Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we walk toward Your manger, we’re becoming a bit impatient. We want instant gratification. We want the joy of Christmas now. We want the happiness of eternal life this very minute. We don’t want to wait any longer. And yet, such anticipation breeds character in us. It makes us appreciate You even more when You come with Your blessings into our heart and homes. So, today, give us a spirit of true patience leading to lasting joy! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE COMING CHRISTMAS KING!
TEXT: James 5: 7-11
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I had to run to the stores and the mall a couple of times this past week. Even though I went there at off times, the traffic was heavy and the people were impatient at best and surly at worst. Sad to say, I found their attitude rubbing off on me. Then came the hassle of setting up the tree and decorating the house. Now I know it is supposed to be fun. It is supposed to evoke feelings of joy within, but just thinking about it gave me a head-ache. All I could imagine was: once I set it up, I’ll have to take it all down in a few weeks. I was starting to feel like a grinch.
But, then something happened. I began to think: “I’m doing this to myself. I’m making a celebration of Christ’s birth into work.” And with that admission, my attitude changed! I would do a little each day and concentrate on enjoying it. Debra Ann and I would take our time and find fulfillment in the doing—not just the end result. And so we are….
Today is the “pink” candle Sunday of Advent. It is the Sunday when we focus on the joy of the season and not just the work involved. And it mirrors life as a whole. For the joy of living is in the living, not in just achieving notches in one’s belt. So, today I want to encourage each of you to:
FIGHT IMPATIENCE WITH JOY!
You’ve all heard the clichés—“patience is a virtue” and how about that old saw: “take it one day at a time”? Whenever I hear someone say such things I immediately think: “Ah, it’s easier said than done.” But then, the Apostle James steps up to provide some Godly direction. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.”
Obviously James isn’t merely referring to a Christmas celebration. In fact, we don’t even know if they had them at the time he wrote these words. No, he’s talking about Christ coming back to earth to judge the living and the dead. He’s talking about our release from the hum-drum of human existence. He’s talking about the glorious day when we get to be with Christ in eternal glory! In short, the development and propagation of patience is a life-long task that doesn’t end once Christmas is over.
James was a practical man. He was a practical preacher. Perhaps that’s why I like him so much. Anyway, he then gives us a practical example of the attitude necessary to achieve the blessed mindset of patience. “See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.”
Perhaps this line doesn’t have the same punch for us city dwellers as it did then, considering that we shop at the grocery and can get anything to eat at any time of the year. And yet, any of you who garden can relate. You cannot grow tomatoes overnight. You cannot cause apples to appear magically on the tree in a week. It all takes time. “There is a time for every purpose under heaven.” It all takes patience. Worrying won’t make it happen. Getting frustrated won’t make it occur. Yelling at someone won’t make your roses flower quicker. Back in the late 1960’s we had a phrase for patience. It was: “Chill out.” In our society of instant gratification and running on the fast track to nowhere, perhaps we need to resurrect it!
“You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” Those words are especially appropo for today. For today we celebrate Holy Communion in our midst.
I hope all of you were taught that communion encompasses both a vertical and a horizontal relationship. (Put both together and you have the sign of the cross, don’t you?) First, we have the vertical aspect.—God comes to us with forgiveness and eternal life and we go to Him with thanksgiving and praise. Then, there’s the horizontal aspect.—The people we kneel with around the altar rail are one with us in Christ. They are fellow saints waiting for glory—just like us. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. And that bond is eternal, not just limited to today or next week or next year. Because of all this, we should treat each other with kindness, love, and compassion. We should value each other and bear with one another in our weaknesses. We should also put the very best construction on the words and actions of each other and learn not to take offense at supposed slights.
It is a fact that impatience leads to grumbling.—If you don’t believe me, just go to Macy’s and stand in line for a while this afternoon. Likewise, Christians at church. We all expect fellow believers to understand our feelings and emotions. We expect them to cater to our ups and downs. Down deep none of us is totally happy with life on earth. That’s because sin afflicts and upsets us. We long to be with Jesus in heaven. We long for something better. And when it appears slow to arrive, we take out our frustrations on each other. Certainly the children of Israel did that to each other throughout their history. And it split them apart and eventually destroyed them as a nation. So, on this communion day be mindful of God’s Word which says: “Don’t let the sun go down upon your anger.” Be mindful of those words in which Christ tells us that when disagreements surface we need to “go and be reconciled to our brother” before we seek Godly reconciliation through communion. For to do otherwise is acting the hypocrite, isn’t it?
I began by reminding you to: Fight Impatience With Joy. James now focuses us upon exactly how to do that. “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
Advent is about anticipation. It is about excitement which reaches its culmination on Christmas. And the more you savor the anticipation and don’t wish it away, the more you’ll be ready for and actually enjoy the day when it arrives. Well, the same is true of life as a whole. Yes, Christians suffer in life. Yes, things come our way which seek to rob us of our joy.—On Thursday night we got a phone call that my mother-in-law had been struck by an SUV as she was standing in a parking lot. After an overnight hospital stay and a few stitches in her scalp she’ll be o.k. But, it certainly put a chill on our Thursday night. Anyway, the point is clear—Christians persevere. We take good days and bad days as they come. And we weather them by recalling God’s goodness toward all His children—like Job, like Christ’s mother Mary, like Peter and Paul—all who suffered in life but who also made it through such suffering without falling apart. And how did they make it through? How did they keep their good cheer? Simply by focusing on God’s goodness lying in a manger. Simply by recalling each and every day that “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” Simply by remembering that: “unto you this day is born in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord!”
After all the hurly-burly of the season, the short tempers, the lack of sleep, and our seemingly omnipresent impatience—the Savior’s birthday will still arrive on Dec. 25th, won’t it? So, fight off your impatience by focusing on that singular joy. Amen