And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:11-12).
She was a mighty ship, a 1st Class vessel. The proud product of modern shipbuilding. “Not even God can sink this ship!” was the boast. But sink she did. She was the Titanic. And many of the 1,550 who drowned slipped under the water to the strains of, “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”
When it became obvious that all was lost, a group of musicians assembled on deck to play the hymn known to most of them.
“Nearer, My God, to Thee” was written in response to the biblical account of Jacob’s Ladder in Genesis 28. It is a prayer of faith. It is a prayer to be nearer to God.
It’s the flip side of the call of the Apostle Paul to the Roman Christians. He tells them: God is near to you. Nearer than you think. It’s his “Wake up!” call.
That call comes yet to us.
Those who walked up the ramp to the Titanic had no idea how close many of them were to meeting God. Had they known; most would have probably stayed at home. The survivors probably felt, “This was too close for comfort!”
That’s only natural. We probably would feel the same way. But the fact is, as the hymn reminds us, to be near to God is a good thing for a child of God. To become nearer to God is even better.
The Roman Christians were to know that they needed to wake up to the reality that the end could come at any time—if not the end of the world, it would be the end of their lives.
This was not to scare them. It was to encourage them.
The time was short and becoming shorter. The night of living apart from their heavenly home was almost over. As we have used “D Day” as a marker for something major to happen, the Bible uses “The Day.” It is The Day of our receiving the Crown of Life and entering into the wonder of the Life of Joy and Peace Jesus has prepared for us.
We can hold out, can’t we? Surely, after having resisted the satanic pressure to cave in to doubt and fear to this point in time, we can make it the rest of the way home.
What use do we have, anyway, for the works and ways of the Kingdom of Darkness? We don’t belong in that world. We have the warning of a Judas. We know that even those who were once close to the Savior can desert to the Enemy. We have seen how even a strong Peter could retreat when challenged. Many a saint has crossed over to the not-make-believe Dark Side.
Let that not be us.
We fight on the side of the holy angels. We wear the armor of the Kingdom of Light.
The Advent Season is all about God’s coming to us. Once, he came to Israel in the fire and smoke of Mount Sinai. That was frightful.
In Bethlehem of Judea, he came as a baby. That was wonderful.
He comes to us now in Word and sacrament. That is comforting.
Just wait until he comes to take us to glory. That will be glorious.
No wonder we pray, “Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel!”
We pray: Lord Jesus, you have taken away the fear of facing God. Though our conscience may accuse us, we know that you have taken our guilt upon yourself. We invite you into our homes and lives because you are the God who is near to us in love. Amen.
Written by Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military