Dear Christian, we are clearly NOT in CHRISTMAS! I know the world’s been telling you we are, but God just snatched us up and put us smack dab into Advent!
St. Paul says this evening, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”
Now, that’s about as UN-Christmassy a thing to hear as there could ever be! I mean, since the day after Thanksgiving, we’ve been herded like cattle through traffic lines and shopping malls, going into debt to make somebody happy! I’m sure the retailers won’t appreciate God saying, “owe no one anything!”
Advent isn’t as fun as spending a wad of cash. Why do you think people ignore it? They’d rather be up to their eye-balls in credit card debt rather than owe what St. Paul says this evening: “love one another.”
Oh, I know it’s a popular theme for Christmas specials, but this is Advent, and love is not so easy. St. Paul defines what he means tonight: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor.”
If THAT’S what I owe, I’m in DEEP doo-doo! I mean – DEBT!
I’m afraid the world has done us a great disservice. The day after Thanksgiving was Black Friday, and the retail church began to preach. Only so many more shopping days till Christmas! I know people get upset when I say that doctrine matters, but please, don’t buy into every marketing campaign, every strategy to separate you from your money.
If you go so deeply into debt, what good will you be to others? If you overextend yourself financially and stretch yourself thin, your whole life is just about paying off what you owe. It’s not about living freely in the Gospel, but about laboring beneath the burden of LAW!
St. Paul spends nearly eleven chapters of Romans rescuing us
from a religion of the Law. He is writing to people who want to put
others underneath the Law. St. Paul says that we don’t owe God anything anymore, so let’s not put each other underneath such heavy loads.
WE can’t keep the Law. Why obligate our neighbor?
Dear Christian, learn the Gospel and what it means for your Advent living.
OUR Black Friday is the Friday we call GOOD. It’s the Day when Someone spent as much as COULD be spent – as much as NEEDED to be spent! He gave His life for us! Since that dark Day, God says that our account is in the BLACK! God has all He ever wanted – the Only One of us Who ever thought of Someone other than Himself. The Only One Who truly trusted God and loved His neighbor. The Only One Who DIDN’T keep the Law because it benefited HIM, but just because He loved His neighbor and His neighbor needed Him to help!
Since Jesus died and rose, your debt to God is paid. You are free. The Law has been kept, and since you are baptized into Jesus, HIS perfect keeping of the Law is laid on you. It is CREDITED to your account. God looks at JESUS and His perfect Love, and because you’re baptized into Jesus, He calls the Law fulfilled in YOU as well!
You owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.
Is St. Paul putting us back under the Law with that? No. Take this sermon home and let it help you read the book of Romans. It’s good Advent devotions!
After St. Paul sets us free from the burden and obligation of the Law, he asks the question: “Should we go on sinning?” Of course not! That’s Romans chapter 6. You are free. Why go back into debt and bondage? Why go on burdening yourself and everybody else?
But we DO that, don’t we? Christ set us free, and yet, we go on sinning. That’s Romans 7. St. Paul admits it: The good he wants to do, he fails at. The evil he wants to avoid, he falls back into! “O wretched man that I am,” he says! “Who will deliver me from this body of death!” St. Paul confesses the same thing we do. We’re in deep doo-doo!
But St. Paul knows his Advent living. He is debt-free in Christ Jesus. So he does what he says tonight: He puts on the Lord Jesus Christ! He remembers his baptism!
In Romans 7, he says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord . . . There is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are
in Christ Jesus.” That brings us to Romans chapter 8.
See what St. Paul means by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ? You are at peace with God because of Jesus. Put that on. Like a shield. It’s your armor of light! Keep Jesus and His Black Friday between you and the God Who says, “Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not covet.” Say, “But my debt is paid in full. There is no judgment, no condemnation! I am baptized in Christ Jesus!”
Then, actually start to believe it.
You are at peace with God. You owe Him nothing. So, what do you make of His Law? Do you remain faithful in marriage, just so you don’t get caught? Do you refrain from hurting others, just so you don’t get in trouble? Are you trying to keep the Law to prove something with God, to get something in return, or to avoid some sort of punishment?
That’s not believing the Gospel. It’s not putting on Christ!
St. Paul says that LOVE is the fulfillment of the Law, and love isn’t selfish. So, put on Christ and look at the Law as if it’s God’s Christmas list He’s made for your neighbors. This is what THEY need!
Those over you need your respect. Make their work a joy, not a burden! Your kids need you to be faithful. How else will they learn to control that constant scratching after stuff that can only end up burying us in deep doo-doo? Your neighbor needs you to help him keep and protect what’s his. Your neighbor needs you to make use of God’s Liturgy, to learn His Word so well that you DON’T follow your friends into error, but lead them into Truth. They need you to remember your Baptism, so you have something to point them to in times of need. They need you hearing the Absolution, so you have words of forgiveness to speak. They need you eating and drinking Christ’s Body and Blood. Someone needs to show them that God cares for us forEVER!
See? This isn’t only so that YOU have peace with God, but so that you do nothing wrong to others; so they are truly loved.
When you hear God say tonight, “Do not commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t use your lips against each other, don’t covet what you haven’t got, but learn contentment” – when you hear Him talk like that, be at peace. He is telling you what He wants your neighbors getting from you for Christmas. Having trouble with that? Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and believe the GOSPEL!
Sometimes I hear people say they cannot love somebody. Somebody isn’t who THEY think some jolly old elf should bring them!
Dear Christian, do you think Jesus died for you because He FELT like it? Do you think that you were such a prize He just HAD to die and have you? You should really learn the Bible.
The Night before Black Friday, Jesus asked to get out of the shopping line! He asked to cancel Christmas and Easter and everything else! Jesus didn’t FEEL like loving you the way you needed! But He did.
He died for you because His Father had His Christmas list made out for you in advance, and it had Jesus on it – dying in your place. So, He set HIS heart aside, and prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” That’s the only reason you have peace with God the Father!
If you want to know what love is, meditate on Jesus praying like He doesn’t love you all THAT much, but then He dies for you because you need it.
Write this in the margins of your Bibles: “THAT’S love!”
St. Paul says, “owe no one anything, except to love one another.” Put Jesus between you and these words from God. You don’t owe God anything! Jesus settled that the day He set His heart aside and died for you. Wrap yourself in that. Wrap your neighbor up in it as well.
God gives you crazy gifts this time of year. Moms and Dads who need your understanding. Kids who need your patience. Friends who need some help with loneliness. Spouses who need faithfulness from you – and forgiveness. Even those poor retailer people who could use a little help – within reason – before they close their books this season.
Black Friday happened, so your debt is paid. Now, in Holy Baptism, in Absolution and in the Supper, God keeps paying out the dividends. Why? Because you need it!
Wrap yourself in that and you are living peaceably with God.
Wrap yourself and everybody else in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you are living in love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.