Whelp. I guess there’s a reason why some Advent passages aren’t used more often around the holidays. Which of your hearts are warmed and gladdened by today’s inspirational passage from the book of Jude?
“Now I want to remind you that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under the gloomy darkness until the judgement of that great day. Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:5-7)
If you’ve spent any of your very precious time reading my ramblings of late, a) thank you and b) you’ll have hopefully noticed that what’s happening on the church’s 2017 Advent channel is rather different than what’s currently showing on America’s HGTV Hallmark channel.
During Advent, the drowsy disciples of Christ are urged to Wake The Heck Up and look out the window into God’s world. We are reminded that it’s not the time to slip into something more comfortable, drink a hot toddy, and head upstairs to draw a warm bath. No, it’s a time for the people of God to put on their robes of righteousness, pick up their trusty lanterns, and head out as the body of Christ into the wrecked and reeling world.
The Day of the Lord is at hand the church is told during this season. Watch for it. Prepare for it. Make yourselves and your corner of the world as ready as you’re able for the return of the rightful King.
One way to be more vigilant, Jude says, is to be on the lookout for “certain people who have crept in unnoticed and who pervert the grace of God into sensuality” (1:4)
This is not my favorite holiday scripture passage, to be honest. What is Jude wanting me to see and do? Why is this reading included in the Advent lectionary? Who are ‘these certain, creeping, unnoticed people’ and why do I need a reminder to pay attention to them?
Jude writes to warn his original readers about ‘ungodly people who commit deeds of ungodliness in such an ungodly way’ (1:15). Whatever you think about Jude, you do have to credit his refusal to be vague or beat around the bush.
Jude’s goal in writing to the church was to the point: You are in significant danger. Wake up and pay closer attention. There are people saying and doing things in your midst that threaten to sabotage your and take you off course. “I find it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)
Jude’s warning letter is also a needed lamp to our own paths today. Because unless we are vigilant, there are ideas and people that will creep in, unnoticed, and pervert the costly grace of God.
What things, if left unchecked, will lull us to sleep and darken our hearts and minds to the light and beauty of Christ? Who or what, if there is no repentance, will lead us onto the ‘hidden reefs’ (1:12) that have the potential to shipwreck our souls?
Here are some reminders to help us keep vigilant and on course during this season, in light of Jude’s timeless concerns for the body of Christ.
Reminder #1: No one is more merciful than God. One of God’s unchanging properties is that he always has mercy. Now look around. Are there certain people in who imply that their way of salvation is more compassionate – more fair – than the way God himself has provided and revealed in his Word?
Or are there those who have so little mercy on sinners that they look nothing like their Heavenly Father? Is it mercy to turn a blind eye to the harsh and unsparing manner in which these certain people flog and guilt the body of Christ into action?
Reminder #2: No one is more just than God. There is no person who exercises better judgement in every situation than God. He alone sees into every heart and mind. Only God’s judgements are certain, sure, and always for our good. I can never be more just than God.
Now look carefully. Are there certain people who hold sinners to a higher standard than God has required himself? Might I be one of ‘those people’ who believes she is more discerning, has better judgement, or is more spiritual than God?
Or does my craving for comfort and security – the pursuit of my own happiness – tempt me to turn a blind eye to real injustice and pervert the grace of God into sensuality?
Reminder #3: No one is more kind or compassionate than God. It’s impossible.
Reminder #4: No one is more light than God. Are there ‘certain people’ who believe in their own revelation, their own light, as the way, the life, and the truth for everyone else? Is their false light beckoning others into a snare – onto hidden reefs that will shipwreck a soul?
Reminder #5: No one is more holy than God. This might seem obvious, but keep awake for those who imply that God is OK with our sin. What an affront to his mercy when we prostate ourselves to our own desires and call them good.
It’s unnatural for those who have been created from dust to worship or obey anything other than their own Creator. It’s perverse for those who have been given life and breath by God to seek life and identity anywhere else but him.
So let us be godly people who do godly things in a godly way. The second coming of Christ is the season finale of the very best and true story every told. Will we not stay up and keep watch for the end together? Or will we fall asleep, engorged with our own passions and desires, before the final closing credits?
As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Persevere in true faith with God’s help.
And anchor yourselves securely to the immovable rock – the unchangeable Word of God – so that you won’t drift away, unnoticed and unmoored.
Peace to you, and glad tidings from Jude, as you maintain love and justice, and wait patiently for your God.