Come, Lord Jesus!

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, also known as “Gaudete Sunday.” I preached during Advent last year, too, and this term sounded rather familiar. So after having gone back through my notes, it was confirmed that I preached on the third Sunday of Advent last year, too. Don’t worry, today’s message will not be a “re-gifting” of last year’s.

But I thought it was important to stay with the theme of this specially designated day in the Christian calendar. So let me reiterate by explaining what “Gaudete Sunday” is. “Gaudete” means “rejoice” in Latin, and the church more specifically celebrates the “nearness of the Lord.” Thus, the phrase, “Rejoice! The Lord is near!” is commonly uttered on the third Sunday of Advent by Christians around the world. Please encourage each other with that greeting right now.
“Gaudete”はラテン語で“喜ぶ”という意味で、教会は特に“主が近くにいてくださること”を祝います。ですから、“喜びなさい!主は近いのです”という表現を世界中のクリスチャンたちがアドベントの第3日曜日によく使います。

“Rejoice! The Lord is near!” Of course, we know that Jesus has already come and that he is with us. But this shouldn’t take away from the power and encouragement that we can receive from repeatedly acknowledging and understanding this truth. Christmas doesn’t get diminished because Jesus has already come.

May I offer that it is important for us as Christians to repeatedly recount and celebrate the goodness of God. Whether it be daily counting our blessings to remind ourselves to always be thankful, or weekly attending church service to always remind ourselves how much we need to honor and prioritize God in our daily life, or annually celebrating traditional events like today to always remind us that we need God.
私たちクリスチャンにとって、神が素晴らしいことを繰り返し話し、祝うことが大切なのです。いつも感謝することを覚えておくために毎日、恵みを数える、又は日々の生活で神をあがめ、神を第一とすることをいつも覚えておくために毎週、教会の礼拝に出席したり、神が必要であることをいつも覚えておくために今日のような伝統行事を毎年、祝ったりします。

And that’s going to be my sermon focus today, that we need God. I believe that the act of “rejoicing because the Lord is near” will take on a more profound meaning when we understand that “we need God.” I’ll elaborate more on this point a little later.

We don’t just simply “rejoice” in Christmas. If it ended there, then we’re left to fill in the blanks on our own, and we end up filling those blanks with all kinds of wrong things. Rejoicing, because it’s the time of year when we get presents, when we get time off of work, when we get to see family and friends, when we get to sing Christmas songs, when we get to fashionably wear ugly sweaters, etc.

Furthermore, I would even say that we don’t just simply “rejoice” in Christmas because “the Lord is near.” That may sound like a good thing to do, and it is, but I don’t want us to stop there either. Because there’s a tendency for many of us to think, “Oh, but I’m already a Christian, and Jesus is already with me.” That’s a dangerous place to be if our thoughts just stopped there, because we could take Jesus’s nearness for granted, and Christmas could become just a tradition.

How happy and excited do you get at the opportunity to spend time with Jesus? How happy and excited do you get when you pray, when you read the Bible, or when you come to church? I’ll be the first one to admit that though there are good feelings involved, “happy” and “excited” are not the exact feelings that I usually have. A lot of times, my feelings are more of “awe,” “urgency,” and “gratitude.”
Let me ask you this. Who is one person you would like to meet more than anyone else in the world? Please take a moment to decide. (ask some people, then pick person A) Now, what if I told you that ______ is on his way to our church right now? He just called me to tell me that he/she will be a little late, that he/she is on the #30 Hankyu bus, and that he/she is on his/her way. How would you feel? (ask person A) How would you feel? (ask some people)
イエス様と時間を過ごす機会をどれほど嬉しく思い、楽しみにしていますか?祈ったり、聖書を読んだり、教会に行ったりする時、どれほど嬉しく思い、楽しみにしていますか?

Okay…maybe such a hypothetical situation is not very emotionally convincing. So let’s make it more real. Think of someone you know—perhaps a loved one, a family member, a friend—someone whom you delight in every time you’re together and whom you miss every time you’re apart.

I’m going to pick on Mayu here for an example. Most Mondays and Tuesdays are our lunch date days, because I end my morning work at lunch time and I don’t have to go back to work until the late afternoon. Our routine is for me to swing by home directly after work to pick her up and then go out to lunch together. So we don’t waste any time, I always text message her when I’m almost home.

My text reads, “I’m almost there,” after which she gathers her stuff and leaves the house. The timing is always perfect. Just as I pull up in front of the house, she’s outside. And she always has a big smile on her face. Now, it could be that she’s happy because she’s hungry and finally gets to eat. But I’d like to believe that she’s happy to see me and looking forward to our lunch date.

My point is, we don’t take the presence of important or favorite people for granted. All the more, we shouldn’t take Jesus’s presence, his nearness, for granted. People have a tendency to become desensitized to things that are routine or always there. Let’s not become desensitized to Jesus’s constant nearness in our life. In fact, this is the time to remember to celebrate and rejoice in it.
イエス様の存在、近くにいてくださることを当たり前だと思ってはいけません。
イエス様がいつも近くにいてくださることに鈍感にならないようにしましょう。それどころか、今この時がそのことを祝い、喜ぶ時なのです。

Earlier, I mentioned that in order to “rejoice in his nearness,” it is important to understand that “we need God.” I believe that the more we understand how much we desperately need God in our life, the more we would rejoice in his nearness.
どれほど切実に神が必要か分かれば分かるほど、神が近くにいてくださることが喜びとなるのです。

Here’s another hypothetical example. You’re trapped in a house fire. The flames are roaring around you, and you have no way to escape. And then, you hear the sirens of the fire truck coming. Then, you hear the voice of firefighters calling out your name in search of you. Imagine how happy you’d be upon hearing the sounds of the fire truck and firefighters coming to rescue you.

Last week, I read a news article about a young New York woman who was attacked in the park. She was walking her boyfriend’s dog, a 5-month-old pitbull puppy named Apollo, and she let him off his leash to run around a bit. As she was sitting alone on a bench, she was attacked. But Apollo came running and bit the attacker on the leg, enabling the woman to escape. Apollo eventually let go, and the attacker fled. Both the woman and Apollo were unharmed.

The woman was quoted as saying, “He’s a good boy. I think he saved my life.” “Apollo helped me. He came and bit him in the leg.” “He was protective. I think it would’ve been a lot worse. I wouldn’t have been so lucky.” I can only imagine how happy she must have felt when she saw Apollo coming to her rescue, running and barking.

I hope we all realize and accept the fact that we were all in a similar predicament before Jesus came and saved us. Don’t be mistaken! Don’t think that your life was good to begin with, and it only got better with Jesus. That’s not true. It’s a life or death situation! We were all in big trouble, destined for certain death, and then our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to our rescue! That’s why there’s great rejoicing!
イエス様が来て、私たちを救ってくださる前は、私たちも皆、同じような状況にあったということを分かってほしいと思います。
私たちは皆、死に向かっていて大変なことになっていました。そこに私たちの主、救い主、イエス・キリストが来て、私たちを救ってくださったのです!

I’ll let the Scriptures speak for itself. And if any of us have forgotten or have taken this truth for granted, I pray that you will experience great rejoicing in your heart as you allow these words to remind you.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1,3-5)
以前のあなたがたは、罪のために永遠に滅びる定めにありました。私たちもみな、以前はほかの人たちと同じで、その生活は、心にある悪を反映したものでした。欲望や心のおもむくままに生き、行動していたのです。私たちは、生まれながらに神の怒りを受けて当然の者でした。しかし神は、なんとあわれみに満ちたお方でしょう。こんな私たちを深く愛してくださって、 罪のために霊的に死に果て、滅びる定めにあった私たちを、キリストの復活と共に生かしてくださいました。救われる価値などない私たちに、ただ一方的な恵みが注がれたのです。(エペソ人への手紙2:1、3−5)

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:2)
あなたは絶望の穴から、どろどろのぬかるみから引き上げて、踏み固めた道に下ろし、しっかり歩けるようにしてくださいました。(詩篇40:2)

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. (Colossians 2:13)
あなたがたは、以前は罪の中で死んでいましたが、神は、そんなあなたがたをキリストと共に生かしてくださいました。それは、すべての罪を赦されました。(コロサイ人への手紙2:13)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
しかし、私たちがまだ罪人であった時、神はキリストを遣わしてくださいました。そのキリストが私たちのために死なれたことにより、神は私たちに大きな愛を示してくださったのです。(ローマ人への手紙5:8)

During the Christmas season of Advent, and especially today on “Rejoice Sunday” when we “rejoice” because “the Lord is near,” we need to remember that we “rejoice” BECAUSE we DESPERATELY NEEDED Jesus to come. We would all be in really bad shape right now if he hadn’t come. In fact, we would all be dead if he hadn’t come.
アドベントのクリスマスシーズンの今、特に“主が近い”から“喜ぶ”“喜びの日曜日”の今日、イエス様が来てくださることを切実に求めていたから私たちは“喜ぶ”のだということを覚えておきましょう。

So, let’s rejoice! Our Lord Jesus Christ is near! Our Savior has come! We are saved! Rejoice! (pray)