Summary: The importance of living each day to its fullest is the best way to meet and prepare for Christ’s coming.
Sermon for Advent I, Yr B Dec 1, 2002 Based on Mk 13: 24-37
“Making the most of life today”
Grace Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
As most of you likely know, one of the mottos of the Boy Scouts is: “Be prepared!” The ability to be prepared, to be awake and alert is a blessing in so many life situations, isn’t it? In today’s gospel, Jesus is speaking of heaven and earth shaking events. The natural world is malfunctioning; there are natural signs that wise people observe like tender fig tree branches and leaves to prepare for the arrival of summer. It seems that Jesus speaks here of a nearness and an unpredictable not-yetness in the future when, one day the end will come, and with it a new beginning. In this “both and” emphasis of Jesus; in this “now and not yet” reality in which we live and move and have our being; Jesus wants us to be awake and alert, to be prepared for his coming.
Norwegian adventurer and author Lars Monsen is back home after having spent 947 days crossing the Canadian wilderness.
Monsen used canoe and sled dogs on the 8252 kilometre journey north of the populated regions of Canada.
Monsen encountered wolves, bears, forest fires, icy waters and winter temperatures down to effective minus 80 centigrade during his two-and-a half-year trip.
He told NRK TV that at one point he did not dare to go to sleep for four days and nights, for fear that he would not wake again from the extreme cold.
Having lost 12 kilos during the strenuous journey, Monsen is now looking forward to relaxing, eating, talking and spending time with his family. 1
Lars Monsen was prepared for what he had to face, and, by keeping alert and awake for those four days and nights in the freezing arctic cold, his life was saved. Had he fallen asleep he may have frozen to death. In our life too, there are times and situations which require us to be prepared, to stay awake and alert, otherwise we may very well lose our lives—both physically and spiritually. This is not always easy, is it? To be prepared, to keep awake and alert requires a lot of things.
First of all, as Lars Monsen no doubt realised, to be prepared for all the possibilities of a long Canadian arctic journey, it was necessary to carefully decide on—to list only of few—everything from mode of transportation, to proper clothing, shelter, and food supplies and other camping and survival gear. So it is with us, to be prepared for the possibilities of our life journey, it is necessary for us to trust in the LORD and keep our faith strong in him. He will provide us with all we need for the journey. Do we take along what he’s given us for the journey and put it to good use; or do we take along other things that don’t help us out all that much? Advent is a time for us to prepare carefully, and toss out or give away whatever gets in the way of our relationship with Jesus—that may be physical, mental and spiritual baggage, stuff that only hinders us and causes us to stumble and fall. Jesus calls us to a repentance, to clean house, to replace this harmful, toxic stuff with Christ’s love and forgiveness.
Secondly, as Lars Monsen also no doubt learned, to keep awake and alert in freezing cold temperatures for four days and nights requires a lot of intentional discipline and stamina. So it is with us in our journey of life; we need to keep alert and awake lest we lose our faith and that requires intentional discipline and stamina too on our part in order to resist the powers of evil and destruction, which are always at work, trying to seduce us.
The more delayed the second coming of Jesus is, the more difficult it is for us to keep alert and awake. So it is important for us as Jesus said to pay attention to “the signs of the times.” They prepare and warn us, so that we do pay attention, keep awake and alert. However, there is also the temptation which some Christians fall into of paying too much attention to the signs of the times. This has happened throughout the ages, whereby some Christians spend all of their time and energy worrying about the end times and the second coming of Christ and therefore falsely try to convince themselves and others the exact time all this will happen. Many dates have been predicted, including the year 2000—all of these have proven to be wrong. Jesus is clear on this matter: “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”