Third Sunday of Advent

James 5:8
And you be patient, setting in place your heart, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

            Patience, a wonderful and joyous gift but not many like to learn it. To be patient, to be long tempered, not short, to be content with the wait, means two things: that we don’t worry and we don’t give up. When we are patient waiting for Christmas, we don’t go searching for our hidden presents, we don’t worry about what we’ll do, not getting frustrated trying to get organised, but rather bearing the burden of the wait we get things done. As we wait for Christ, patience is to keep waiting and not give up. But is patience always easy? No, but maybe that’s why some of us get reminded so often. Just as the Holy Spirit is reminding us all today.

            To be patient, to trust that everything will work out, to endure the stress that we experience, to set our hearts, the core of who we are, in Jesus Christ and His sure words. What does this mean for you? James is writing to Christians a few decades after Christ ascended, to Christians under Roman rule, under persecution and all types of suffering, bickering, greed and disease aren’t modern inventions. These people knew Christ’s promise that He would return to set all things right, to renew all creation and destroy all sin. He said to be ready at all times, He might come back at any moment so be ready and look forward to this wonderful fulfilment (Matthew 24:44). But it’s been a while, where is this joy? It’s been 20yrs, for us its 2000 when is He coming back? I’ve had to wait a week for my son and wife to come back, and that was bad enough; don’t we now have a right to loose our patience, be frustrated, To get angry? My dad would beep the car horn after just 10mins surely God doesn’t expect us to wait patiently anymore? Maybe we should just give up and go our own way.

            But then again, thinking about it, maybe not. Yes there is suffering in this life, sickness, grief, gossip, theft and all sorts, and worse for our brethren in various places throughout this world. How much must Christians endure before Christ returns? Wouldn’t it be easier to just give up? To forget about sin and just do what we want in the moment, searing our consciences and living for pleasure? No, that’s no way to live, aside from Jesus where else can we go? He has the truth and we know it. He has the words of eternal life and peace (John 6:68). If we left, we would just follow Judas Iscariot to death (Mark 14:21). You know the way of the Lord, the way of life, peace and joy. Yet you struggle and have reject it sinning, bringing death, turmoil and despair. We are afflicted with sin (Psalm 25:18), we fail God who loves us more than we can comprehend. God tells us through the prophets that His people were an adulterous wife and He her husband (Ezekiel 16, 23). Jesus teaches this is grounds for divorce, the union is already broken (Matthew 19:9). But God, long suffering years of repeated rejection and betrayal the thousand years of Ancient Israel’s existence, the years you have been baptised, patience beyond comprehension. God did not reject His people then, and He does not reject you; He gave us all the way of repentance, to turn back to Him, confess the truth and in Jesus be forgiven (1 John 1:7). And that is who you are, thanks be to God! Praise His wonderful name, for He is full of compassion and merciful!

            In Him we have life today, we have peace, joy, you are loved! To know the depths of sin, of our need for salvation, and to know that God freely provides it, Jesus has done all the work, He lived, died, rose and ascended for you and all His holy Church! New life by water and the Spirit, rejoice in this! Set your heart, your core in this, in Christ. You are free from sin, you no longer need to worry or give in. This is the wonder of the Gospel for us now. While we wait we can be patient, to endure the attacks of the evil one because we know we are saved, our hearts set in Jesus.

But still there is suffering and struggle, the prophets of old spoke of the coming salvation in Jesus, but they were abused by the very people to whom they spoke this wonderful news. James encourages us to imitate these prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, to suffer evil and be patient. John the Baptist was thrown into prison but still taught God’s way, preaching this same Wonderful Gospel until he was beheaded. Polycarp a disciple of the Apostle John and bishop in the early church said to the Roman persecutors who would kill him, ‘86 years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?’ Throughout the years Christians have suffered, because of their great faith, because of sickness and natural troubles, the sin of others and even their own sin and doubt, there are countless examples of good faith to imitate and you probably know many yourself. So remember them and try to imitate them. But, just make sure you remember imitate the faithfulness to the Triune God, not things like David’s adultery and murder.

When we get right down to it, we face the same world all God’s people have, a world with humans and sin. We’re in the same situation, waiting for Jesus to return and sort it all out. In His mercy and compassion He sent the Spirit to help us endure this life in His forgiveness and joy. We have His mercy even now while we wait for His return. In Him we are free by His mercy and grace. Free from worry and despair, free now to live and get things done right by the gift and power of the Holy Spirit. To set our hearts in Christ, to build on this solid foundation of mercy rather than any uncertainty, outside of Christ. In Him is gladness spite all our sadness, and outside of His patience and mercy is worry, doubt and danger. So take up the example of the faithful people of God before us and across the globe, be patient and steadfastly set in Christ Jesus that you may receive and share His wonderful compassion and mercy.And the peace of God which passes all understand

Joseph Graham.