chapel sermon, kansas city rescue mission, 12.7.2011

During advent, we are often unfortunately consumed with things other than Christ.   Instead, we must challenge ourselves to live this season in a way that reflects the message of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 13:1-10 (NIV)

1 This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
2 I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others,
3 since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.
4 For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you.
5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?
6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong – not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.
8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.
9 We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored.
10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority – the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.

It is evident that Paul cares deeply about the Corinthian church; this is his second letter to them and in both, he urges them to live in a way that is reflective of a faith in Christ. He has already even visited them twice! It’s also apparent that Paul is somewhat frustrated by the church in Corinth. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 Paul outlines some of those frustrations: discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, and arrogance and disorder among others. Unfortunately, even in the Church today, and even in our other various Christian communities, we face the same issues that Paul outlines. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians clearly have just as much significance to us today as they did for the varying churches in the Mediterranean almost two thousand years ago. Paul cares about the Corinthians and he wants them to be a church that reflects Christ. Multiple times in his letter, Paul tells the church in Corinth to have confidence in God, and to therefore live an authentic Christian life even through any hardships.

In this section of scripture, Paul reminds them of something very important: God works in amazing and powerful ways, even through what may appear to be weak in our own eyes. In verse 4 he warns the Corinthians, writing, “For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you.” In verse 9 Paul writes, “We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored.” Despite what we may think, God works in unexpected ways; through our weakness God restores us.

In the season of advent, when we anticipate the coming birth of Christ, we must remember the message of Christ. Through an unexpected birth over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in a stable in Bethlehem; it was the last place the Jewish people thought the Messiah would be born. This baby was the Messiah who would restore God’s people to Him once again. It is the same Jesus who can restore each and every one of our own lives today. This is the same Jesus who changed history and continues to work in amazing ways. Yet Jesus, who is so strong for us, came in such a weak state as a crying baby, whose family even fled and ran to Egypt when threatened with the death of that baby.

However this was the same Jesus Christ who lived a life demonstrating the true nature of God’s love, making it available for all of humanity no matter what a person has done. It is through Jesus Christ that we receive the forgiveness of sins and are able to be restored to God. It was Jesus Christ who died on a cross, who hung there in agony in such a weak state and died. But out of death, Jesus Christ rose again and demonstrated his strength, victory, and power over death and the sin that destroys lives. And it is through Jesus Christ that a broken man, woman, or child can gain victory over the sin that consumes their lives today. This is why we celebrate advent and Christmas – to realize Christ’s message and to reflect the great love that Christ so freely shows us to all the people we meet in our daily lives. Paul was correct in warning the Corinthians in this passage; after all Christ has done for us, the least we can do is to live in a way that reflects him!

In the conclusion of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells them to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now pray to God that you will not do anything wrong – not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.” In our world and churches today, we face the same temptations. Unfortunately even during the season of advent, we still see people who are in discord on a daily basis. We see people who are jealous and covet another person’s belongings. People lose it and become violent in fits of rage because they did not get what they wanted on “Black Friday.” People put themselves first with blind and selfish ambition; they simply do not think about what happens to the people around them. People tear each other down with slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. It may be that you and I are guilty of these same things as well.

Regrettably, during a time when we are supposed to be celebrating the life and the meaning of Christ and putting others before us, the American propagation of consumerism tells us to buy everything through a message of selfishness and greed. We tell our friends and family what we want and when Christmas day comes we better get what’s ours or else…. It’s pitiful that this is too often the time of year in the world when we forget the meaning and life of Christ and instead only resort to the list of fears and temptations that Paul laid out earlier in 2 Corinthians.

Paul gives the Corinthians a challenge and asks them if they will pass the test. Each one of us must take that challenge and ask ourselves the same question, especially during the season of advent. Are we living in a way that reflects our belief in Jesus Christ? Do our actions and our words demonstrate Christ’s message? We must live in a worshipful way that brings glory to God. We must live an authentic life for Christ, even during any hardships that we might face. Let’s demonstrate the deep love and compassion of God to the people living around us! Let’s celebrate the true meaning of Christ! Paul writes that the reason he is writing to the Corinthians is “for building you up, not for tearing you down.” As we prepare for the birth of Christ this season, perhaps the best way we can honor his birth is to not tear each other down, but build each other up, as Paul states. Christ is our example; let’s look to him! Let us attempt to be the Church God has called us to be.

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