12/2: Advent- Preparation
Worship Reading Daniel 7:13–14 (HCSB) — 13 I continued watching in the night visions, and I saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. 14 He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed. Scripture Reading Matthew 24:36–44 HCSB 36 “Now concerning that day and hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son —except the Father only. 37 As the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 38 For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah boarded the ark. 39 They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away. So this is the way the coming of the Son of Man will be: 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this: If the homeowner had known what time the thief was coming, he would have stayed alert and not let his house be broken into. 44 This is why you also must be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Introduction This morning we are recognizing Advent as we begin a new cycle in our church calendar. Ordinary time is over and we begin afresh. For those of you who may be new or who are not familiar with the church calendar, it is not some sort of law that is imposed. Or an ancient tradition which we regulate all people to follow. But rather it is a moment which we can join with the saints of old and we can reflect on the goodness of God in Christ. A goodness that we too often forget as we can so easily be distracted by the things in this world. <Show Calendar and explain each moment> Today marks the first day of Advent, Dec 2. It always starts four Sundays prior to Christmas. And it is all about the coming of Jesus Christ. It begins with a time of waiting and longing until it culminates in a moment of celebration at the birth of our Savior, our Messiah, which we celebrate on Christmas day. As you can see we are in the dark, and the posture that we have is one of darkness to light. As we symbolically await the coming of the light of the world on Dec 25. Although we are not traditionalists, we also do not want to overlook special events that are unique to the Christian faith and have been celebrated for centuries by the Christian churches. We use the church calendar as an additional means with which we are going to be centering our lives around the gospel. In addition, to our various ministries where we put the gospel in action, and the Bible studies we have that bring us to the Word, we also follow a church calendar. And so, if you go to our church website, you will find a 192-page book on the church seasons that we have licensed from the Village Church. It is a very useful book for those who want to be tracking in their own personal Bible Study.It also has daily devotions that you can use as a family throughout this week to point us to Christ. It is no replacement for study of the Word, but is a helpful tool for diving deeper into the Word. It also will prove to be a great resource to be used by the Fathers as they lead in family worship and discipleship. Body What is Advent? So, what is Advent? It is a Latin term, which means “a coming to”. It is an expectation of a prominent figure coming. And for us Christians, and the world really, Christmas is the summit the pinnacle of the advent season in which we are reminded of Christ coming to man. And we can also be mindful of the second coming. The second Advent for when Jesus will come again. And so, as we walk through this season, like I said before the emotion that is brought out of us is a time of expectation and longing. The Jews wanted their Messiah, their king to come an set them free and establish a kingdom forever. They wanted it, and the eagerness and yearning for it would continue to build as they anticipate the coming. They were not holding on to nothing. They had faith. Faith that God would indeed fulfill His promises. And in the same way, we join with them in this mood don’t we? But we are not in waiting or eagerness for a first coming, we are in eagerness for the Second Coming. Where are we going? And so, as we walk through the seasons, we will be looking at four areas in advent as we draw nearer to Christmas: Preparation- Preparing ourselves for the second advent Anticipation- Anticipating the coming of the Messiah Joy- A proper understanding of the the coming one brings us joy Incarnation- The event in history when God took on flesh which we celebrate on Christmas This morning we will consider “Preparation”. Preparation of our hearts and minds. Preparation of our lives for Christ’s return.But we are forgetful people aren’t we? In the Season of Advent, we are reminded that we are not looking to the here and now, but we are living for eternity. Too often we come into the certain seasons of our lives and our orientation turns to self. What we are going to eat on Thanksgiving, what we can get ourselves on Black Friday, and what will make our wish list for Christmas, how will we improve ourselves for the New Year. And so, Advent gives us a pause. It is a time when we can reflect on what truly matters. It is not about gifts, or vacations, or even about how badly Army will beat Navy. It is about Christ. And in the business of this world, we forget. Let us not forget the reason for this season or even the reason for the hope which is within us. Where our faith resides. Into what image we are being conformed into. <Illustration> A mother was having a gathering to celebrate the birth of her newborn son. She invited a bunch of friends over to celebrate his arrival. Nine long months and finally her baby boy had come. She welcomed her guests, and they all had a great time celebrating, eating, and drinking. After a while, one of the ladies said, “Well, bring the baby out. Let us see it.” The mother went to get the baby from his crib—he was nowhere to be found. She started to panic and feel fearful. Suddenly, she remembered that the baby was still at her parents’ house, where she had left him that morning. She and the guests had been having so much fun they had forgotten what the party was about in the first place. During the Christmas season, many people get busy with celebration and forget that the birth of Jesus Christ is the reason for the season. We forget that just as he had come once, he is going to come back again.Jesus is returning and so let us live in light of that truth. </Illustration> And that is what we read in Matthew 24. That he is indeed coming back again. And we are reminded in His coming that we are to be watchful. To be prepared. If we continue to forget, we are going to miss the point. We must always keep focused. Always ready. <Illustration> I remember when i was in my middle school years, I played one season of Basketball with the YMCA. I had certain talents and a physique that would make you think I would be a good player. I was one of the tallest players in the entire league and one of the fastest. But despite all of this, I was not very good at shooting but I could get the ball. One particular game near the end of the season, I had a record of 0 points scored for my team. The game was getting pretty intense and I remember getting a rebound. It was a movie moment, time slowed down, I got control of the ball and tossed towards the hoop with perfect layup form. The ball went in the hoop. I had just scored my first ever basket. The problem was, I had scored on my own team. I think we ended up losing that game. We can execute the plays masterfully but if we forget the main thing—the goal—we can lose. The main thing is that the main thing always remain the main thing. </Illustration> The central point in this discourse and the parables in it are intended to teach us how to live today in light of tomorrow’s certainties. Just as Advent reminds of how Christ came, we as believers in today’s day are to live with that understanding. That Christ is coming again and we ought to be ready for his return and live in a manner that prepares us for the eternity with Him. <Illustration> I can remember when I was much younger how my family went into preparation mode for a huge event. It was an event with a lot of confusion, it was an impending date that would not be moved for anyone. a time of uncertainty. I am of course speaking about Y2K. No one knew what would happen, there was panic that all the computer systems would fail and mayhem would ensure and so we stored tons of water and rice and spam. We prepared ourselves. Just like I am sure many of you prepared yourselves for Hurricane Harvey which hit us last year or for a wedding or for a trip. You prepare yourself, you get ready. </Illustration> And in a similar fashion, Christ calls us to prepare for his coming. We do not know the day, nor the hour for when He will return and so we live with full expectation that He could come at any moment. We are reminded multiple times of how we are to be ready including in Matthew 24:44, “This is why you also must be ready, because the Son of man is coming at an hour you not expect.” We prepare, because... He is coming. We do not know the day or even the hour. And I think that that can get lost on us sometimes. This gives us purpose and with meaning. We leave with intention. Noah believed God. And so with faith he built the ark. Had he not believed in God, he would have been destroyed, him and his family. But he trusted God and so he built the ark with faith. He prepared himself. And the parables that follow illustrate beautifully how we live in the present for His coming. Matt 24:43-44 is the first of the five parables.We do not live in ignorance but with knowledge. Holman New Testament Commentary: Matthew If we are taken by surprise, it is not because God is out to trick us but because of our own apathetic self-deception or negligence. Matt 24:45-51 we read of how we are to live faithfully and righteously with the parable of the Faithful servant. And ready at all times. Not towards the end of our life, but at all times. We also read of a reward/punishment dynamic for those who are righteous and those who are wicked. We read of stewardship of other lives, loving and caring for others. In Matt 25:1-13 we read of how we are to be prepared for the coming of the Son with the parable of the 10 virgins. We need to exercise wisdom as we await the return of Christ. He may seem to be delayed, but we continue to wait. In Matt 25:14-30 we read of the parable of the talents. The idea that we are to be responsible with our abilities, what we have been given, in preparation for eternity. In Matt 25:31-46 we read of how he will separate the sheep from the goats. Although not technically a parable, it illustrates to us similar themes found in the previous parables. We are called to be prepared. We are to be faithful because there will be a separation and there will be judgment. Conclusion Holman New Testament Commentary: Matthew VII. Teaching Outline In light of the future reality of hardship and ultimate salvation, we must stay ready for Christ’s return at all times by living in loving obedience. When he returns, we must give account for our lives and service. In light of this reality, the question that we must wrestle with is this. Are we living our lives as though Christ could really come back today? Just think about it. If you knew that Jesus Christ was coming back tonight at 7:00 pm, would your life change any? If so, perhaps you are not living in this light. Our task is to continually be faithful. To continually be obedient. To not be forgetful, but always ready for His return. Are you ready?