Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1935.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Christian Year begins today. The Church once more begins "to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us"—"That thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed." The Church appoints a series of commemorations, by means of which the teaching of the Christian Religion is set forth in prescribed order, in proper sequence, as contained in Holy Scripture, summarized in the Creed, symbolized in the Liturgy.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is proclaimed from the beginning. - There is no end. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God bath prepared for them that love him."
In order that we may get to the meaning of this Gospel, the Church gives us a season of preparation. The season is called Advent. Advent means "coming," the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The preparation is a penitential one. "Repent ye: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." Repentance, as we all know, means much more than remorse. Repentance means a change of mind from one point of view to another; from our own point of view to God's point of view. It means seeing sin as God sees it. It means seeing sinners as God sees them, seeing ourselves as God sees us. Unless we do "truly and earnestly repent us" of our sins, we cannot have the inducement nor the capability for getting at the meaning of the Gospel. It can have no attraction. It can have no interest for us. We may possibly fancy some of the externals. But we cannot get to the root of the matter.
If we were left by ourselves to get to God, we should be left groping in darkness. The Gospel means that God came to us.
If we began to dread the darkness, the Gospel means that God gave us the dread to open our eyes to the light.
If we began to be sorry for our sins, the Gospel means that God made us sorry.
If we began to desire to be forgiven, the Gospel means that God came to forgive us.
If we began to long to be different, the Gospel means that God came to make us different.
Every one who has lived ever so little beneath the surface of life knows what all this groping and dreading and sorrowing and desiring and longing means. Not very many of us have escaped it. Very, very few succeed in avoiding it. The only-question we all have to answer, and we have to answer it alone by ourselves, is "what is to become of us?" Either we are to be destroyed or saved. The Gospel answers "saved." There is all the difference between life and death in that answer .
The Gospel is concerned with much more than casting away the works of darkness. There follows the adventure of the armour of light and the rising to the life immortal. The night has become far spent. The day is at hand. In the dawn of that wonderful morning a new person looks out upon a new and shining road that leads straight on and up to the very gates of heaven. The day that is at hand is the day that has no end. He travels that road; goes from strength to strength and is renewed and transformed as he goes. He is coming "in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." He is becoming what God meant him to be when He created him and redeemed him.
Affectionately in Our Lord,