Third Sunday in Advent

December 11, 2022

James 5:7-11

Advent is a season full of preparation, watching, and waiting. Liturgically in our worship, we spend Advent preparing, watching, and waiting for the birth of our Savior in the little town of Bethlehem. Advent prepares our hearts and minds, our bodies and souls for the coming of the Lord in forgiveness through His appointed means of grace—the Gospel and blessed Sacraments. Advent also calls us to be prepared every single day of our lives, watching and waiting for our resurrected and ascended Lord to return again in glory. This leads us into a good question:


We should be as patient as the farmer. St. James says, "Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also be patient."

Let's think about the farming context—particularly the farming context in first century Judea. Those who grow the crops that we eat today are dependent on the Lord for rain—but how much more so the farmer in 50 AD! They certainly don't enjoy the luxuries of modern farm equipment. They farm without high tech irrigation methods or computer weather forecasting.

The farmer plants the seed and waits. He must watch and wait for the rain to come at the proper time. What other choice does he have? In the end, it's out of his control. Even today, the growth of crops is ultimately up to the Lord who "gives us this day our daily bread."

What an excellent illustration for us as we watch and wait for the awesome day of the Lord's coming! We wait for Him to come at just the right time—in the fullness of time. The Church prays, "Come Lord Jesus," as we eagerly anticipate His arrival.

And yet, the Church also recognizes that every day in which the Lord holds off His return in glory is yet another day of mercy on the unbelievers and ungodly. His delay is His own mercy and patience with the world! Jesus has declared that "the Gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations." He graciously provides another day when they may hear the good news of the Gospel, receive the forgiveness of sins, and be united with us as brothers and sisters in Christ. For the Lord desires that "all would be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth."

So, we watch and wait. What other choice do we have? Ultimately, it's out of our control and in the control of our gracious and merciful Lord.

Of course, many scoffers mock that He isn't coming. They make fun of us—telling us that our watching and waiting for the Lord is no different than Linus watching and waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive on Halloween. We must not become impatient with the Lord’s delay. We must keep our focus. We hear and receive the Word of the Lord that focuses us on His grace and mercy, encouraging us to live in love for God and one another as we watch and wait.

Therefore, we ought to be patient with each other. James also says, “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door."

James urges us to “establish our hearts.” In other words, we should have a firm and steadfast confidence in the promises of the Lord—because His second coming is at hand. Truly, He can come at any moment. The Judge is standing at the door, and you don't want to be found impatiently grumbling against the Lord or a fellow sinner when Christ returns. For that's not how we learned Christ!

Yet dear friends, when we examine our hearts in the light of God's Word, we find that we can certainly be professionally impatient. How's that old joke go: "God, please give me patience. And hurry!!" Scripture describes patience as a godly virtue, which must mean that impatience is sinful. It's not just a bad habit or character flaw. It is a transgression. Impatience is born out of selfishness. Impatience reveals a me-first attitude that can't wait on anyone or anything else.

We may become impatient with God when things go wrong in our lives—when suffering and affliction is thrust upon us. "Why me, Lord? Why do you allow bad things to happen?" We might charge God with evil for the troubles that come our way throughout our lives. We may especially grow impatient when prayers appear to go unanswered.

When we're not impatient with God, we may like to grumble against our neighbors. Oh, how the stresses of the Christmas season can bring out the worst in us! How often have you thought, "This year's going to be different, I’m going to be jolly this Christmas" and yet, Mr. Impatience shows up at your door with his cousins Grumbling and Moaning. We show impatience with those who elbow us, shove us out of the way, and cut in line only to have them fumble with their money or make idle chit chat as the lines grow longer. Maybe we’re the ones elbowing, shoving, and cutting in line! Our impatience boils over when we get behind the slow driver or somebody cuts us off only to turn the very next block. These are just the little impatient moments of life. So what do you think happens with the really important stuff?

Thankfully, you and I aren't left on our own when it comes to patience and steadfastness under suffering. Patience toward God and one another, steadfast confidence in God's promises—these are the work of God within us. His Word of promise fills us with patient trust and steadfastness through many things. The Lord provides so many gifts that fill us with hope, peace, joy, and love: the forgiveness of sins; salvation; eternal life; Jesus' return; and fellowship with God, His angels, and the Church in His kingdom.

James says, "As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”

They proclaimed both the wrath and mercy of God within very hostile environments. They entered into a war, and their weapon was the Word. These men faced rejection, violent threats, and death in order to speak the Word of the Lord to people who had no desire to hear it. They patiently endured sufferings, knowing that they were called to speak for the Lord and spread His salvation to a people blinded in the darkness of sin and death.

We also hear examples of endurance under suffering from the likes of Job. James reminds us: "Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful."

Job was tempted to curse God and die. He refused—unwilling to charge God with wrongdoing. Job endured the rotten advice of his three supposed friends. Even though he struggled with impatience (just as we may), Job was kept steadfast by God. The purpose of the Lord is revealed through Job—namely His compassion and mercy in the midst of suffering. For Job patiently made the faithful confession: "I know that my Redeemer lives!" He was watching and he was waiting.

Job's living Redeemer is your living Redeemer: Christ Jesus, who will come again to be our judge. Through Jesus’ atoning work on the cross for you—your blood bought redemption—you already know the verdict: innocent. Christ Jesus became man to endure the worst suffering for you, to die for you, and to rise for you on the third day.

Therefore, the purpose of the Lord toward you is His mercy and compassion. He showers you with love and forgiveness which none of you have earned or deserved. They are His precious gifts of mercy.

James describes the Lord as "πολύσπλαγχνός"—that is, very, very compassionate. Jesus knows the sufferings you face in life, because He faced them too. He patiently bore your impatience and grumbling, nailing them to the tree of the cross in a once for all sacrifice that’s sets you free to be content in Him.

I can't think of a better reason to rejoice as we watch and wait patiently for the final salvation of our God to come when Jesus arrives. Amen.