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“Casting off the works of Darkness”

“Casting off the works of Darkness” Sermon by The Rev. Tracy Dugger

Advent 1 Year A, Sunday December 1 2019

Ready or Not: Here we are at the beginning of a brand new church year. It’s our first Sunday of Advent, the season of preparing out hearts, homes, and communities for the coming King of Christ. But some of us are already exhausted. Before the Turkey was even gobbled, BAM! Christmas, I mean… Who am I kidding? At least in the stores I shop in, sugar skulls and Halloween candy were one aisle over from the Christmas lights in October!

But this consumption of glitter and sparkle that all too quickly fades and tarnishes, isn’t the kind of preparation Advent is about. It’s all to easy in this season to limit our preparations only to preparing for Christmas. I think we limit ourselves to preparing for the nativity because it’s the kind of preparation we are comfortable with. Babies are cute, and rather harmless, although very noisy, and a lot needy.

Preparing for Jesus coming as a King, that’s a whole lot more daunting…

Jesus says, “It will be like in the days of Noah, people will be eating and drinking, and making merry right up until the day comes.” And yes the day is Coming! Paul tells us the day of the Lord is nearer now than ever before. The night is far gone…the glimmer of the dawn is on the horizon. A new day is coming…and we have a choice… We can continue living in darkness. We can continue to believe that the darkness of the world covers over our flaws, covers over our sins, our harriedness, our impatience, our participation in consumption of goods and resources as if there were no account that we must one day give. Or we can wake up, and acknowledge what time it is. Do you know what the theme of the first week of Advent is? Today we call it peace, but before the modern rebrand the first week of Advent marked was themed as DEATH!

Gee is it any wonder that the world skips over a season that says yes death and judgement will come and the king of kings will come riding on the clouds. The world easily ignores that all that and more is coming, and eagerly races to go look at the baby and says “Gee isn’t he so cute.”

And yet, we as a called out people are charged with a promise that we will see the Son of Man, Jesus coming not in a manger, but in a cloud with power and great glory. This is our promise. Jesus is coming back. And our task is to Stand up, and raise our heads because our redemption is near.

But if we’re honest, some of us are too tired to stand. Some of us are physically, mentally, and emotionally worn out. We’ve become spiritually stooped. Unable to lift our heads to look with joy to the coming Lord….and to you Paul says. “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light”

The works of darkness in the world can pile on us like a weight. An excellent example of this burden comes from a children’s movie. By a show of hands how many of you have seen Disney Pixar’s “The Incredibles.” This will tell me how much I need to explain…

Mr. Incredible is a very strong man, in fact “super” strong man who resents being forced by society to live an ordinary life. So he goes looking for adventure and fulfillment, and for a time, he finds it. But all is not as it seems and eventually he finds himself caught in the lair of his nemesis. And these black blobby balls shoot out at him. And I see these as a metaphor for the sins and darkness of the world. Mr. Incredible for a brief time can dodge and weave and evade this black blobs of yuck, but eventually they stick, and they expand and grow. Mr. Incredible is overcome, bowed low, unable to escape from the darkness under his own power. Not so super now. And its this image of being overcome by darkness, overcome by the anxieties of the world, overcome by the consequences of sin and suffering in the world that I see in many of us.

To escape this weight, we need to shine a light on our reality. We need to cast off the works of darkness that are clinging to us…Paul says we must live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. If we’re weighed down by the burdens of sin and shame our first step is to allow God to shine the light on our hearts. And then once we realize the reality of where we are, the depth of the whole we’re in…the first step in getting out of any whole is to stop digging.

If we are drunks, we have to stop drinking, if we’re in debt we have to cut out excess spending, if we’ve indulged our appetite to the point of gluttony, we have to focus on our nutritional needs. If we’re adulterers we have to amend our ways and step away from temptation. If we’re angry all the time and our lives are filled with conflict, we have to cease our quarreling. And the remedy to our quarreling is found in addressing ourselves not in fixing others.

And it is this weight, this discomfort and this pain with the state of ourselves that we try and shift and soothe with gifts, glitter, and holiday experiences…And yet the catharsis and relief doesn’t last and Christmas becomes another empty burden…That is why in this season of Advent we need to do more than just rush to adore the baby in the manger. We need to do more than pay lip service to the King coming from clouds…and in between the whiplash of Jesus in the cloud and Jesus 9in the creche, we need to stop at Jesus on the cross…And gaze upon the Son of man who knows our burdens are to heavy, who knows the weight of the sin of the world, who knows how sticky and relentless our temptations are. He knows that weight because he bore it. For us, so we wouldn’t have to.

If the task of standing up & raising your head to see your redemption drawing near seems impossible…perhaps its time to admit you’re not Mr. Incredible. We are not supers that by our own power and strength can unburden ourselves and save the world. No we need a Savior for that…How do we let go? How do we escape the dark, sticky entrapment of sin. We keep saying Yes to Jesus. We put on the armor of light. We put on the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. We turn not just once, but we keep turning to Jesus on the cross and cast the works of darkness on the one who can take it, on the one who indeed has already born it for us once and for all, and for us…

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