(Also available as a video – Sermon20201129
Sermon 29 November 2020
Reading: Mark 13:24-37
Text: Mark 13:32-33: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.
Theme: Jesus is coming stay awake
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is the four weeks before Christmas and it is designed to slow us down and help us prepare ourselves for Christmas. We are to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with enthusiasm. There is nothing wrong with buying food and gifts and preparing for family gatherings, but if we are really going to prepare for Christmas, we cannot neglect the most important matter which is Jesus Christ. That’s what Advent is all about, preparing ourselves for the coming of Jesus Christ. With the Lord’s help, we can experience Christmas in a fresh and new and creative way if we allow God time to show us and give us that perspective. Will you allow God to do something new? Will you give Him permission and the time to do it?
Here are the key thoughts of Advent:
Jesus is coming.
Jesus is Lord.
Jesus is the Light to this dark world.
This Jesus will change your life
No matter where you are in your life, He can and will make it better if you let Him.
We all have heard about “a two minute warning”. In America it is used at football games to warn the players there is just two minutes left before the final whistle. If you like to go to a dance, the band leader will always say at the end, this is the “last dance” to signify the end of the dance. So in this the first Sunday of Advent we get the two minute warning or that of the last dance.
The word Advent comes from the Latin word “Adventus” meaning “coming”. It is a season in which the church gets ready to focus not only on the forthcoming incarnation of God in Christ but also a time when “warnings” are ushered through scripture that gives us a chance to get ready for the coming of Christ again.
The reading from Mark’s gospel is about the return of Jesus. It is about the second coming of Christ to bring the final judgement on humanity and to usher in the final revelation of the Kingdom of God. Much has been made over the end times. There have been a lot of predictions as to when it will be and many predicted times have come and gone. Some people even say now we are living in the end times with all that is happening around us.
But our lesson is very clear, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”. So why is Jesus telling us about the last day? The answer is found in verse 33, “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” Jesus’ word is not to make us fear, it was a call to action. Be prepared, be ready. Jesus is prodding us to take up the duty of a servant that cares for the master’s house while he is away so that when He comes back, He would be pleased to find the good stewardship of the servant.
What does that mean for you and me today? Well, if this is true. If this world, our lives, are gifts from God, entrusted to us, then simply, it matters deeply to God that we believe in Him and obey Him; that we proclaim Him in word and deed. It matters that we take seriously the call to follow Jesus – because that was at the core of His teaching. It matters how we treat this world of ours, because God calls us to care for His creation. And it matters – matters deeply, how we treat one another – how we live with our families, spouses, children, friends; how we care for our colleagues and work mates; and how we treat strangers, the hungry, the homeless – the lonely.
This warning to be alert we find throughout Scripture and they tell us that these things matter very much to God. This means that we should live in what I will call a ‘heavenly way.’ C.S. Lewis once said, “Aim at heaven, and you get earth thrown in, aim at earth and in the end, you get nothing.” When we aim only “at earth,” when all I am is wrapped up in myself, my world, my issues and my needs, I’ve lost the meaning of Christ’s call.
But when we aim at heaven, life here takes on an entirely different meaning. We begin to see ourselves as servants of God – preparing for His return – we live in an awareness, perhaps even a constant awareness, that each minute is an opportunity, a gift, to receive, to give, to live in a way that says I believe in more than what I see on earth – I believe there is something bigger, someone better, more powerful than any darkness we humans can devise. It says, I believe that someone is Jesus and He has come, He is here, and He is coming again!
We see that Jesus’ emphasis on this point is rather about how we live than when it will happen. What Jesus is calling us to is how we are to live in relationship with God and one another. But as we look around us today and read the newspapers and watch the news we see how far we are falling short of what Jesus is calling us to be and do.
Mother Teresa often reminded her sisters that as Christians we were not called to be successful but we were called to be faithful. The call of Jesus – is not to be perfect … it is not even to have success as the world may measure it; it is, instead to be faithful – to live in a ‘heavenly way,’ in all times – whether they be the ‘end times’ or not. All Christ asks of us is that we let Him come – let “Advent” happen – in our hearts – and in doing so, we are empowered to live with our God, our world and our fellow humans in a way that will not cause us to be afraid or worried or even surprised at the Master’s return – but overjoyed.
The best way to prepare for His return is to follow His teachings and not put off the things that are important with the attitude of one day I will take care of that. What would you do if the world ended tomorrow? You don’t need to wait. You can do things now! You can express love for those people at the center of your life right now! You can finish the work you started and deliver on those promises you made. You can seek to become reconciled with those people you have been estranged from. Seek to forgive those who hurt you. You can do some small work on behalf of Jesus and His Kingdom. So do not put it off, start right now – Christ is coming and will come again in the name of love.
We don’t prepare for the Lord’s return by trying to whip something together at the last minute the night before. Instead, every day, through the power of the Holy Spirit of God working in our lives, we serve our God and love the Lord with all our hearts, with all our minds, with all our strength. While striving to serve our neighbours and our families with the love that God has for us.
A wonderful story is told of a mother who took her nine year old son to a piano concert of the famous Russian pianist Paderewski. Before the start of the concert his nine year old boy went on stage and started to play the piano – he played chopsticks. His mother and the people at the concert were shocked, the crowd jeered at the boy. But backstage when Paderewski heard it he went on stage and stood behind the boy, reached over the boy and started improvising a counter melody. He whispered in the boy’s ear “Keep going, don’t quit, don’t quit I am right here.”
That my friends, is one picture of Jesus. I do not know, maybe to some of you listening, it does appear we are living at the end of time. Perhaps your own personal world may be coming apart and you are at a loss as to how to go on. Jesus bids you to ‘live heavenly’.
As the dawn of Advent breaks once again this day, and as we turn our hearts toward the coming of Jesus, may we pause, take a deep breath, and “aim at heaven.” Can we perhaps commit ourselves, again, to the hope that in Christ, life makes sense – even in the darkest of times?
By God’s grace, may it be, may this Advent open our eyes to the wonderful hope and joy for us in the coming of Jesus. He has come. And his warning is merely a reminder to live knowing that He is here … whispering, “Don’t quit. I am right here. Don’t quit. Keep on playing … I love you … I am right … here.”