One of the daily office lectionary texts for today grabbed my attention, so I thought I’d write a few thoughts about it, and how it weaves together themes of Advent, identity, and obedience.
One of the main themes of Advent seems to be preparing for the dawn by acting like the sun has already risen. On the first Sunday of Advent one of our texts in worship was Romans 13:11-14, where Paul says that because “the night is nearly over” and “the day is almost here,” there is a call for Christians to “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” In other words, act like it’s already daytime, and you’ll be ready when the sun rises.
In the sermon I preached that Sunday, I said that we do this out of a sense of identity. We put on the armor of light because we are the children of the light, not because we want to become children of the light. We don’t gain an identity by obeying. We can never perform our way into being God’s children. It is sheer gift, an identity that God graciously gives us. He adopts us as his children and says, “Now you are a new creation. I have given you my name and my inheritance. You are the children of light.”
And out of our confidence in that new identity, we are free to begin acting differently, to begin acting like the people God has declared us to be. So obedience is simply acting in a way that is consistent with our new identity. We are simply becoming who we are.
This morning’s daily office lectionary text from 1 Thessalonians says almost the exact same thing:
“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”
The sequence always goes that way in the gospel: 1) By grace you have received a new identity (you are the children of the light), so 2) live in that new identity (be awake and sober). You’re a child of the light, so don’t act like you still belong to the darkness. That’s not who you are anymore.
We don’t “gain” anything by obeying Jesus, in one sense. It is simply a response to the new identity he has given us in the New Covenant. You’re a new creation! So go ahead and act like one. Become who you are.