Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:13).
Yesterday, I came home for lunch to find my neighbor out in her flannel pajamas getting the mail at noon. To be fair, she works the night shift and sleeps until the late morning, so her alarm had just gone off and her day had just begun. Still, it was a bit disconcerting, if not alarming, to see someone in the middle of the day in flannel pajamas. It’s a bit like those work at home ads where they say you can earn over a $1000 a week and never get out of your bathrobe. To some that might be a picture of Paradise.
It just doesn’t seem appropriate, though. Even when we’ve factored in the night shift and telecommuting and all the other variables, pajamas are not proper attire for the day. Nor is sin proper attire for a baptized child of God who has been rescued from the dominion of darkness to live in the glorious light of Jesus. “Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-9).
The night is far gone; the day is almost at hand. That is the urgency of the Advent season. It is not the urgency of getting your shopping done, nor is it the urgency of a calendar crammed with activities so that you don’t know whether you are coming or going. The urgency is the coming of Christ in glory; He comes to judge the living and the dead, those who trust in Him and so live in Him even though they die, and those who do not, and so are dead even though they live.
The Advent call is to put off the works of darkness, cast off the bathrobe and the clothing of the night, and put on what befits the day, the “armor of light.” Another way of saying it would be, put off the old Adam with all his lusts and wicked desires, his reveling an drunkenness, his immorality and loose licentiousness, his quarreling and anger and jealousy. These are all the works of darkness and death. They are the result of the heart unbuckled from God and set against Him. They are our inheritance from Adam and our own contribution to humanity’s mess. Put them all away, the apostle says to us. Drown them in your Baptism. Those things do not fit you, nor do you look good wearing them. They are foreign to who you are in Jesus; they are not appropriate for the day and the light.
Put on the “armor of light.” Dress for the coming day. Things are tumbling forward to a day of endless light, like the 7th day in Genesis which had no night, no evening or morning, but an eternal day in the eternal Son who gives light and life to all. You are dressing to meet Jesus face to face. And what will you wear? What clothing show you at your best as the child of God that you are? Nothing else than the righteousness of Jesus Himself, His perfect, seamless robe that He gives you as a baptismal garment to wear every day until the Day of His coming. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). To be baptized is to wear Jesus as a robe, to be covered with His perfection and holiness. That’s how the Father wishes to see you, and how He delights in you.
We cannot clothe ourselves, nor can we fashion clothing that will cover our sin. You recall Adam and Eve in the Garden after their rebellion. They tried to cover their shame with self-stitched clothing. Fig leaves! A silly arrangement if ever there was one. Scratchy, for one thing. And then they dry up and fall off and once again you are exposed and ashamed. And that’s how it is with all our attempts to justify ourselves and to atone for the sins of our past. It is nothing more that fig leaves pasted over the embarrassing parts and you hope they say stuck on long enough. At the end of Genesis, God Himself provided the clothing for Adam and Eve. Animal skins. What sort of animal, it doesn’t say, but I like to think it was a lamb. The first sacrificial blood shed, the first vicarious victim to die for our sin. Only the Son of God Himself, come in our human flesh, can clothe our fallen humanity with a clothing suitable for the day.
Know what hour it is; the hour has come to wake up. No more punching the snooze button for just a little more shut eye. Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. If that was true 1900 years ago, how much more is it true for us today. We are standing at the threshold of the dawn of the new creation. Perhaps you and I will be privileged to see it with our own eyes. Wouldn’t that be something? Can you imagine being there for the world’s last day and the first day of the new creation? Can you imagine seeing the Lord face to face in all the brightness of His splendor, even more than when Peter, James, and John got a glimpse of that glory on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured? Yes, it will be a terrifying day. I can’t imagine how it could be any other way. The world will be doing its business and usual and then, without warning, Jesus will appear like thief in the night. I can’t imagine it not being a terrifying experience.
And yet it is, by Jesus’ own promise, a comforting experience, one for which to long and hope and anticipate and expect. He comes to save you, to rescue you. Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. Notice that the apostle doesn’t say “judgment” but salvation. What we believe will at last be seen. What we long for, we will finally have. What God has promised us in Christ, will be fully given to us – forgiveness and life.
Now think about it. Would you thank the fireman who saved you from a burning building by running back into the flames again? Would you thank the lifeguard who pulled you from the ocean by running back into the rip tide again? Would you thank your Savior, who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light by running back into the darkness? Of course not! That would be silly. That’s what the apostle Paul is saying to us here when he says, “Put on the the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
When I look at the month of December, I find it strange. The very season that is supposed to bring joy and peace to the hearts of men seems to bring anxiety and bitterness and despair. There are even counselors standing by waiting to help you deal with the pain. Why is that? Could it be that our consumptiveness, our idolatries, our immoralities, or drunkenness, and everything else that seems to go into the “holiday season” has left us spiritually debilitated? Instead of casting off the works of darkness, the world seems to revel in them as the days grow darker. Perhaps there’s a note of fatalism in it – “let’s eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” I recall the office Christmas party at the company where I worked which became such a scandal that the company discontinued it because it didn’t want to be responsible for the damage. That is no way to live, now that salvation is nearer to us now than ever before.
And that is the urgent spirit of this Advent season. It is restrained, focused, sober, alert, watchful, always at the ready. Christ is coming soon! Get out of those flannel pajamas and bathrobes and put on the armor of the day. Slip into your day clothes, your Baptism. You are ready for the Day.
In the name of Jesus,