Advent Sunday Mark 13: 24-37
At this very moment all over the country there are cars queuing for the coveted space in the car park, whilst the lucky ones jostle and push their way through the crowds, clutching their lists and laden with bags. They are preparing for Christmas.
And here we are sitting comfortably and – pressing the ‘pause’ button for an hour. We too are preparing for Christmas, but in a very different way,
For we are preparing our hearts and lives once again to receive Jesus, as we recall again His humble birth. The shepherds, the angels, the stable, the crib and God’s son coming as a helpless baby – it is all very comforting and familiar. Yet in Mark’s gospel we have a stark warning about being vigilant, instead of being warm and comfortable Jesus gives warnings about not missing the coming of God into our lives, He talks about preparing for an uncertain future – the only thing that is really certain is that the world will one day come to an end. We really do not want to hear this kind of sermon but we must, because Jesus urges us to be ready to meet God at any moment. Before you start to think all this talk about the end of the world sounds a bit far-fetched, consider this; we may not live to see the end of the world in our lifetime, but we can all be sure that one day our own lives will end, and we do not know when that will be. That is the one thing we seriously need to be prepared for. It is an interesting reflection on our society that the one thing about all our lives that is most certain is the one thing that we talk about the least and are most afraid of. Jesus came to take the fear out of dying but we still need to be prepared, always ready to meet God.
This one certainly does not have the warm Christmassy feel, we have got so used to hearing about famine, and earthquake, wars and rumours of wars that is has become part of the fabric of our lives, yet Jesus says take note of these things, they are signs of the last days. You must be ready – For the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.
While the world prepares for a day of over-hyped gift giving, we are called to prepare for something a little more lasting. While the secular world’s Christmas celebrations come to an abrupt end on December 27th our celebrations will continue until the day that Jesus comes back again.
Christmas isn’t the goal or the destination but the starting point. You might think, “Well, He hasn’t come in the last 2000 years, so I don’t have to bother too much about it,” but it is sobering to remember: It wasn’t raining when Noah started to build his ark!
I am sure we can all remember playing hide and seek. Trying not to peek through the fingers to get a clue to where they may be hiding, racing through the numbers as fast as possible, missing chunks out, eager to get to 100. Then shouting; Ready or not I’m coming.
And this is our Advent message this morning. Jesus who came as a baby, died, rose and ascended into heaven is coming back again. Ready or not He’s coming.
One day the world as we know it will end. It is no good kidding ourselves it won’t be in our lifetime and dismissing the idea altogether. We need to ‘Be Prepared’ and keep a short account with God. Living each day as if it were our last.
Many years ago when I was a district nurse in Brighton I met two elderly sisters. Edna was terminally ill but being nursed at home by Freda. On my first visit I found Edna on her bed rather than in it. She was lying in her outdoor clothes on wet newspaper and the bedcover was a couple of coats. I went into the bathroom to wash my hands – opened the cupboard to find a towel and there was several packets of brand new Dorma Sheets and pillowcases. There were Witney blankets still in the cellophane wrapper, and I found a lovely silk nightdress still wrapped tissue paper. When I asked Freda why these were not being used – she said we are saving them for a special occasion. It took a lot of persuasion to let me use the new linen.
We can’t live in our tomorrows or in our yesterdays, we need to live in the present for Jesus is coming today. Possibly not for the very last time, as in the gospel reading, but if we choose to look we will see Him ~
In the man huddled in the shop doorway, hungry cold and homeless – It's HIM
In the staring eyes of the starving looking out at us from our TV screens – It’s HIM
As she wanders aimlessly down the street, muttering to herself, confused and bewildered – Its’ HIM
Day after day, wherever we choose to look
In an AIDS ward
In the dole queue
In the rehab clinic
In the hospice
Jesus said, when I was hungry you fed me,
Naked you clothed me and Homeless you took me in.
The disciples said, Lord when did we do these things.
Jesus replied, when you did it for these, you did if for me.
But it is not just in these cries for help that he comes,
but in joys and generosity
in kindness and caring,
in courage and compassion
In our forgiveness and reconciliation
Again and again,
In the wonder of creation and recreation all around us, in the ordinary things of life.
Jesus comes to us in the beauty of a sunset or in the power of the wind, in the laughter of a teenager or the healing touch of a nurse. It’s HIM.
So we begin the season of Advent waiting and watching for Jesus in the world today, and as we become used to meeting with him day by day, so we will find we are prepared to meet him at the end of our lives as well. waiting and watching for Jesus when he comes to each one of us.
This morning the call comes from heaven ~ Jesus says:
Ready or not I’m coming