hypocritical and self-serving good works … who tried to hide their hearts from the gaze of Christ … who told Jesus over and over again that it wasn’t they who needed to repent, but those tax collectors and those sinners and those prostitutes over there who needed to repent. Throughout the ministry of Jesus we watch people walk in the initial pattern of their first parents: denying their need for repentance.

 

But then we also see that Jesus, in coming to his sinful people, seeks to cleanse them from their sin, if they would repent and believe. We see this in the ministry of Jesus where he heals the sick, cleanses the unclean, and forgives the repentant. We see it most clearly in the crucifixion of Jesus, where he dies and is broken, that his people might be forgiven and made whole.

 

In the incarnation of Christ, the beginning of which we see in Mark chapter one, we see that again, when God – when Christ – comes to his sinful people, he comes to call them to repentance, that their response is often to deny their need for repentance, but that still Christ comes seeking to cleanse them from their sin if they would repent and believe.

 

We see that throughout the Gospels. We see especially the first step of that in Mark chapter one.

 

And what I want to claim this morning is that that pattern in general, and that first step in particular, should help us see more clearly the meaning of Christmas. What I want us to consider this morning is that the beginning of Mark’s Gospel gives us a lens to more clearly grasp the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, and the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, and the beginning of John’s Gospel. What I want us to see is that the preaching of Christ helps us better understand the birth of Christ.

 

Because Christ did not start calling his sinful people to repentance only after John the Baptist was arrested. In his very act of coming to his people in the incarnation, Jesus Christ was calling sinners to repent.

 

From the moment of his birth – even before his birth – Jesus’s presence here on earth was a call to turn away from sin and towards him – towards God. And from the very beginning people had to choose.

 

From the beginning, we see people understanding the birth of Jesus as a call to turn towards him. Shepherds turn from their flocks and come running towards Jesus. Magi abandon their homes and journey towards Jesus. The birth of Christ – the coming of God to his people, was itself a call to repent and believe, long before Jesus uttered the words in Mark 1:15.

 

And of course others immediately denied that call. When Herod heard the call through the Magi, his response was not to come in repentance, but to deny the need for him to bow before Christ. His response was to try to kill Jesus.

 

But to those with eyes to see, the very presence of Jesus was a sign that God would save – that God would deliver and cleanse his people. When Simeon saw the baby Jesus he proclaimed “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” [Luke 2:29-32]

 

In the Nativity – in the birth of the baby Jesus, already there is contained the proclamation of Mark 1:14 & 15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

 

The great English hymn sums it up well, as it urges us to behold the newborn Christ in the manger and then says to us: “Good Christian, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.”

 

The question is: Do you hear that?

 

When you consider the truth of Christmas – when you consider the Nativity of Christ, when you hear the Christmas story read or you reflect on the birth of Jesus, and when, in your mind, you gaze upon the infant Christ in the manger … do you hear the silent Word pleading? Do you hear him saying to you “Repent and believe”?

 

Because that is what the presence of the infant Christ says. That is one of the chief meanings of the Nativity. Because when God comes to his sinful people, he always calls them to repent.

 

That was true in Genesis three. It was true in Mark one. It was true in the birth of Jesus Christ.

 

And it’s also true for each and every one of us right now.

 

Because Christ has not stopped coming to his people.

 

And we are reminded of that in our reading from Revelation chapter three: the letter to the church in Laodicea.

 

Let me read that passage again, to refresh our memories – Revelation 3:14-22:

 

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

 

Here again the same pattern emerges: Jesus approaches his sinful people, and he calls them to repentance – he says it right there in verse nineteen.

 

But when he comes to them, once again, their sinful response is to deny their need for repentance. We read it in verse seventeen: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” This is the response of the Pharisees. This is the initial response of Adam and Eve.

 

And yet, even so, Christ comes to his sinful people seeking to cleanse them of their sin if they would repent and believe. We read in verse eighteen that he wants to give them white garments to clothe themselves so that the shame of their nakedness might not be seen – just as he did for Adam and Eve – just as Christ offered for those who would follow him.

 

We see this same pattern emerge in Revelation chapter three. But key in understanding the significance of that, is recognizing the timing. This letter is written to the Church in Laodicea. But it is not unique to them as our other texts are. God only came to his people by walking in the garden in the cool of the day once, back in Genesis three. He doesn’t do that in the same way today. Christ walked the earth and called out for people to repent back in the first century, but he’s not doing that now. But Revelation three tells us of a reality that is still at work even today – even now.

 

In Revelation three Jesus describes how he comes to his people now by the Holy Spirit. And so, while Jesus may not be walking in the Garden or in the streets of Galilee today, he is right now standing at your door and knocking.

 

Remember: this letter is written to a church – to those who are supposed to be Christ’s people, but who are denying their need for repentance. Christ comes to his people, and he calls them to repentance, and he calls them to open the door and to invite him in, that he might cleanse them and commune with them.

 

The question is, as he does that: How will you respond? What will you do?

 

It’s Advent. It’s almost Christmas. It’s the time when we focus on the coming of Christ. And when you consider that event – when you consider that truth, do you hear the call to repentance? Do you feel how Christ’s presence in the manger and his presence at the door of your heart right now, are both calls to repentance?

 

I ask that for those of you who may be faltering in your faith. I ask that for those of you who may be lukewarm. I ask that for those of you who do not have faith. I ask that for those who have not taken your faith seriously enough.

 

But I also ask that for every Christian here this morning.

 

Do you hear the call to repent – and will you accept it?

 

The first of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses was: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

 

Repentance in the Christian life is not a one-time thing. The entire life of a believer is to be characterized by repentance. Again and again Christ calls us to repent – both in his Nativity, and also every time he draws close to us.

 

Where do you avoid God’s call to repentance?

 

What area of life is it for you? Maybe it’s an area you know sin is at work, you know you are living in ways that do not honor God, or ways that hurt those around you, or ways that embrace selfishness and brokenness – you know you are doing it, but you’ve just made peace with it. You’ve decided to leave it alone. You’ve decided not to mess with it but to just try to keep it quarantined as best you can in its own space in your heart and life.

 

Or maybe it’s an area of your life or heart where you don’t even want to examine it too deeply because you’re worried about what you might find – about what conclusions you might come to. You know there’s a problem. It might be your sin. But you avert your eyes from it. You don’t want to look. You’d rather not know what lurks there in your heart or mind.

 

In Advent, Christ comes and calls us to look. In Advent Christ calls us to own our sin and to repent. He does it in our hearts now. He does in in the manger as we consider and celebrate the Nativity. He did it even back in Genesis three.

 

One theologian puts it like this – he says “The first advent is in Genesis 3, when Yahweh comes in the Spirit […] calling for Adam and confronting his sin. Since then, every time the Lord of light comes, it means exposure, shame, judgment. Every time the light comes, we are tempted to reach for fig leaves. During this Advent season, resist that temptation. Don’t blame others for your sins. Don’t try to cover up your sins. Don’t turn from the light but towards it. Ask God to shine the light of Jesus into your darkness to overcome the darkness. Because the light is life, even when it feels like death.” [Leithart, post]

 

We are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus – the coming of our Lord – the light shining in the darkness. We are about to celebrate Christmas. But let us not do it hypocritically. Let us not celebrate the coming of Christ with our festivities while we deny his coming with our lives.

 

Christ comes, and even as a baby in the manger he calls out: “Repent and believe.”

 

Where do you need to repent and believe? And with that, where do you need to receive afresh Christ’s cleansing work? Where do you need to confess your sin, that Christ might free you from it? Where do you need to trust him anew, that he might clothe you with animal skins – with white garments that will cover your shame? Where do you need to receive the forgiveness that he came to achieve for you – that he was born to achieve for you?

 

Where do you need to repent and believe so that you can receive that cleansing and healing now?

 

And as you see those areas in which you need to repent, do not delay.

 

Because we are reminded that the same Lord who confronted Adam and Eve, the same Christ who came and cried out “Repent and believe”, the same Christ who stands at your door right now and knocks – that same Christ will come again and stand in judgment over you regarding how you responded to his call.

 

That might seem remote. That might seem unreal. But Jesus warns us that whether at the time of our death or at the time of his return, we will stand before him. And at that moment, how we responded to his call will be more important than just about anything else in our lives. And so we must resist the temptation to be lulled into complacency.

 

Jesus tells a parable in Luke 12, and in it he says that some will be tempted to be like a servant whose master has gone on a trip, and after a time the servant “says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk,” In other word, he neglects the call of his master because he does not see him before him. And yet, Jesus goes on, “the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful.”

 

Jesus’s call to repentance is not an idle one. It’s one you will have to answer for. At a day you do not know, because of your death or the return of Christ, you will stand before your Master. And he will say: I called you to repent. I did it in my Word. I did it in my incarnation. I did it by my Spirit in your heart. How did you respond?

 

What account will you then give?

 

We gather, this week, in our hearts and minds around the manger of Christ. We consider his birth. We consider how he came – and he came to save us.

 

We consider how he came to make himself poor, that we might be made rich. We consider how he came to cleanse us and to clothe us – to free us from the tyranny of the devil, to remove our guilt, and to cover our shame.

 

As we stand before the manger we stand before the greatest gift God has offered humanity: Christ our Lord and Savior.

 

Our Christmas time should be a time of celebration – it should be a time of rejoicing and thanksgiving.

 

But it should also be a time to hear afresh the call of Christ – the call to repent and believe – the call to turn again from our sin and to cling even closer to Christ – the call to forsake our sin and renew our commitment to the Lord.

 

And so, as you consider the coming of Christ in his Nativity, as you look upon him, do not tell yourself that you are rich, that you have prospered, that you need nothing. But realize again that without Christ you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

 

As you reflect on how Christ has been born and has come close to you, do not reach for fig leaves, do not hide from God’s gaze, do not try to draw everyone’s attention away from your sin by pointing out the sins of others. But instead, receive from Christ the spiritual gold he offers you, refined by fire so that your spiritual debts may be paid, and you may be truly rich. Receive the white garments he holds out for you, so that you may clothe yourself and your shame may be covered by him. And receive the salve he offers, to anoint your eyes, so that you may see the truth more clearly.

 

As you consider that we serve a God who comes to his people, do not close of your heart from the story of Christ’s birth, but look, and see that even now, even this morning, Christ stands at the door and knocks. If you hear his voice and open the door, then he will come to you, and eat with you, and be with you. For he is a God who comes to his people.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sermon draws on material from:

Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermons for Advent and the Christmas Season. Translated by Irene Edmonds, Wendy Mary Beckett, and Conrad Greenia OCSO. Edited by John Leinenweber. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2007.

Collins, C. John. Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary and Theological Commentary. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006.

Connell, Martin. Eternity Today: On the Liturgical Year. Vol 1. New York, Continuum.2006.

Leithart, Peter J. Revelation 1-11. International Theological Commentary. New York, NY: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2018.

Leithart, Peter J. Facebook post. December 7, 2019. (https://www.facebook.com/Leithart/photos/rpp.99543211466/10156270830161467/)

Poythress, Vern S. The Return of the King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2000.

Rayburn, Robert S. “Opening the Door to Jesus Christ: Revelation 3:14-22.” Sermon Preached October 26, 2008. http://www.faithtacoma.org/revelation/2008-10-26-am

Wright, N. T. Revelation for Everyone. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.