Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent

Text: Matthew 24:36-39
"No one knows, however, when that day and hour will comeóneither the angels in heaven nor the Son; the Father alone knows. The coming of the Son of Man will be like what happened in the time of Noah. In the days before the flood people ate and drank, men and women married, up to the very day Noah went into the boat; yet they did not realize what was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man comes."

Are You an Ark Builder?

When I think back on the lives of my grandparents, I wonder what it must have been like.
What was it like before electricity was connected to their homes and put to use in so many different ways?
What was it like before the days of cars, and planes? Today we hop into our cars without giving it a second thought, and in next to no time we are at our destination.
What was it like before the days of inflation when you could go to the shop with threepence - two cents these days - and come home with a decent bag of lollies, or post a letter for tuppence halfpenny?
What was it like before smart phones, computers, the iternet, fast cars and supermarkets?

Sometime in the future will our children be able to ask similar questions about this day and age? Are we heading for an event about which our children and grandchildren will ask:
"What was it like in the days when you drove cars, owned your own house, and could do all your shopping for a family for $200 every week?"
We don't know what the answer to this question is, of course. Just as our grandfathers never dreamt of the technological marvels that we have today, as well as the social troubles that were unheard of in his time, likewise we find it impossible to imagine what lies ahead of future generations.

Yet in a sense we are living in those days that precede an event that we do know about, and that we do know is going to happen. That event is the second coming of Christ. The same Lord who made his advent in our world in the birth of our Saviour at Bethlehem so long ago and who made his advent into our hearts by faith is going to come again in judgement and bring this world to a close. In fact in our Gospel reading today Jesus describes our times as the days of Noah.

Jesus said: For in the days before the Flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they know nothing about what would happen until the Flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be with the Son of Man.

Life for people in Noah's time went on in its usual way. The only difference was that there was a crazy man out beyond the city limits, building this monstrous boat. The blows from Noah's hammer sounded out into the night and people could hear him banging away. Then one day they ceased. The rains came, the world was faced with a deluge, and that ended an age.

So it will be with the Son of Man said Jesus. That is the thrust of today's Gospel lesson. It calls us to be ready, because ready or not, here comes Jesus!

We can do one of 2 things as we wait. Firstly, we can be like the people of Noah's time. Not for one moment did they think of anything but doing what they had always done - eating, drinking, marrying, giving no thought to anything else except what was important to themselves. They heard the sound of Noah's hammer with their ears only. His hammer had nothing to say to them about the destruction that was about to come. The destruction brought about by their own evil deeds.

They were busy building their own kingdoms to listen and to take any real notice to what Noah was doing. They lacked the ability to really look at what they were doing and to make some changes to their way of life so that they too might be ready. All they could see was a silly old man building a huge boat miles away from the water under a bright blue sky.

On the other hand, we can wait like Noah. God had called him and spoke to him about rain and water, flood and destruction. Even though the sky might be bright blue right now, St Paul calls us to be ark builders. He says, "For the moment when we will be saved is closer now than it was when we first believed."

The apostle is calling us to wake up. St Paul could hear those hammer blows in the night. He felt the nearness of the end. Each day brings us closer to the time when our Lord will be calling an end to all human history. When that end will come we cannot be sure, but it will come. We, like Noah, are living in the final days.

Because of this sense of the nearness of God's coming, our readings this morning call us to have the vision of the ark-builder. The Lord is coming soon, and so we plan and live our lives with the sense that what we do now is not permanent.

In these weeks leading up to Christmas it is a good time to remind ourselves how easily we get caught up in the quest for material possessions, so much so that real life and real living gets choked out. When the desire to gain more possessions becomes so important and occupies so much of people's hearts, minds and lives, then the spiritual dangers are enormous.

To want more and more is soul-destroying, family closeness is destroyed. Remember the legend of King Midas who was granted a wish. He wished that everything he touched would turn to gold. Thatís exactly what happened. He thought he had it made, that is until things started to go wrong. When the cat jumped on to his lap and he stroked its fur Ė it turned to gold. He hugged his daughter and she turned to gold. He soon realised that his values were up the creek.

The message to us all is "watch out" and have another look at the god you are worshipping.
Where do your true loyalties lie?
What is the most important thing or person in your life? How much emphasis do you put on material things?
Don't be fooled by a quick answer - Satan loves us to brush aside important questions with a quick answer. Satan does not want us to be prepared for the coming of Christ. He wants us - and I include many Christians here - to love the things of this life more than anything else.

We all know from our own experience that itís to convince ourselves that we need this or that when it's not essential. Itís easy to let our possession and our desire for them take control of us. These weeks leading up to Christmas are the most possession oriented weeks of the whole year as we focus our attention on gift buying and receiving, too often to the detriment of what Christmas is really about - the gift of a Saviour for sinful people.

In the second lesson today, Paul encourages us to be ready for the second coming of Christ by putting a stop to all activity that belongs to the dark ... and conduct ourselves properly as people who live in the light of day. He then points out that those who wait for the coming of Christ are best prepared if they avoid drunkenness, sexual immorality, fighting, jealousy, in fact anything that does not belong to the Christian way of life.

Peter says in his second letter: Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming (3:11,12). Rather than joining the world and its attitudes and ways, we are encouraged to let our faith in Christ be evident in our daily lives. Noah could easily have considered the idea of building such a big boat under a blue sky as ridiculous as his neighbours did. But he stood apart from the crowd, obeyed God, and the rest we know.

In these last days, the followers of Christ are still very much in the world and should be preparing the world for the day when Christ comes again.

I read somewhere that the little monkeys of India are devilish nuisances, but because they are regarded as divine, they are free to go their hardest. Gardens and work projects suffer badly from this.

The story is told of a visitor who once watched a group of workmen continually bothered by the monkeys, but no one dared to chase these "divine" animals away. At last one workman threw a stone at the monkeys and away they scampered! And work was able to proceed.

The writer asked, wasn't it a bit risky?" "Isn't it dangerous for a Hindu to chase these monkeys?"

The foreman of the workers smiled and said quietly; "He's not a Hindu, he's a Christian."

You see the point, Christians are free to throw stones at the evil in their lives!

Now whether the story is true or not, it does say something to us who claim to be Christians.

Nothing is going to be done about evil all around us by the evil-doers themselves, so maybe it's time the Christians started to throw stones. NOT physical stones, but it's about time the Christian influence started to be felt. And where better to start than in our preparation for Christmas and in the Christmas season itself?

The world around us is being taken over by monkeys of every kind,
the monkeys of materialism,
the monkeys of jealousy and greed,
the monkeys of uncontrolled sex and misuse of drink,
the monkeys of a blasphemous use of Christ's name and the use of obscene language,
the monkeys of a life so hectic and pressured that health and families suffer,
yet the person who knows Jesus and enjoys the freedom of that is given through Christ is able to throw stones at those monkeys of evil and keep them out his life and the lives of others. But sometimes it is unfortunate we enjoy the company of some of those monkeys; they give us pleasure as harmful as it might be.

Advent is a good time to take a good look at what monkeys are playing up in our lives and it's time to start throwing a few stones. Confess your sin to God and once again experience the fresh air of forgiveness and the beauty of lives free of the hindrances of the monkeys of sin. Advent reminds us of the commitment that God has toward us. He came in Jesus Christ to be born at Bethlehem and to die on the cross because of his love for us.

In this Advent season, God is calling us to be ark-builders. He is calling us to be like Noah, and to commit ourselves to being ready for the second coming of Jesus into our world. This readiness calls us to focus our attention on the one who was promised, who came and who will come. And as we become ark-builders every day, committed to Christ and to his will for our lives, then he will make us ready for the end-time that will usher in the time that has no end. Then we will be ready for the Lord to take us to the new land of the Prince of Peace.

May we be ready for the Lord whose Advent we hail. Amen

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
28th November, 2004
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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