Summary: 1st Sunday of Advent, Series C. Preached at Beaver Creek Lutheran Mission, Forest City, Iowa 11/30/2003.
Advent 1, Series C. “Are We Prepared Yet?” Luke 21:25-36. November 30, 2003
Forest City Lutheran Mission, Forest City, IA
First of all, Happy New Year! Yes, that’s right! This morning we begin a new church year, as today is the First Sunday in Advent. And since we begin the Advent season today, there’s a word that we’re going to be hearing about a lot in the next few Sundays during this special time of year. That word is prepare. There are a lot of preparations that go into this time of year. For those of us with ties to Waldorf, the fact that Christmas is coming means that we have a lot of preparing to do, because finals week is rapidly approaching. Those of us who are students have to prepare our final papers and study for our final exams and projects for our classes, and our professors are not alone either, they, after all, have a little more teaching to do and prepare the exams for their students to take. This past week, we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, and many of you had special Thanksgiving dinners to prepare for, or if you went out of town, you had to make preparations for your trip. And once Thanksgiving was over, and leftovers put in the refrigerator, were you one of the thousands of people who flocked to the stores this past Friday morning to take advantage of all the crazy Day after Thanksgiving sales at the stores? The retail folks will remind us that Christmas is coming soon, we need to be prepared and get our Christmas shopping done! I’m usually a last minute Christmas shopper myself, so I guess I’m not doing so well in that regard to preparing for Christmas. Speaking of Christmas coming, that means there’s lots of Christmas parties being held in the next few weeks, and there are a lot of things to do in order to be prepared for a good Christmas party. My aunt in Ankeny every year at Christmas prepares a special Christmas care package for everyone, so I am sure she’s been busy preparing those wonderful gifts which I can assure you, are very much appreciated. Speaking of preparing for Christmas, have you decorated your homes for Christmas yet? There are a lot of special Christmas events that are going on in the community this month, and all of them involve preparation. I’ve found it a bit ironic that while our world gets so wrapped up in Christmas and making all these preparations for Christmas, somehow, Advent seems to get forgotten about, when, that’s what it’s all about. Just like you can’t have a good Christmas party or Christmas pageant without properly preparing for it, we as Christians can’t celebrate Christmas properly without preparing for it, and that is what Advent is all about, its how we as body of Christ will prepare to celebrate Jesus’ coming into the world, the fulfillment of a long awaited promise. I originally thought about giving this sermon the title “Are We There Yet?” because the world would tell us we don’t need Advent, or in some cases, you don’t necessarily need Jesus to celebrate Christmas, just go ahead and do it. But instead, I think a more appropriate title for my sermon would be “Are We Prepared, Yet?” So that is the theme with which we will be working this morning.
At first, perhaps it seems a bit out of place to start the Advent season with a Gospel reading that deals with Christ’s second coming. This is Advent, this is Christmas! We don’t focus on gloom and doom that’s associated with the end of the world! At least that is what some people or our sinful world would want us to think. If this account sounds a little familiar, it should, because two Sundays ago in our first worship service together, we read and pondered the parallel account of this particular passage in Mark’s gospel. Did you catch the last paragraph in our reading for this morning? Let me share it with you one more time: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Did you hear Jesus’ words to us to help us prepare for his coming? With everything that is going on in our world, and especially at this time of the year, with all the preparations that we talked about, it’s very easy to get weighed down with the anxieties of this world. And that is part of what sin has done to our world. Our sinful natures take every opportunity to weigh us down, and get our focus off of Jesus Christ and preparing for His coming, and gets us to start to think about the things of this world. Eventually, that puts us in a position to where what preparations we make, have only to do with ourselves and our lives here in this sinful and fallen world. We stop looking at the sign of the times, the reminders God gives us that Jesus is coming, and we had better start getting ready. But where do we turn? All we see around us is one huge mess of a world. You need nothing more than to open your newspaper or turn on the evening news to be reminded of what’s going wrong in this world. They serve as our daily reminders of just how much of a mess our sinful world is in. There’s conflict in Iraq, it seems we hear daily about one of our troops being attacked or killed. There are problems with terrorism, people getting taken advantage of by some new scam; someone’s life is suddenly taken from them in a horrific murder with seemingly no reason for it. The list could go on and on with the things we see every day that happen in our world and when we dwell on these things, they can drag us down. These are the very things Jesus warns us about. When we don’t look beyond ourselves, and see these signs of the times, it gets pretty scary and it’s very easy for us as sinful human creatures to feel helpless and anxious about what is going to become of our world.