Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent

Text: Luke 21:34
"Be on your guard! Donít let yourselves become too preoccupied with too much feasting and drinking and with the worries of this life..."

Be aware of what time it is!

A man had been driving all night and by morning was still far a long way from his destination. He decided to stop at the next town he came to, and park somewhere where it was quiet so he could get an hour or two of sleep. It just so happened that the quiet place he chose happened to be on the main path where the locals would take their early morning walks and the more energetic would jog.

No sooner had he settled back for a snooze when there was a knock on his window. He looked out and saw a jogger running in the spot. "Yes?" he said as he wound down the car window.
"Excuse me, sir," the jogger, said, "do you have the time?"
The man looked at the car clock and answered, "8:15."
The jogger said thanks and left. The man settled back again, and was just dozing off when there was another knock on the window and another jogger.
"Excuse me do you have the time?" asked an early morning walker with her dog.
"8:25!" the man replied. The walker said thanks and left.

Now the man could see other joggers passing by and he knew it was only a matter of time before another one disturbed him. To avoid that, he got out a pen and paper and put a sign on his window saying, "I do not know the time!" Once again he settled back to sleep. He was just dozing off when there was another knock on the window.
"Gidday mister," said a young man obviously a jogger. "Itís 8:45!"

As much as we would like to deny the passing of time and that day when time will stop, this is not possible. The Bible makes it quite clear there will come that day when the clocks will stop; when time will mean nothing. This may happen the day we take our last breath or it may happen if we are still here on this earth when Christ returns. We need to be aware that with the passing of every hour we are drawn closer to that day when we shall meet Christ face to face.

Itís no wonder that at this time of the year, the season of Advent, we are reminded to always be ready for that day. Jesus says things like:
"No one knows, however, when that day or hour will comeóneither the angels in heaven, nor the Son; only the Father knows.  Be on the lookout, be alert, for you do not know when the time will come. Ö What I say to you, then, I say to all: Watch!" (Mark 13:32,33,37).

During the Advent season we are urged to be aware of what time it is. Jesus is coming again soon.
Jesus urges us,
"Be on your guard! Donít let yourselves become too preoccupied with too much feasting and drinking and with the worries of this life...." (Luke 21:36).

The warning that Jesus gives is straightforward. There are many who will be so preoccupied with making and spending money, so caught up in their worries and problems, so involved with "too much feasting and drinking" that they will be unprepared for the day when Jesus will come again. On one occasion Jesus compares his coming with the flood in Noahís time. The people were so busy "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" right up to the day Noah entered the ark. They all perished in the flood because they didnít heed the warning signs and were not ready.

Paul says something similar, "When people say, ĎEverything is quiet and safe,í then suddenly destruction will hit them! It will come as suddenly as the pains that come upon a woman in labour..." (1 Thessalonians 5:3). He goes on to say, "We should not be sleeping like the others; we should be awake and sober." Advent reminds us that without a doubt Jesus is coming again and that we are in the last days before he comes. We donít know when but he is coming.

There was an ad on TV some time ago (havenít seen it lately) that promoted the cleaning product Spray and Wipe. The house is a mess. There are food stains on bench tops, the stove, everywhere. There is a telephone call telling the lady of the house that the mother-in-law is on the way. There is a flurry of activity as the house is cleaned up and the house is made sparkling clean. Everything is in order just as mother-in-law comes up to the front door and she looks around with a critical eye and judges everything to be OK.

Likewise Jesus calls us to be ready for the unexpected. He calls us to take notice of the signs of his imminent coming and be ready for the day when "there will be the shout of command, the archangelsí voice, the sound of Godís trumpet, and the Lord himself will come down from heaven (1 Thess. 4:16). Just as Jesus came unexpectedly at the first Christmas and the people of his time were not ready for the coming of the Saviour so likewise many people will be unprepared for his coming again.

During the Advent season we are urged to be aware of what time it is and recall how Jesus came to be the Saviour of all people. As we progress through the Advent season our attention focuses on the Saviour who came from heaven to earth at Christmas. We are reminded again of what God has done for us through the baby of Bethlehem. The angel who spoke to the shepherds said it so well and these words ring in our ears, "Today in the town of David your Saviour was born Ė he is Christ the Lord!" The angel is speaking to us as well when he announced, "your Saviour has been born." This is not just a nice warm fuzzy story about a cute baby born amongst the animals in a stable with two doting parents watching over him.

And as we go through the Advent season we recall with thanks and praise that God has loved us so much that he sent his only beloved Son so that all who believe in him may not perish but have eternal life. And as we come closer to Christmas we will sing the carols that we love and have cherished since childhood. Christian and non-Christian alike sing them but we, who know the baby as "our Saviour", sing them with thanks to a loving God for his grace and mercy.

During the Advent season we are urged to be aware of what time it is and welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives as he calls us to repentance and obedience

As I have said, every hour that passes brings us closer to the day when we shall see Jesus face to face. This will happen and the temptation is to think that this wonít happen for a long time. I think that the recent number of younger people who have unexpectedly been taken from this life should be a sober reminder that being ready is not something we should put off to another day or another year. We need to be ready now. We do not know the day or the hour when this will happen. The question is - how are we to prepare?

Our first Advent preparation is repentance Ė a realization that we are sinners and that Christmas is all about God doing something about it. In humility we prepare to meet Jesus confessing our sinfulness and relying on the grace of God. We believe with the utmost certainty that it is only through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross that gives us security of knowing that there is nothing we need to fear. Sin cannot condemn. Nothing can separate us from the God who loves us. Eternal life is ours. The Holy Spirit makes our faith in Jesus sure and certain and even in those moments of doubt he calls us again to trust Jesus and believe that all is well. Jesus has taken care of everything.

Our second Advent preparation is obedience. Jesusí love for us changes the way we live our lives right now. One of the readings set down for Christmas comes from Titus 2. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to say ĎNoí to ungodliness, and to live self-controlled, up right and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope Ė the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. ... (He) made us a pure people who belong to him alone and are eager to do good (2:11-14).
In 2 Peter we read,
"What kind of people should you be? Your lives should be holy and dedicated to God, as you wait for the Day of GodÖ" (3:11).

Advent and the coming Christmas season remind us of the overwhelming love that God has for us Ė so wonderful is his love for us that he was prepared to become one of us. His love for us led him to endure the process of being born in the same way that we are, to endure the hardship and suffering that we do and then to die as we do. This love that God has for us affects everything we do (or should affect everything we do) in our daily relationships and dealings with other people.

Advent is a good time to make a stocktake of our lives, our relationship with God and with his church, and the way we demonstrate our Christian faith in our lives. Itís an excellent time to repent and with Godís help determine "to live as in Godís presence and strive to lead a holy life, even as Christ has made you holy."

Between the first and second Advent of Jesus he has given us a task to do. Jesus said, "A man goes away from home on a journey and leaves his servants in charge, after giving to each one his own work to do." Did you hear that? "Giving to each one his own work to do." He has given each one of us and the whole church one important task, and that is Ė "Go and make disciples of all nations...

The time is growing short and there are so many who will be lost forever if they do not come to faith in Jesus. The time is short for them to hear this Good News and if we have a love and concern for such people we will be ever so serious about sharing the Good News about the baby who came at Christmas. Jesus has left us in charge of carrying out his work until the day he returns. He expects us to be faithful servants; obedient to his command to spread his Word through this congregation, through the LCA, and personally at home, among our friends and work mates.

Having said all this I am beginning to feel like a schoolboy caught misbehaving and bludging rather than doing the work I have been given to do. Again Advent preparation is a time of repentance and experiencing the grace of God.

As we progress through the Advent season, letís join with the church of all ages and say, "Come, Lord Jesus!" Come on the Last Day. Come with your grace into our lives and call us to be your obedient servants. "Come, Lord Jesus! Come!"

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
3rd December, 2006

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