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Sermon November 29 2020

Advent 1 B 2020

Mark 13:24-37


Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Are you ready for Christmas?  Perhaps you are that type of person that can answer “Yes, I am.”  Maybe you are the type of person that has all their Christmas shopping done, and your decorations and tree are up, and you have the Christmas music playing, and you can say to yourself “Yes! I got this!  I am ready.  Bring it on.”  

Or perhaps you are like most of us who admit that we are far from being ready for Christmas.  Well, this year who could blame you.  Concepts such as limited family gatherings, and wearing a face mask, and keeping six feet apart have taken priority over the everyday and seasonal activities in our lives.  

Unfortunately for a lot of us we will soon discover that we will fall short of the goal of a Norman Rockwell picture of the perfect Christmas.  Why???  How about limited items at the store, and travel restrictions, and the concern about the spread of the corona virus. 

“Bah, Humbug” many will say.  Christmas is the one time of the year that we can truly experience peace and joy, and this year Christmas seems to only bring more chaos into our lives. 

Perhaps we have our priorities wrong.  This brings me then, to the important question.  The Advent Question is this “What do we need to do to get ready?”  And the answer is “Nothing.”  There is nothing that we can do to prepare ourselves for the Second Coming. 

Christ has done everything for us.  Christ has done for us what we can not do for ourselves.  Scripture informs us that by the grace of His forgiveness, Christ has covered our sins.  That through the power of His Resurrection, Christ has given us new life.  Because of His deep love for us, He has made us His own and given us a place in His Kingdom. 

That does not mean, however that we are now free to spend our Advent Season simply getting ready for Christmas and forgetting about the end.  No, having prepared us for His Second Coming, Christ now encourages us to wait and watch. 

And this waiting and watching is not to be a passive thing.  Jesus told His disciples this: “Blessed is the one whom the master finds at work when he arrives.” 

Yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but we are saved “to do good works.” Ephesians 2:10 Jesus spoke of laying up treasures in heaven, and His parable of the talents hints at various rewards for those who faithfully serve Him in this world. 

Therefore, to hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant,” as Christians we must joyfully receive the gift of salvation and reconciliation, and then share this gift with other people whom we come across in our lives. 

And how can we do this??? First, we can share the Gospel with others and take seriously Christ’s command to spread the Good News. 

Next, we can help the disadvantaged.  In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man is condemned because he does not help Lazarus and because he trusts in his wealth too much.  First John implores us not to put self-gratification before the needs of others. 

1 John informs us: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity, how can the love of God be in that person?”  1 John 3:17 

Then we can forgive others of their offenses.  This is not the same as reconciliation or trust, but it means that we renounce vengeance.  The Lord Himself modeled this for us. 1 Peter states: “When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to the Father who judges justly.”  1 Peter 2:23 

We can next recognize that every beneficial position we are in is because of God, the source of every blessing.  James wrote “Ever good gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”  James 1:17 

We must then be willing to be unpopular, displaying rare courage like the Good Samaritan.  Do what is right; and remember “We must obey God rather than men.”  Acts 5:29 

My friends; as we do all this, we can look forward to the day when Christ returns in power and glory to end all suffering; including the suffering caused by the corona virus.

But until then, we do not know the hour of His return.  And that is why Jesus implored us “to keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else He may find you asleep when He comes suddenly.  And what I say to you I say to all: Keep Awake.”  Mark 13: 35-37 

 Let me ask you again “Are you ready for Christmas?”  I am not.  But there are still 33 days to prepare.  But that is not the most important question.  The most important question is “Are you ready for Christ to come again?”  I can answer “I am, for Christ has prepared me for that day.”  

Today on the First Sunday in the Season of Advent we are reminded to “Keep Awake, Be Ready.”  May our waiting be active rather than passive, focused rather than distracted, and eager rather than anxious or afraid.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Let us pray:  Faithful God, your promises stand unshaken through all generations.  Renew us in hope, that we may be awake and alert watching for the glorious return of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.