In our Adult Catechesis course, the Story of the Bible, we began by talking about worldviews. Everyone has a worldview. Actually, you probably have several because worldviews aren’t typically consistent in any one person. Our worldview is how we make sense of the world. It’s basically the stories that we tell ourselves (stories that were first told to us by others, typically) about how the world works and our place in it. Our worldview determines how we find meaning, purpose, and value, which gives direction to our lives.
To think about our worldview, I proposed five questions:
- Who are we?
- Where are we?
- When are we?
- What’s wrong?
- What’s the solution?
For this morning, on the first Sunday of Advent, I want to think for a bit about that middle question.
When are we?
In Romans 13, Paul is wrestling with this question. he has summarized all of human history down to two periods: one of dark and one of light, night and day. He says in verse 11, and you can see here how he’s wrestling with this question of “when are we?”:
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.Romans 13:11 (ESV)
Then he says in verse 12:
The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.Romans 13:12
Part of being a Christian is recognizing when we are and living accordingly. We’ve divided the story of the Bible into five acts in our adult catechesis course, and part of the point of that is to help us understand that living biblically, or living appropriately within the story of the Bible, means recognizing where we are in that story. If we’re supposed to be in Act Five, but we’re living like we’re in Acts One through Four, we’re not going to be living rightly or living biblically. We have to know when we are.
Similarly, Paul is saying at a moment in history where the darkness that preceded the coming of Christ is far gone, and the new day that has dawned with his birth, death, resurrection, and ascension is shining its light on the world. And so we have to make a choice.
Do we want to live like people of the night or like people of the day?
You see, most of us go through our lives believing these incredible truths about Jesus Christ and what he has done, about how the world has changed, is changing, and one day will change forever because of Jesus. But then what happens? What happens when we go back out these doors and into the world? For many of us, we live the new day hasn’t dawned. We live like it’s still nighttime. We live like Jesus didn’t come. And Paul is talking specifically about sins, but this where I want to jump over to Matthew 24 because the imagery there is a bit different.
Noah isn’t mentioned much in the New Testament, but he is mentioned here. The days of the coming of the Son of Man, a topic we won’t get into at the moment, is compared to the days of Noah.
For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.Matthew 24:37–39
Whatever Jesus means by the coming of the Son of Man here in Matthew’s Gospel, his comparison to Noah isn’t about sin. It’s actually far more terrifying than that. Just ask yourself, based on Matt 24:38, what were the people doing before the flood came?
For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,Matthew 24:38
To put that in other terms: they were getting on with life. Life was normal. Jesus isn’t talking about gross sin, which is certainly a danger to people of the light and antithetical to our claim that the world’s true light has come in Jesus Christ. He’s talking about the danger of normalcy.
The Danger of Normalcy
I know this as well as anyone, so this is another one of those sermons that are an exercise in public self-indictment. I am always preaching to myself, and if it happens to help you all, that’s great too. It’s very easy to walk back out those doors and return to a life that, by all worldly and cultural definitions, would be a normal life. But there’s something dangerous about that normalcy, not the least of which is the fact that this normalcy is defined by our culture and not the kingdom of God.
But you know what time it is, brothers and sisters. You know that the hour has come for you to wake out of sleep. I think here of Hume awakening Kant from his dogmatic slumber. The sleep Paul refers to isn’t physical sleep. It’s one of the mind. The malaise we all feel when we are comfortable. It’s the repetition in our lives that lulls us to sleep and never once gives us the chance to ask the question:
Am I living like Christ and his kingdom have come to this world?
Am I living like the new day has dawned, or am I living the same life I would be if Jesus had never come and there was no kingdom of God? This is the question I want you to wrestle with this morning.
What if Jesus hadn’t come?
Would your life be any different than it is right now? If your honest answer to that question is, “I don’t think my life would be much different. I’d probably still have the same job, the same hobbies, and spend my time the same way,” then now is the time for you to wake out of sleep. For there is no important event in the history of your life or anybody else’s life other than the coming of Jesus Christ, which we anticipate in this Advent season. And if his coming is the most important event in your life, then you need to live like that is true.
Let us walk properly as in the daytime.Romans 13:13
You need to walk properly as in the daytime because that’s what time it really is, and when we live like people of the darkness, whether that’s by sinning or by being lulled back to sleep by the normalcy of our lives, by eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, our lives say to the world that the light of the world hasn’t come. That Christmas never happened. That there is no new day.
But that new day has come. With the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord, a new day has dawned on this world. Much of the world is still in darkness. There is more light to come. But the light is here, and if call ourselves people who have seen that light, if we expect others to believe us and to see that light too, then we must live like it. We must wake out of sleep. We must cast off works of darkness and put on our Lord Jesus Christ, for our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed, and when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, he is bringing his salvation to those who walk in his light.