Text: Romans 13:11-14
11 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. 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.
During the Revolutionary War, a loyalist spy appeared at the headquarters of Hessian commander Colonel Johann Rall, carrying an urgent message. General George Washington and his Continental army had secretly crossed the Delaware River that morning and were advancing on Trenton, New Jersey where the Hessians were encamped. The spy was denied an audience with the commander and instead wrote his message on a piece of paper. A porter took the note to the Hessian colonel, but because Rall was involved in a poker game he stuffed the unread note into his pocket. When the guards at the Hessian camp began firing their muskets in a futile attempt to stop Washington's army, Rall was still playing cards.
Without time to organize, the Hessian army was captured. The battle occurred the day after Christmas, 1776, giving the colonists a late present--their first major victory of the war.
Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 21.
Colonel Johann Rall needed to be alert and wake from sleep!
Today we begin the Advent Season. Advent in the church year refers to the four Sundays before Christmas which is a time of prayer and fasting as we prepare to welcome the Christ child.
Advent in the general sense means - coming into being. So as we wait for the coming into being of the God/man Jesus Christ we also prayerfully consider this a time to wake from sleep ourselves, recognizing the coming King and the salvation that he brings.
Some of us are morning people and some evening people. It depends at times on habits and needs which one you are … and that also can change. As a young adult I was an evening person. I worked as a guitar teacher and largely finished work teaching at 9:00 pm in the evening. Some days after work, I went to the bar to play with my band getting home very late at 3:00 am. It wasn’t out of the question to get home and unwind, having a meal or watching a bit of TV. One morning at 5:30 am as I watched TV oblivious to the time my dad came down to leave for work. “What are you doing up so early?” He asked. “I haven’t been to bed yet was my reply.” You probably can imagine the look I got from him.
On the other hand, today I would see myself as a morning person. Not 5:00 am morning but up early and getting about the work of the day and by 11.00 pm I’m ready to go to sleep and rest having worked a full day.
Your schedule may vary. It might depend on age, life style, work, family, friends, or a number of issues. In years past even changing the service time on Sunday at Peace during the summer caused hardship to some members who couldn’t make the schedule work for them … hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock and going back to sleep.
The apostle calls us to wake: It’s time to get up!
11 … the time that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. Paul says: “It’s here!”
So what does Paul want you to see and why is now the time to wake?
In the Roman army the centurion’s staff quietly roused the soldiers with the day at hand. Sleep must leave them and rest turn to action. The beginning of the day meant armor, attention and duty and with this the Roman Empire was built in conquest of its enemies.
Lutheran study Bible pg. 1905
Paul calls believers to wake from sleep as well. We are called to get up! We are not to be lulled back into the slumbers of sin, death and the devil … no snooze button for the Christian. Get up and get ready for action!
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
We can all be creatures of habit. We can all fall back into slothful ways. On that beautiful Friday only a little more than a week ago with 70 plus degrees … I bagged the rest of my leaves and cut the grass one last time mulching the remaining leaves as I went. Today you can still see the lawns of some homes filled with leaves that no rake has touched, no mower mulched or bagger has bagged. Some people feel I’m sure that it is God’s desire to blow those leaves from their yard to mine. I’m not buying it!
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.
As Christians we too need to be ready for action. Advent prepares us for the one who has already come as we look forward to celebrating the coming of the Christ child and his work on our behalf. But, also to be prepared for his promised glorious return.
We are bound to sin in this life by our sinful nature and we live as children of darkness sleeping the day away and leaving the leaves unraked if you will.
Luther says of natural sleep:
“The sleeper sees nothing about him; he is not sensitive to any of earth’s realities. In the midst of them he lies as one dead, useless; as without power or purpose. Though having life in himself he is practically dead to all outside. Moreover, his mind is occupied, not with realities, but with dreams, wherein he beholds mere images, vain forms, of the real; and he is foolish enough to think them true. But when he wakes, these illusions or dreams vanish. Then he begins to occupy himself with realities; phantoms are discarded.
But of Spiritual sleep he says:
“So it is in the spiritual life. The ungodly individual sleeps. He is in a sense dead in the sight of God. He does not recognize—is not sensitive to—the real spiritual blessings extended him through the Gospel; he regards them as valueless. For these blessings are only to be recognized by the believing heart; they are concealed from the natural man. The ungodly individual [the one falling victim to the lies of the devil] is occupied with temporal, transitory things, such as luxury and honor, which are to eternal life and joy as dream images are to flesh-and-blood creatures”
Martin Luther, The Sermons of Martin Luther, vol 6 [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995], 11
Paul calls these temporal things orgies and drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality, quarreling and jealousy telling us that 12 the night is far gone; the day is at hand. So … cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Paul builds on this later in the Letter to the Ephesians in Chapter 6 calling us to put on the whole armor of God.
… fastening on the belt of truth, and the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 … taking up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
… and calls us all to do as the Season of Advent reminds us:
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
The full armor of God is put on when you put on Christ. As st. Paul says:
14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
In him you have full protection. The one who comes in weakness and humility as a babe in the manger will come again in glory and power to judge the living and the dead. Through this time of Advent with prayer and fasting we daily remember that we have put on Christ in Baptism and that we never take him off. His armor is your armor; His forgiveness is your forgiveness; his peace is your peace; His Kingdom is your kingdom.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.