My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Grace and Peace to you in God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ in the Power of the Holy Spirit as we enter into the watchful season of Advent. Prior to coming to this assignment, I sat on a board at Iowa State University called the Institutional Review Board or IRB. The IRB was responsible for making sure that research done on human subjects was being carried out in as ethical a manner as possible. Most colleges and universities have and IRB. We would be handed the paperwork for anywhere between 8 and 20 research studies and, in the course of one week, have to read everything and make sure the people participating in the research wouldn’t suffer unnecessary hardship. Most of the time that we found a problem, it was something very technical like they forgot to have a space where the person could print their name as well as sign a form of consent. But, sometimes we would find that a student hadn’t thought about how their research could affect a person with diabetes or with a heart condition or someone who didn’t have English as a first language. It was our responsibility to make recommendations to help the person be prepared.
Our Readings today help us enter into this holy season of Advent, a season which seems almost fixated on preparation. The second reading today from Paul’s letter to the Romans, in particular, uses several images to encourage us to be prepared. Paul encourages us to be awake, to throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Paul also encourages us to put on Christ. One of the commentaries that I read said that what a person wore during the time of Christ marked who they were. That’s probably not too surprising for us. Even today, when I’m in Buffalo Center, I see people the blue of North Iowa. When I’m in Lake Mills, I see the Blue and Gold of Lake Mills. When I’m in Forest City, I see a lot of the Red of Forest City. Each of these, obviously, delineates support of your local High School. What does it mean to put on Christ in today’s world? In early October, I started seeing and hearing advertisements for Christmas sales. The clothing of secular society means that Sunday afternoon should be spent in the mall searching for that perfect gift. The clothing of Christ says we should honor God on the Sabbath. The clothing of the world says that we should set out our Christmas decorations and start listening to Christmas music right now so that we’re sick of it by December 25, let alone January 6 when the Christmas season comes to an end. The clothing of Christ knows that we need to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ before we celebrate his coming.
The gospel warns us to be prepared. Jesus uses the story of Noah and the flood as well as the parable of the thief to illustrate the unexpected nature of Christ’s coming. He says, “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake!” As we enter into this preparation for the coming of Jesus, I think this is the most important message for us to hear. Don’t get lost in the gift giving and decorations of the season. If you were to look Jesus in the face tomorrow, what would be your greatest regret? What do you have to do to be free from that remorse?