Advent is about waiting and watching. For thousands of years God’s people waited for the Messiah to be born. Today, God’s people are waiting for Him to return with justice for the wicked and salvation for all who trust in Him. Advent is about waiting and watching.
Grace and peace be to you from God our Father, and from the Christ Child, our Lord and Savior.
Our reading for today comes from…
Mark 13:32-37 (NIV)
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ”
Jesus is talking to His disciples here. He is telling them to watch out for Judgment Day, and His return.
Of course, nobody on earth can know when Jesus will return with glory to judge the world. Every once in a while some nut-bag preacher will predict the end of the world (usually more than once since they’re inevitably wrong the first time). The Bible says that predicting the end of the world is not possible. It is the Father’s secret. During His ministry on earth even God’s Son didn’t know when the last day would be. Jesus says the Last Day will arrive like a thief in the night. It will be a surprise.
Jesus uses a little story to help his listeners take His warning to heart and remember it. Here, He says, it’s like a master who leaves his estate on a journey. He gives tasks to his servants, and says to the doorman, WATCH for my return. He doesn’t say when he’ll be back, so they need to be ready at any time.
That’s the kind of attitude you and I need to have when it comes to waiting for the return of Christ. When it comes to getting right with God, we need to have a sense of urgency.
In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus adds some shocking details to His story. He says…
“48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:48-51 NIV).Hell awaits those who are not ready when Christ returns.
The Son of Man will return to judge the world of sinners. Those who have pushed the Lord away in life, will receive what they have chosen - eternity apart from the LORD and all His goodness.
Our natural sinful instinct is to focus on things that don’t have eternal significance. To choose TV instead of the Word of God. To skip worship in favor of sleep, or something else. Our sinful instinct leads us to give spiritual things only the time which is left over once we’ve done everything else.
We need to break ourselves of these habits. We need to reprioritize our lives. We need to plan our days with a different attitude.
What if we planned our day with Jesus in mind, as if He was coming for dinner? Then we’d put getting our souls ready for Him at first priority. Then we’d put getting our families ready for His return as priority number one. When it comes ot getting right with God, we need to have a sense of urgency.
One of the things that pro football players do to get ready for a game is watch film. They get tape of their opponent’s previous games and they watch that film over and over. They study what the quarterback does, what the receivers do, what the defense does - until they feel like they’ll be able to recognize what play is coming up in the real game. Then, they’ll to recognize and defend against it to it.
As Christians, that’s what we need to do too. Christ isn’t our opponent, not at all. But we need to watch film of Him if we’re going to be ready for His return. We need to go over the Gospel message over and over until we know the Good News backward and forward. Until we can respond to every one of the Devil’s lies with God’s truth.
If we’re filled with Christ’s message of sins forgiven through His cross, we’ll be ready to stand against the Devil in life, and before our Divine Judge on the Last Day.
Here’s the problem though, the world around us doesn’t think much of Christ and the forgiveness He offers. The world directs us to all sorts of OTHER things that are supposed to give us enjoyment and relief in this life.
In Ephesians chapter 5, Paul wrote…
“15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:15-20 NIV).Excessive alcohol use is just one thing that the world offers in place of the grace of Christ. We could write a thousand books about all the other things that are supposed to make our lives easier.
But God says, don’t be filled with these things, be filled with the Holy Spirit. Come back to the message of Jesus, that your sins are forgiven. That your place in God’s house is secure. Find your peace and rest HERE.
Watchfulness means keeping our eyes non only on the Christ who is to come, but on the Christ who already came. The Christ Child who was born in Bethlehem, a human baby. To the Christ who went voluntarily to the cross of Calvary in our place. To the Christ who rose from the dead and left the tomb empty forever as a guarantee that our sin and guilt is no more in God’s sight. This is where our rest and relief and peace is found – in Christ alone.
When we’re watching for something, it’s often easy to get distracted. This is easy to see at a Little League baseball game. In the first few innings, the outfielders are focused. They’re “baseball ready” waiting for the ball to come their way. They know which base they’re going to throw the ball to.
But when the game stretches on, their concentration begins to break. You look up and the left fielder is sticking his face in his glove, doing who knows what, maybe smelling the leather. The center fielder has sat down and begun to pull out grass. The right fielder isn’t even facing the right way, he’s watching the game that’s happening on the next field over.
For Christians waiting for Christ, this happens too. Except, we don’t just get bored, we get distracted by the worries of life. In Luke chapter 21 Jesus warned His followers…
“34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man”” (Luke 21:34-36 NIV).The next few weeks are going to be full of anxieties that come with a holiday flavor: buying gifts, wrapping gifts, getting time off of work, getting ready for church services, planning trips, sending cards, etc., etc.
If we want to be watchful, then we need to consider all other preparations secondary to the preparation of our souls.
We prepare our souls to celebrate Christmas when we despise our own sinful behavior, when we confess our sins to God and when we put our hope in His promise. Because of all that the Christ did for us, the Bible says…
“9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. …if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:9, 2:1-2 NIV).Confessing our sins, and being reassured of the forgiveness that came through Christ – that’s how we remain ready for Christmas Worship and Final Day judgment.
Jesus once said…
“36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36 NIV).For Advent we could rephrase this verse to say…
“What good is it for us if our holiday preparations are perfect, but our souls remain unprepared?▬
In our sermon reading Jesus warned us to WATCH. So let’s watch.
Let’s watch by keeping a sense of urgency when it comes to getting right with God. If we trust in Christ, we are right with God.
Let’s keep our eyes open by continuing to look to the Gospel, letting the message of free forgiveness from Christ fill us up with peace and hope.
Let’s be watchful, not letting anything distract us from what is most important this Advent season – coming before God in confession, turning away from our sins, and trusting in Christ’s promise of forgiveness and eternal life.
Faith in Christ isn’t just the simplest way to be ready to celebrate Christ’s birth, it’s the only way. It’s also the only was to be ready for His return. Amen.