Sermon for The First Sunday in Advent

IMG_0377First Sunday in Advent 2009 – Humility

“Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.”
– Mother Teresa

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the fist Sunday of the Church calendar. Since we are beginning a new church year today, I thought that it would be appropriate to tackle one of the most important and yet overlooked aspects of spirituality within the Christian Church: The nature of humility!

The Prayer Book makes it a rather easy thing to do for this first Sunday, through the Gospel as well as the Collect. Part of today’s Collect reads:

“Thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility”

Why is humility so important and what does it look like in the life of the believer? Today’s Gospel message gives us an example of how Christ was humble and how he did not mistake humility for being passive, a common mistake amongst believers today.

 The Gospel lesson shows how Christ entered into Jerusalem by riding in not on a chariot or even a plain horse but on a donkey……….Commentators say that this demonstrates how Christ comes to conquer not with force of political pull and other existential values but through the spirit of meekness and truth.

Christ lived a humble life. But Christ was not passive. He did not expect things to happen on their own. He did not expect things to happen naturally by tippy towing around the people so as not to offend anyone…..As a matter of fact, in many ways he was quite aggressive.

The Gospel narrative shows that Jesus went right from the donkey to the temple and threw all the tables over and said “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

This is one origin of liturgical formation within the Christian Church. We create an atmosphere that is both humble and majestic that does not promote man but promotes God. We wear liturgical vestments, we bow, even genuflect and we make the sign of the cross. The church, like the Old Testament temple, is to be a house of prayer. This is the humble posture of the church….We do not promote modern advancement of the age. We do not attempt to create an atmosphere of neutrality. We point to God and attempt to create what Christ said to create; a house of prayer….For we make up the temple of God as we gather here in the church, which the early Christians would have called, “the temple,” whether it was converted from Judaism or not.

The point of this antiquated design is to honor God, and theologically as well as spiritually instill the virtue of humility into our lives.

The enemy of humility is, of course, arrogance. Arrogance presents itself in many different ways.

  • It shows no sympathy for others
  • It puts self before Christ
  • It demands autonomy and independence from God
  • It laughs at the face of reason

What humility is not is when we desire to be passive and tolerant of falsehoods so as to show ourselves to be peacemakers…..Falsehoods destroy what Christ institutes and take many times over to correct.

Christ was indeed humble but he was also full of zeal and did not tolerate falsehoods. Here are ten things about Christ that may get you thinking a bit.

1. He opposed the most religious of his day to their face, casting judgment on them, pronouncing woes against them, and excommunicating them from the synagogue, so much so that they wanted to kill him

2. He used the kill two birds with one stone method of stamping sin out of a community, driving away demons and sending illegitimate business assets right off a cliff. This made townspeople mad enough to kill him.

3. He overturned the religious industries of His day that had made a mockery out of the sacred. This too drove his enemies to want to murder him.

4. He made it quite clear that He was both man and God and they picked up stones to try to kill Him yet again.

5. He told one young man the very place where he fell short in observing the Law and sent the man away grieving. Not exactly an effective church growth method. Maybe Jesus shouldn’t have been talking to God-fearing teenagers or young adults, especially if they weren’t from His own synagogue ;)

6. He told His followers and others to shut up and not tell people who He was or what He had done.

7. He told those He healed to stay away from Him, go home, and go live their own lives in accordance with God’s Word

8. He called one of His closest disciples “Satan” for just stating that he wanted Him to abandon the purpose of God – try that with the inner circle of your church!

9. He regularly spoke in parables so that only some would understand what He had to say.

10. He told his followers they were fools, slow to believe all that the prophets had said concerning Him

As you can see Christ would not have been considered a peacemaker according to many of today’s standards. In fact, he would have been considered arrogant by many.

When Christ says that to enter the Kingdom we are to become childlike, he is asking us to become humble, submissive to him.

 1 Peter 5 quotes the proverb by stating, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

 It is clear that salvation itself and the growing closer to God involves humility. The Scripture above says that grace is given to these people that are humble….Do you want Grace? Then be humble….And when you need to stand up for something, make sure it is the real thing lest you be judged by God as arrogant. We are called to be bold, but we are not called to let this boldness get in the way of our humility.

 To be humble is to be open without being ignorant. It means that we are to put away all our insecurities and put on an attitude of willingness and meekness, but again, without being week and tolerant to falsehoods. Let us put on the spirit of humility so that God can work within us whenever he desires to you use.