Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent: the hour for you to awake

Our reading for Morning Prayer today, the first sunrise of Advent, is from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. It sets the tone for the season, which is not about "nesting," that is, decorating, baking, flitting about like Martha, instead of intently seeking the Lord, like her sister Mary.

In order to grasp the context of the reading it is necessary to back up a verse, to the last verse of what, in most modern English translations, is the previous section, the heading to which is usually something like the New American Bible's Love Fulfills the Law: "Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10). Now we move to verses 11-12, which constitute our reading for Morning Prayer and extending it two verses, to the end of the chapter:

And do this because you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh
It is helpful to note that the Greek word for "flesh" is sarx and does not usually mean "body" (there are some exceptions here and there in Paul's writing, but like the meaning of many words, context determines specific meaning) In Koine Greek, the language in which the entire New Testament was originally written, the usual word for body is soma. Sarx, or "flesh," as it is used here by the apostle, refers to decisions and actions that are self-centered, or selfish. Living in this manner is living in a carnal, or fleshly, way and flows from the part of us that is unchanged, not converted, not transformed by God's saving and healing power.

This morning, the first morning of Advent, the first morning of a new Year of Grace, the holy apostle, along with our Lord Himself in today's Gospel, is telling us to awaken those sleepy, untransformed parts of ourselves, to reckon with them in light of Christ's return, or our going to meet Him (whichever comes first). So, the question for each of us today is what in us needs to be transformed by the power of God's Spirit?

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