Coming to Completion with Christ
Rev. Kurt Lantz 2 Advent C Philippians 1:2-11
December 05, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear saints in Christ Jesus with the Bishops and Deacons,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christmas is yet a little way off so that, for the most part, the panic has not reached a fevered pitch. But we are well into our preparations to celebrate the coming of Christ. You can see it in the Christmas lights as you walk down your street in the evenings. You have probably received the emails saying that your online order has been received and that it is being shipped and that you should expect delays due to high volume and the effects of the pandemic on transportation. Those who ordered early are probably thankful that they did so and that things are well under way.
There is something else that is well under way in preparation for an upcoming celebration. It is God’s work in you. And that is worth being thankful for. The Apostle Paul wrote to the members of the Christian congregation in Philippi, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6).
The Day of Jesus Christ is coming. He is coming and we don’t know when, but His preparations are well underway, and His preparations are for you. He is all ready and He is making you ready for His coming. We might feel anxious about the coming of Jesus to judge both the living and the dead. We might not feel that we are prepared. But He is the one making the preparations. Because He is the one preparing us we shouldn’t be at all worried. He is preparing us for the glory of eternal life with Him and He will make sure that all the preparations are completed for that day.
Just like you might prepare your home for a Christmas celebration, with cleaning and decorating, so our Lord is at work preparing you, cleansing you and adorning you. On the Second Sunday of Advent the Gospel Lesson directs our attention to John the Baptist who worked to prepare the way of the Lord’s first coming, proclaiming a baptism of repentance in the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). There is cleansing and adorning.
The cleansing waters of Baptism take away sins. They cleanse from every spot and stain. They remove all impurity. Having received the grace of God in baptism, our lives of repentance are then adorned in outward works and actions that are beautiful in His sight. Baptism drowns the old sinful Adam in us to allow a new man to emerge and live before God in the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Small Catechism. IV. 4).
John the Baptist helped people to figure out what those adorning works of the new life in Christ look like in daily living. He called it, bearing fruits in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8). They are the kind of things that we do and the kind of things that are on our minds in this season: sharing clothing and food with those who are in need; not overcharging; not threatening; finding contentment in what we have been given (Luke 3:10-14).
These are the things that reveal God is at work bringing us to completion in preparation for the coming of Christ. He is graciously forgiving our sins and that is generating works of love and mercy toward others. And this assures us that He will continue to perfect us for the coming Day.
Paul pointed this out to the Christians in Philippi. As they shared together in the forgiveness of sins freely given in the Gospel, so they were also sharing in love and good works for one another. As Paul was in prison for preaching the Gospel to them and others, they were sharing with him both the forgiveness of sins in Christ and persecution from the world. They did their own time praying for him. They continued on the good work in Philippi that he was prevented from doing. As Paul testified about Christ at his trials, they testified about Jesus Christ through the trials and sufferings of their own lives.
We have the opportunity to do the same things as partners of Christians who are imprisoned around the world, as brothers and sisters in Christ with Bishop Pohjola facing charges in Finland and others far and near. We are also partakers of grace with people who are imprisoned with illness and facing death, shut in their homes and unable to be with us here today. We can serve time with them in prayer and do on their behalf the good works that they are prevented from doing.
This is our partnership in the Gospel (Philippians 1:5). This is living in the same forgiving grace of God. This is God perfecting and completing us for the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is bearing fruits in keeping with repentance and being adorned for the great celebration to take place when our Lord comes.
The Season of Advent reminds us that this preparation is underway, this perfecting is taking place as we share together in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we receive the grace of God, first poured upon us in our Baptism and renewed every time we confess our sins and are absolved in the name of Jesus, He is cleansing us to be adorned with the righteous deeds that He accomplishes through us.
They are the works of Jesus Himself who did them for you and for me. He spent time in prayer for us. He was imprisoned and executed for us, that we might be forgiven for our reluctance to do the same for others. He died for us and He rose again that we might share in that new life through the grace of Baptism. He has shared His food and clothing, covering us with His righteousness and feeding us His holy body and blood.
This is your perfecting as Christ cleans house, washing away every sin and stain. Every sinful action and every selfish inaction, is forgiven and removed from you so that you are free of every speck from wall to wall, attic to basement. And then, out comes the holly and the ivy. As the Christmas song tells us, its white flower pointing to the holiness of Jesus and its red berry to His sacrificial blood. These deck the halls of our lives as we live out the holiness of Jesus before the world and make loving sacrifices to serve our neighbour.
Is it not a beautiful thing, and is Paul not setting the right pattern for us: to thank God that He is bringing us to perfection, and to pray that He would continue this good work that He has begun in us. For we know that there is still room for our love to abound more and more. There is still opportunity to glorify God in this life until our dying breath or the blast of the angelic trumpet.
The way is being prepared for the coming the Lord. He is preparing us through baptism and the preaching of repentance in the forgiveness of sins. Preparations are well underway. Thank the Lord for that. And He will get it done. He will bring it to completion on the Day that is His, the Day of His coming, the Day that we will see complete perfection in His holy face and be completely perfected for eternal life with Him, to the praise and glory of God.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.