Sermon for December 11, 2022, Third Sunday in Advent

James 5:7-11 (Third Sunday in Advent—Series A)

“Patient Waiting and Endurance”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

December 11, 2022

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The sermon text today is the Epistle lesson from James 5:

 7Therefore, be patient, brothers, until the Coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient for it, until it receives the early rain and the late rain. 8You also, be patient. Strengthen your hearts because the Coming of the Lord stands near. 9Do not grumble against one another in order that you might not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10Receive as an example, brothers, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, who suffered hardship with patience. 11Behold, we consider as blessed those who showed perseverance. You have heard of the endurance of Job and you have seen the outcome of the Lord, that the Lord is very compassionate and full of mercy.

          This poem is titled “It Is as If!”

          It is as if I have never been sad

                   or pained or without hope or lacking in joy.

          It is as if the world had been good

                   and the evil one caged.

          It is as if death never came

                   and sickness and age lacked all substance.

          It is as if fright and rage

                   and loneliness and dullness never existed.

          It is as if life goes on and on

                   in the expectation of the Coming One

                             who was, and is, and is to come.[1]

          These words describe the tension that exists for Christians in this world. The Christ has come. His first coming 2000 years ago as the incarnate Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, has inaugurated a new era that has begun for the people of God. “The reign of the heavens stands near,” John the Baptist proclaimed. Jesus Himself preached, “The reign of God has drawn near and is now here!” It is in this confident hope that we live and move and have our being through faith. It is as if . . . but life goes on and on. We live in a tension between the “already,” the salvation that we have NOW through faith in Christ as His children and the “soon to come,” the completion of all things when Jesus comes again in power and glory on the Last Day. We have NOW the victory of sins forgiven. We have been made “more than conquerors” through Jesus who loved us. We wait with expectant faith and trust in His glorious reappearing. But life goes on and on . . . and we are sad, pained, and feel like with are without hope and joy in this world. Life goes on and on . . . and the culture and our society are becoming ever more corrupt and immoral. Sickness and age intrude into our lives. Fright, rage, and loneliness exist and are real for us. Life does go on and on in the expectation of the Coming On who was, and is, and is to come.

          That’s James’s message to us. We live in between the “already” and the “soon to come.” And for believers it means that you and I accept the suffering and trouble of this fallen world, as well as our own sinfulness, and patiently wait with the endurance of faith until the Coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Now, waiting patiently for the Lord’s Coming is one thing. Waiting patiently with endurance is another because that means being steadfast even in the face of suffering. Between the first and second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, even though the reign of God is breaking in through the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting, sin still remains. The consequences and the effects of our sin and the sin of the world remain. James writes in verse 9 of our text, “Do not grumble against one another in order that you might not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” In the middle of life’s challenging circumstances, Christians lash out against one another in frustration. Instead of legitimate complaint to God in faith as one prays for help and strength and endurance when suffering trials, believers might “go after” each other using hate-filled, angry words and actions.

Have we not put others down so that we might look better in the light of a certain circumstance? Have we not used our grumbling and complaints to garner sympathy for our situation, rather than seeking the mutual consolation and support of our sisters and brothers in Christ through their prayers, their aid and counsel and physical help? And do not Christians in their suffering and in the hard times of life sometimes pull away from the church instead of finding in her the blessings of Word and Sacrament where the grace of God in Christ is given to strengthen faith to build endurance while waiting for the Lord’s return? Luther in his lectures on Genesis puts it well, “A faithful friend is a great boon and a precious treasure in any situation of life, not only because of common dangers in which he can be both an aid and a comfort but also because of spiritual trials. Even if one’s heart is well grounded by the Holy Spirit, it remains a great advantage to have a brother with whom one can converse about religion and from whom one can hear words of comfort. . . . When Christ was wrestling with temptation in the garden, we see Him seeking comfort among His three disciples. When Paul, in Acts 28:15, saw the brethren coming to meet him, he took courage from the sight and experienced comfort. Loneliness distresses a person who is solitary and deprived of his intimate friends. He can exert himself and struggle against it, but he does not overcome it without great difficulty. Everything is less burdensome if you have a brother with you; for then the promise applies: “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Therefore solitude should be shunned and the companionship of familiar people sought, especially in spiritual perils.”[2]

The trials that we go through, the problems that we face, including our sins against one another, are best endured in the harmonious body of Christ, the Church. As believers who are living between the “already” of Jesus’ first advent and the “soon to come” of His second, we are blessed to have one another in the family of faith as we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14 ESV). That goal is the new creation. That prize is the crown of everlasting life which Jesus has already purchased and won for you, which you will enjoy in its fullness in the new creation at the Resurrection. James points us to the prophets who showed perseverance in faith. He points us to the endurance of Job. These are examples of the patient waiting and endurance of the saints, with whom we are united by faith in the one, holy, Christian, and apostolic church. Hebrews 12, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1 ESV).

The “race” is not easy. Here we struggle against temptation and sin. We bear many crosses in this life as we move toward “the life of the world to come.” But we endure. We persevere in faith toward the “soon to come” because of what Christ Jesus has done “already.”

          As true God and true Man, Jesus fulfilled our obligations under God’s Law because we cannot. Jesus kept all of the Commandments for us, being perfectly righteous. And as a gift, Jesus gives to us His righteousness, His perfection. Romans 5:18-19, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” Through the gift of saving faith, you have received the righteousness of Christ and the forgiveness of sins won by Christ. We each believe and confess that Jesus “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”

          As Christians, we wait with the patience and the endurance of our most holy faith for our Savior’s Coming at the end of days. And we do so in the midst of troubles and sufferings with the assurance and guarantee that our sufferings, our crosses that we bear, are taken up into Jesus’ cross. He became a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3). Our God and Savior is well aware of the worst we can go through because He has gone through it with us. Christ is with us in our anguish and sorrow and struggle. And He helps us through it by means of His Word and Sacrament and through the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ in His Church.

As believers who suffer hardship in this life, we do so with the patient endurance of faith. We know that what we endure now brings us into a deeper dependence and a more intimate relationship with Jesus, who is very compassionate and full of mercy. As the Apostle Paul wrote, who knew suffering firsthand, “suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3–5 ESV).

          Until the Coming of the Lord, the God who shares your struggles and troubles, the God who redeemed you with the blood of His Son, the God who grants you forgiveness of sins unto life everlasting, is with you. He is strengthening you through His Gospel as you walk together with your sisters and brothers in Christ until that day when we are in the new creation forevermore. By grace through faith in Christ, we can truly say . . .

          It is as if I have never been sad

                   or pained or without hope or lacking in joy.

          It is as if the world had been good

                   and the evil one caged.

          It is as if death never came

                   and sickness and age lacked all substance.

          It is as if fright and rage

                   and loneliness and dullness never existed.

          It is as if life goes on and on

                   in the expectation of the Coming One

                             who was, and is, and is to come. Amen


     [1] Richard C. Eyer, Pastoral Care Under the Cross (St. Louis: Concordia, 1994), 43.

  [2] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 2: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 6-14, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 2 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 335.

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