Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advent Evening Prayer - Wednesday In the Week of Gaudete (The Third Sunday In Advent)

Luke 12:35-48; Isaiah 25:6-10

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Just like Adam and Eve, whose nakedness the LORD clothed with animal skins, shedding innocent blood that our First Parents might be saved from the consequences of their sin, so the LORD clothes us still, not with animal skins, but with the righteousness of His Holy, innocent Son Jesus Christ, who willingly became our Paschal Lamb to take away our sins and the sins of the entire world. Thus, when Jesus exhorts you to “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning,” He provides you both the clothing, His righteousness, and the oil, your faith which receives and trusts in the LORD’s forgiveness. And so, you are dressed. Christ has dressed you in His righteousness and holiness, having washed you clean of your sin and guilt in His holy, innocent shed blood. Now He exhorts you to “stay dressed.” Likewise, your lamps are, or at least were, burning. Truly, your Lord Jesus has given you your lamps and has filled them with the oil of faith and forgiveness. Now He exhorts you to “keep your lamps burning.”
How do you stay dressed and keep your lamps burning? By attending to the needful things and not being distracted and sidetracked by the cares, anxieties, pleasures, and pursuits of the world and your flesh. You are to be “like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast.” That is to say, you are to be doing all things that such servants would do expecting that their master might return home at any moment. What things are these? Well, that depends on your vocation. What has the LORD called you to do and given you to do? Are you a husband or a wife, a father or a mother, a son or a daughter? Are you a teacher, a nurse, an engineer? Are you a caregiver, a volunteer, a friend? Are you a mentor, an evangelist, a musician, one who cares for the altar and the sanctuary of the LORD? Do those things, whatever they might be, but do them as one who has been called, dressed, and filled with the oil of faith and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And, the only way that you can do these things is if you stay dressed and keep your lamps burning. Therefore, you must wash your robes in the blood of the Lamb in daily contrition, repentance, and faith in Christ and you must receive His gifts regularly and faithfully that you may persevere and be fruitful, that you may shine forth with the Light of the World in your Christian vocations, that other may see Christ in you and glorify Him.
Jesus’ first century audience would have understood His exhortation in light of the house churches in which they gathered in fellowship to hear the apostolic teaching, to pray the liturgy, and to receive the body and blood of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus’ exhortation is to not neglect this practice and reception and to not treat it lackadaisically as you await His coming. Your staying dressed and keeping your lamps full of the oil of faith and forgiveness is not a solitary or isolated practice, but it is a practice done in the community of the Church, your family of faith. Part of your watchfulness includes encouraging and exhorting your brothers and sisters in Christ to faithful watchfulness as you wait. The main thing, however, is that you live your life and bear the fruits of faith in Christ as if you knew the day and the hour He will return. If you live your life and trust in Him in this way, then you will be dressed and your lamps will be burning should He return even the second or third watch. Thus, what Jesus describes is not an occasional watchfulness, or an annual watchfulness, or even a weekly watchfulness, but an every-day-of-your-life watchfulness, anticipation, and expectation. For, the temptation is to live your life as if He is not coming soon and to become listless, lazy, and fruitless concerning your own faith as well as the faith of others.
But then, Jesus gives a specific exhortation to His Apostles and to His Pastors who are “stewards of the mysteries” in His Church until He returns. To be a steward is to be a servant and a manager. Pastors have been given stewardship and management of the Word of the LORD and the Blessed Sacraments in the Church, and of the flock entrusted to their care as well. Jesus says, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom His Master will set over His household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom His Master will find so doing when He comes.” Faithful pastors are much more concerned about faithful stewardship of the Lord’s gifts than they are about the wants, desires, and opinions of the people they have been called to serve. Pastors will have to give an account of their stewardship when the Lord returns in glory. Likewise, Pastors must be about their vocations, faithfully proclaiming the Word of the LORD in Law and Gospel and administering the Blessed Sacraments in accord with that Word. This is what Jesus exhorts pastors to be found doing when He comes. Therefore, pastors appreciate when their congregants pray for them and help them to remain faithful, even calling to their attention where they may have spoken incorrectly or mishandled the Blessed Sacraments. However, congregants must not tempt their pastors to bow to the wants, desires, and opinions of the world and the flesh any more than they should become listless, lazy, and fruitless concerning their own faith and the faith of others.
In total, these Words of our Lord are for us all, “everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” Let us treasure the gift of righteousness and faith that has been bestowed upon us by not neglecting these, but seeking out the Lord, His Word, and His Sacraments, hungering and thirsting for them, and shining forth with His Light in this world of darkness that others might know Him and join us in His kingdom that has come, that comes among us now, and that is coming on a day and hour we cannot know. Lord Jesus, preserve and keep us in faith and make us a blessing to others to the glory of your Name.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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