If there is a way for you to obtain Fleming Rutledge’s book, Advent, I would highly recommend it. Her compilation of sermons and articles through her years of ministry are so rich. She pulls no punches on the power of Advent and the glory of the once and future coming of Jesus Christ.
If I could recommend one chapter above all… well, I couldn’t do that. But the chapter called “The Advent Life for Nonheroic People” (p. 268) is one that is powerful for me in this season. It was a sermon preached in 1986 and she was referring to a new biography on Martin Luther King, Jr.
What is well documented about Dr. King is his fight for facial justice and his constant struggle with sexual sin. Rutledge uses both to illustrate the power of Advent.
There is a prayer offered on the first Sunday of Advent that has this line: “give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and punt on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life.”
This is the real struggle we face. We are not “all hero”… and we are not “all zero.” MLK wasn’t pure saint. He wasn’t pure sinner. He was, like every one of us, saint and sinner simultaneously.
Advent is that reminder that our constant call is to put off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. It is a reminder that salvation is nearer than when we first believed. Was MLK ready for the coming of the Son of Man? Am I ready?
In some ways, yes. In some ways, no.
God promises to be with us. We are a work in progress. We are in the thick of the battle, putting off what doesn’t belong and putting on what does belong. And through the battle we have this assurance: He is God with us.
“Do you think that (God) left Martin King alone at the end because he did not give up his sin? Did God leave the Israelites alone when they continued to follow after false gods? Has God abandoned the church because the church has committed abominations? Will Jesus forsake you because you are still a sinner? Will he forsake me? Do you have any doubt about the answers to these questions?” (p. 270)
Advent is here to remind us we are this mixture of saints and sinners. We proclaim two things simultaneously:
We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God (Rom. 14:10).
Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39).
In our lives we need to be reminded of that mixture. We need to live with sober minds and face the reality of our sin. We need to live with sober minds and face the unwavering grace of our Lord. We have a realization of light and darkness. The key is this: work toward stepping into that light far more.
More light. Less darkness.
It is a rather unheroic approach to following Christ… and that is what Advent is here to say to us. It reminds us of darkness and gives us the hope of light.