The Collect for the First Sunday of Advent reminds us directly of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, a Christian, a “little Christ.” We ask our God to “give us grade to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light” in this life that we are living now, so that “in the last day, when he shall come again…we may rise to the life immortal.” And St. Paul urges the Roman church to wake from sleep. He counsels them, impresses upon them the need to put on the Lord Jesus Christ—to clothe themselves in all that they do in Jesus Christ. And Matthew’s Gospel lesson only reinforces the Collect and the Epistle by conveying a sense of urgency, the need for these things (waking and putting on Christ) to happen as quickly as possible.
And, so, what has this to do with us? Everything, my brothers and sisters; it has everything to do with us. Our recent past, as a nation, as a community in and around Dallas, has taught us that the life that some of our African American brothers and sisters live is very different, much more dangerous than the lives that most Episcopalians in North Texas experience. The darkness they experience is very different than the darkness most of us experience. And, as St. Paul teaches, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (1 Cor. 12:26).
As a member of the Body of Christ and of the human race that God made, and made good, I am deeply concerned about the light that I am putting on and projecting out into the world. Is the light, light enough? Is the armor of light strong enough to protect myself, my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ from the hate that is spreading like wildfire through our nation, our world? Am I putting on the right armor of light: Am I truly putting on the armor of Christ’s light or am I simply putting on the armor that someone else is telling me to put on?
We must awake! We must be roused from this comfortable sleep—the sleep that persuades us that all is well and there are no problems with “the way it always has been.” This living that we are doing now will, indeed, affect that immortal life that we hope to attain. But more than that, putting on the armor of light, putting on Christ—showing the love of Christ to everyone we meet—that will affect the souls of those who have yet to learn about that immortal life. The renewal movement song that comes to my mind is “They’ll Know We Are Christians.” The world will know that we are little Christs by the love that we show.
The world will not know that we are Christians unless we put on this armor of light, unless we put on Christ fully, completely, and repeatedly—day in and day out, we must put on Christ. In all that we do, we must put on Christ. In all that we say, we must put on Christ. In every dollar we spend, we must put on Christ. In every reaction to hatred, we must put on Christ. In every thought of our minds, we must put on Christ. In every judgment we make, we must put on Christ.
We must put on Christ; and we must do it now. There’s an urgency, my brothers and sisters, and we must awake from our sleep. With clear eyes, open ears, willing hearts, and hands and feet at the ready, we must put on Christ. The time is now, and our call is clear: put on the armor of light; fight the darkness; and show it in all that we do.