Preached by Fr. Paul Allick on Christmas Eve (Sunday, December 24, 2017)

Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14


Since the beginning of Advent, way back on December 3rd, this is the message we’ve been hearing:


From the prayers: in the last day, Jesus Christ shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead…Give us grace to heed the warnings of the prophets and forsake our sins.


From the Prophet Isaiah: (64:1-9) O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence.


From the Gospels: (Mark 13:24-37) Jesus said, “In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.


From St. Peter: (2 Peter 3:8-15a) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.


That is a whole lot of judgement and fear. What do judgement and fear have to do with Christmas? Everything. As we’ve awaited the Lord’s first Advent we are always kept in mind of his second coming. “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”


Like most doctrine we teach, I actually do believe that Jesus is coming back and all time and space will reach its fulfillment. This is not a threat. It is a promise. It is hope!


Let’s first ask what we mean by judgement. In our culture we say, as a way to value inclusion above all other values, “don’t be judgmental.” One cannot live in the world without making judgements. To make a judgment is to discern. We have to decide what is good and bad. It could be a jug of milk that’s reached its shelf date or a new colleague we aren’t quite sure about yet.

In the New Testament Greek, the word often used for “judgement” is krisis. It means to separate or to distinguish. It can apply either a positive verdict or a negative one. Thus, the idea of judgement is neutral.


God’s judgement will not be like ours is too often. It will not be based in shame or blame. God judges in pure mercy to bring about pure justice.


What about fear? One meaning of the Greek word, phobos, can mean being in awe of the presence of something we can’t fully understand. To fear God is to be in awe of God. The fear of god can also mean being aware of God’s presence at all times.


We need not fear the judgement of God. We’ve already been judged once and that went pretty well.


God has already come among us. The one Isaiah names Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace has appeared. He will establish his kingdom and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward.


The angels have already told us the sign of his coming: a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.


I believe that God’s judgement of us will be like that. It will be based in true right relationship and just action. It will be innocent. It will be like approaching a baby. How do they receive our presence? How is to be judged by an infant?


God’s judgement will reveal in our lives that which can stand the light of day.


To be ready for this judgement we follow Paul’s advice to Titus, now that the Lord has appeared it is incumbent on us to live lives that are self-controlled, upright and godly. Jesus gave himself for us that he might purify a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.


While we await judgement, we do not attempt perfectionism to get God to like us. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Perfectionism puffs us up and separates us from God and others. Fear and trembling humble us and brings us closer to God and each other.


As we await God’s next judgement we must practice humility by remaining in awe of God. We focus more on our own shortcomings than on those of others. If you are like me, you do not want to be judged in the way you judge others.


In this way, as we prayed in the Eucharistic Prayer all through Advent, when Jesus does “come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.”