Sermon for Advent 2
December 10, 2017
2 Peter 3:8-9
Patience to Endure
Are we there yet? You’ve have probably heard that saying many times from your children when they we young and you took a road trip. Such a question stems from impatience and not fully grasping the concept of time. We all know how children can get it in their minds that they want something and that they want it now. Patience is something that must to be learned. Likewise, a young child doesn’t really understand the difference between five minutes and five hours, so time as a measurement is beyond their grasp.
This time of the year, we can all become a little impatient as we wait for Christmas to arrive. We are anxious to get the tree set up and the decorations all hung. We get a little antsy to start seeing the presents appear under that tree, especially the ones that are for us. We count down those days until school break begins and we can sleep in and enjoy more time just doing what we want. And, of course, there is the day when we get to open all those gifts and enjoy what we anticipated. But each of these things are easy enough to wait for because they are marked by specific days on the calendar. We can count down to these and we know the moment when each will happen. We also have everything before us as a reminder that the day is just around the corner.
Peter writes this second letter to encourage the beloved to stand firm against those that are scoffing against the second coming of Christ. Already in the first century, there were those casting doubt as to whether Jesus would actually return again as He said He would. They looked at the faithful as foolish people just waiting for their Prince to come.
Certainly, there have been times and groups within or associated with the Church that have been foolish in their waiting. You have heard me talk of the Great Disappointment of 1844 when the Adventist movement declared the day of Jesus’ return. They abandoned all things and climbed the mountain on that day to wait for His arrival only to be disappointed. I’ve seen several predictions and smaller happenings similar to this in my own lifetime. One of the more widely known in recent years was the prediction of Herold Camping, a radio preacher from Texas that predicted Christ’s return in 2011, and when it didn’t happen, he modified the date, and then when it still didn’t happen, he reluctantly admitted that neither he nor anybody else could calculate that day. He and his followers were disappointed just as were the Adventists of the 19th century.
As we become impatient for the Lord’s return, and as we get frustrated with trying to figure out the timing of His return, and as we face those that scoff at our foolishness of gawking up at the heavens looking for the return of Jesus, Peter reminds us of a particular fact: “That with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” This reminder is not a conversion table such as we would use to convert standard measurements to metric. It is not that God operates with a clock whose hands move at a much slower pace. It is simply a reminder that, while God has encroached into time for our salvation and our perseverance, He is not confined by time, nor does He do things according to our time table. But that does not mean that God has not given us ways in which to mark the approach of Christ’s return.
In Mark 13, we read of Jesus using the fig tree as an example of the sign of the times: “As soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.” “These things,” are the things that begin with His crucifixion as the sun is darkened and the powers in the heavens are shaken. We have the wars and rumors of wars, the natural disasters, and even the false christs that lead even some of the faithful away. We are not looking for more clear signs or additional signs beyond what has already been given. The time is ripe and Jesus could come in judgment at any moment.
This Advent season, as in all Advent seasons, we look to the coming Christ. We look to the final coming in judgment as we look to His first coming in the manger. We can anticipate the second coming and be assured of its soon arrival because we are assured of His first coming. We anxiously await His arrival in judgment because with it comes our vindication of all that we have believed and confessed about the first coming in the flesh to be our surrogate and Savior.
It is St. Paul that reminds us in his letter to the Galatians (4:4-5) that it was “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” We also realize that God has appointed a time for the return of His Son and that time is within His counsel alone, for the angels don’t know when that day shall arrive, nor even does the Son, but only the Father. It is not a time to be calculated or derived but only anticipated as a day that is ripe for fulfillment. That day will come unannounced as a thief. As such, we must be found ready and not sleeping.
We may think that Jesus should return today. We may really want Jesus to return today. And we must anticipate that Jesus will return today. But should He not return today or return even in our lifetimes, we should not consider Him to be slow to fulfill His promise to return. But we should pray that we may be as patient as He.
I sometimes prefer to older language of the King James Bible to our modern English translations. Oftentimes in the King James, patience is translated rather as longsuffering. It is in many ways a better word for it literally describes what is happening. To be patient to suffer long while one waits. As much as we hate sin and wish to be free from its assault upon our lives here in time, God’s patience is a longsuffering over sin as well, all for the sake of those whom yet shall be saved. For God does not desire that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. God, patiently endures the ongoing battle against sin, death, and devil in this world even as the victory has already been won. Rather than call it quits for all those that have yet to repent, God suffers long as He waits to send His Son to bring about the culmination of our salvation. This He does out of continued love for those that will yet repent upon hearing God’s Word proclaimed to them from those sent to be heralds of Christ’s coming.
There is an aspect of the 19th century Adventist movements and the Herold Camping’s of the world that we should admire and emulate. They have a great imminent anticipation for the Lord’s return. They believed He was coming immediately and they had the confidence of His return. They may have been misguided over the idea of calculating the day, but they truly believed and greatly anticipated that the day was coming and was not so far off that they could put off being ready. And that becomes Peter’s point in this portion of his letter. “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these [things to take place], be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”
To be found without spot or blemish is to rely upon all that Jesus has done in His first Advent in the flesh and in His continued Advent through the means of grace. It is to be and to live as one baptized into Christ, whereby we have put off the old self (the sinful flesh) and put on the new, that is Christ and His righteousness. It is to trust that the birth that we are anticipating this season is all that we confess in the Creed: the birth of Jesus, who is true God begotten of the Father from eternity and also true man born of the Virgin Mary, who has purchased us from sin, death, and the power of the devil with His own precious blood, suffering, and death that we may be reconciled to the Father and live under Him in His kingdom. It is to live now as that son adopted by God that seeks to be obedient and of service to his Father.
It is also to exercise such forgiveness and reconciliation horizontally, that is, with our fellow man, as well. To be found at peace is to be found not harboring grudges or holding onto another’s sin, but to be as forgiving and as longsuffering even as our Father in heaven.
To be found properly awaiting the return of our Lord is to be found receiving and exercising the grace that continues to be bestowed through the Church. That is, to do just what you are doing this morning: confessing your sins and receiving absolution; praying for the conversion of those not yet saved; trusting the words of Christ that it is His true body and blood that you receive for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening and preservation of both your body and soul unto that day of Jesus’ return and on into eternity when our concept of time shall be changed and our anticipation of wants being fulfilled will be complete; and not being distracted by the scoffers, but instead, listening for the sound of the trumpet and looking for the return of Jesus upon the clouds in fulfillment of His promise.
God grant you to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Pt 3:18)