Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 20, 2015
- First reading
- Second reading
Hebrews 10:5-10 (New Living Translation)
That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,
“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings.
But you have given me a body to offer.
You were not pleased with burnt offerings
or other offerings for sin.
Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God—
as is written about me in the Scriptures.’”
First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect.For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
It’s hard to believe that it is the last week of Advent already. This week we light the fourth and final candle – the candle that traditionally stands for love. When we think about the coming Christ, it is all about love. We are reminded of this great love in John 3:16. Christ came because God loved us. Christ came so that we might have life and life eternally. Christ came to save us.
This in itself is an interesting thought – we often emphasize that Christ came to save us. It is true that Christ came to save us and to give us life, but there is so much more. Christ coming into the world – this Emmanuel – this God in the flesh – this God with us – did not come just to save us. Christ didn’t come so that we could have “fire insurance” or a “get out of hell free card.” No, Christ came so that he could make us holy.
Look at the text at the end of our scripture lesson today. “For God’s will was for us to be make holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” Christ came to make us holy – to make us set apart. Christ didn’t just come to forgive us – but to make us pure. We could say (and hang with me for a moment) that Christ came to make us perfect (exactly what we were intended to be from the start.) In our culture, we don’t like the word perfection. After all, goes the quote “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” I think when we say that we really lessen what God wants for us. God wants us to be holy as He is holy. Another way to say it is that God wants us to be perfect as He is perfect. That my friends is a high calling. We struggle with perfection- believe me – I am a perfectionist. There are times that I struggle for words because I am looking for the perfect word. That idea of perfection, is not what God is looking for. The perfection He is looking for is maturity. We see that in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I would consider Paul to be a model of what Christ is looking for in his people. Paul writes, “I don’t mean that to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” God wants us to press on to perfection — to maturity in Christ – to reach the end of the race. Reaching the end of the race requires hard work – perseverance – working out – forgetting the past.
Christ came so that we might be holy, set apart, pure, mature – pressing on to the complete image of Christ. In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.