Sounds like a strange scripture passage for the first Sunday of advent. A discussion of the second coming. But isn’t the celebration of the first coming really only possible because of the expected return of Jesus Christ?
I don’t know about all of you and your preparations for Christmas eve and day but the slogan around my house has always been Be Prepared. You would think Renee was a boy scout. Be Prepared is her slogan for Christmas preparations.
Let me illustrate. At home we have these boxes of presents left over from last year. Not presence with names on them but, packages that have all the rapping, and name tag however there is no name on the tag. I call it a just in case present.
Renee calls it being prepared.
What if we have a visitor?
What if someone shows up at the family Christmas celebration that we did not expect?
You have to be ready for that kind of contingency. What if someone gives you a gift and you don’t have anything to give back…… Ok, how can I argue with that kind of logic?
You know she gets it honest; she is just like her Grand mother and I mean that as the highest of complements. 20 people could drop by the house on Christmas even and magically, just like Santa reaching in his bag. Gifts appeared out of no where. AVON, all kinds of children’s toys….all ages.
You know, I can’t remember a time when I was left embarrassed by falling short of someone’s expectations.
Being prepared is really a good motto and an even better way of life.
Our scripture this morning is really a reminder from Jesus Christ to live a prepared life. The beginning of the chapter holds the prophecy of the destruction of the temple. Then he talks about false Messiahs that twill come forward and wars and earthquakes and famine.
Then he gets really personal. He predicts that the apostles will be arrested and tried. Then betrayals of family members all because of people that will not deny Jesus Christ as messiah. This whole end of this age thing sounds pretty scary and unpleasant.
It sounds like it will be a time of real testing and fear and discomfort.
That is not something that I want to anticipate and look forward to. But, we are told that God will bring the horrible times to an end. He will save his chosen.
But in those days, following that distress,
" ’the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
25the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
When God stops the trouble it will include darkness. Real – pitch black darkness. No sun…No moon….No stars….
If all the natural sources of light disappear it will not take very long before bloom and depression take their toll.
Loss of hope. Loss of expectations.
That is the kind of phenomenon that will get the attention of the people, all the people . Then the Son of man will come on the clouds with power and Glory.
-- Doesn’t that sound like there will be a new form of light?
Light that originates from the Son of God. The passing of the old form of physical light will change into something obviously from God.
Ok, weather channel, explain that.
The new light seems to be a comparison to the understanding of the cycles of a fig tree. It has natural tendencies. Predictable cycles of life and fruit. So the same is true with what God is doing.
When the supernatural happens we have nothing to fear because it has all been predicted and expected and we should take comfort in the signs. They are the promises of God coming to completion. The earthly world will pass away, but the word of God and the promises for his people are permanent.
But here is the key. None of us knows when it is going to happen. The angels don’t have a clue. The Son of Man does not know. Only God knows.
Story: In the late 19th Century in America, there was a wave of enthusiasm for prophecies predicting the actual date for Christ’s Second Coming.
One prophet was an Adventist leader William Miller (1782-1849). And it is in his movement that both the JW’s and the Seventh Day Adventists find their roots.
Miller first predicted that Christ would return on March 21, 1842, but then revised the date to April 3, 1843. Over 3,500 of his followers jammed the Boston Advent Temple, only to be disappointed.
You might have thought that the movement would have died. But it didn’t. Rather it continued to grow.
Miller decided to recalculate his date for the Second Coming and soon publicized a new date - April 18, 1844. When the messiah did not show up on that date, there was again frustration and some followers left the Adventist ranks.
Undeterred by these failures, Miller came up with a third date – October 22, 1844. The date was publicized as the Millerite publication True Midnight Cry. And, this third date surprisingly rallied his followers.
They began to spread the news of the new date of the second coming with an enthusiasm that had not seen before. Churches which did not accept this message were denounced as agents of “Babylon.” and the devil
And - despite opposition from established, mainline religious groups -, thousands of people – including many clergy – began to defect to the Millerite cult.
As doomsday approached, the Millerites began to prepare.
One account notes that “Fields were left unharvested, shops were closed, people quit their jobs, paid their debts, and freely gave away their possessions with no thought of repayment.”
Huge press runs of Advent publications like The Midnight Cry warned the public that “The Time Is Short”. “Prepare to Meet Thy God!” and “The Lord is Coming!”
William Miller himself began selling white “ascension robes” to the faithful, many of whom waited for the miraculous event in freshly dug graves.
But as we all know, the Second Coming did not occur on 22nd October 1844.
We are not told to get ready for a particular date. December 24 ant 25 that are targets that we aim for to celebrate Christmas. Not that is not what scripture describes. It is al about being ready. Always ready because none of us can know. That means that we need to be prepared. We need to live expecting Jesus return at any moment.
- Have we stopped looking and longing for the return?
- How do we prepare for the arrival of Jesus?
Is Jesus going to feel as if he is expected and welcome or his he going to look around and be disappointed?
As I watch the commercials this year on TV and even news clips I clearly see that Christmas as Christians are to celebrate it has gone. It has been gone so long that even the name is disappearing.
The stores are now having holiday sales not Christmas sales? The salvation army is being removed from the store fronts because their collection for the poor is bad for business.
Why do we shop in places that can have snowmen, and Santa’s and Grand Maw getting run over by a reign deer but they don’t have even a cartoon of Jesus in a manger any place in sight.
Is being prepared mean that we let the secular world steal the baby Jesus birthday and have any real notion that we are prepared for the second coming Of Christ.
It is not The Holidays – it is not X-mas - It is Christmas.
The day we celebrate the Gift God send to his creation. Emmanuel – God with us. God’s Gift to a sinful world.
Did any of you ever wait up for Santa to come? I tried several times. The longer the night the sleepier I got.
It is hard to anticipate something great and have it seem like it will never get here. The longer the delay in the return of Christ the more difficult it is for is to stay alert and ready.
That is how the world draws us off into the thinking of this world.
It looks like Jesus is never gonna get here. At least with Santa, I get stuff right now.
Folks, I am only a little “Bah Humbug” about Christmas. It isn’t that I don’t like the celebration.
What I don’t like is the change from anticipation to “is that all or is it over already.”
The Christmas we celebrate the ones that the stores advertise are short lived and have such a big let down.
That is why the advent season is so special. It reminds us that the biggest Gift has already been received. It is always present, it never needs batteries and It can never be broken or wear out.
Jesus Christ Came to us will over 2000 years ago and has promised to return and heal all the hurts, remove the trash and the pollution. He is coming to make all things new and to facilitate the permanent relationship between God and his creation.
Advent is when Christians slow down and notice that the pace of God is very different that the pace of this world. The messiah was prophesied for thousands of years and then arrived, as a powerless infant and grew into a normal looking man and yet He changed the world…one day at a time.
Advent is the period of time when we are reminded of the first period of waiting and watching and hoping as we experience the time I anticipation of his return.
Jesus gives his instruction, “. 37What I say to you, I say to everyone: ’Watch!’ "
All Glory be to God!