Summary: Christ is coming when we least expect him. Be prepared.
Matthew 24:37-44 KEEP WATCH
When is the proper time to start getting ready for Christmas? Is Thanksgiving weekend the time to start? Or is it earlier? I noticed that this year, the stores have decided that last weekend – the weekend before Thanksgiving – is the official beginning of the Christmas season. Happy holidays, the stores say, starting November 19th. That’s pretty early. If you drive up and down Johnson Road, you may have noticed that one homeowner, who lives about a mile beyond our property, totally decked out his house with Christmas lights two weekends ago – that was November 12th. Is that too early? I just saw, the other day, a story about a Christmas store in Frankenmuth, Michigan – the biggest Christmas store in the world, and it’s open all year round. From their point of view, you should start getting ready for Christmas during the summer.
Everyone has their own opinion on what’s too early for Christmas decorating. Regardless of that, we all know that Christmas is coming. The exact day is printed out for us on our calendars, and many people have begun to count down the days. The thing is, no one was really ready for that first Christmas, when Jesus was born. No one knew that Christ was coming, except a very small group of people. The rest of the world was preoccupied with other things. The Roman governor of the land had ordered that a census should be taken of that area for tax purposes. Back then, if there was a census, you were compelled, by law, to go back to your ancestors’ hometown and register there. That’s what everyone was doing during that first Christmas. People were traveling, making arrangements about places to stay, where to eat, where to register for the census. Parties were taking place. Activities were going on. People were visiting family and friends they hadn’t seen in awhile.
It was a very busy, very crazy time in world history. The last thing on most people’s minds was whether or not the Messiah would be born. After all, God had been promising to send a Messiah for thousands of years. You hear about that all the time. Right now, most people had other things to think about.
And then Christ was born, and everyone missed it. There was Mary and Joseph. There were a few shepherds out in the fields who were told by the angels what was going on. Hundreds of miles away there were the wise men, who noticed the star in the east. If you study your Bible, you find out that the wise men didn’t make it to the manger on Christmas Eve – they were late, and came some time later. Besides them, everyone else missed it. After the census was over, everyone went back home, completely unaware that something big – one of the biggest things that could possibly happen – took place.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning tells us that this is how it will be the second time Jesus come to this earth, when he comes on Judgment Day. Most people won’t be ready for it. After all, people have been talking about the world coming to an end for a long long time. Right now, most people have other things that they are thinking about.
This morning, Jesus is going to encourage us to keep ourselves spiritually ready and spiritually alert, because he is coming. Don’t let yourself be caught unprepared – that’s the main message God’s Word has for us today. Be ready, Jesus tells us.
In verses 37 and following, Jesus talks about how it was during the days of Noah, the first time God destroyed the world. “People were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.” Didn’t God give those people a chance? The answer is yes! For many, many years, those people had the chance to watch a crazy old man build a giant wooden box in the desert. For many years, they listened to him talk about how God was going to send a flood, and it was time for them to repent. They all thought Noah was crazy. But then the flood came, and they were all completely unprepared and drowned.
That’s how it will be, Jesus says, when I come again. Some of you will be ready, and some of you will not. Look at the example Jesus uses in verse 40 – two men will be in a field – one taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding grain – one taken, the other left. Jesus is emphasizing here how some will be ready for his second coming, and some will not. The rest of the Bible gives us a clearer picture – when Jesus comes, there will be a loud trumpet call from God. Jesus will come with all of his angels, riding the clouds, and everything will stop. He’ll raise the dead. Then, those who are believers – those who are ready for his arrival – will be lifted up from this earth and will meet the Lord in the sky (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The unbelievers – those who aren’t ready – they will be left behind, to be judged, and to be sent to hell.