Summary: First Sunday In Advent: Preparation for Jesus’ return is not ’rocket science.’ Readiness is simply living in the faith that God has called us to by grace.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent - the beginning of a new Church Year. The Altar is draped in blue - expressive of hope, expectation and anticipation, which is the dominant mood of Advent. The Advent season is four Sundays long. That is why we have the four Advent candles in the Advent wreath. We light one candle on the first Sunday of Advent, two on the Second and so on. Now the word Advent means a “coming” or “arrival.” And so the season of Advent is one marked by the themes of preparation and readiness for a coming or arrival. And Who is it that we await? – None other than the King of kings and Lord of lords – Jesus. We prepare to receive Jesus in Advent.
Being prepared and ready is important. There’s an old saying that says, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.” How true! We see this principle lived out even as we engage in our daily affairs. For example, many families made special preparations just this last week. If your home was like mine, you probably had many people coming and going and enjoying Thanksgiving Day with you. But we had to prepare for this. We tried to find out who was coming and when. The house was especially prepared. Special food was prepared. If people stayed over, extra bedding and towels were laid out.
It took many years for me to learn that preparations needed to be made for company. When we were first married, I can’t tell you the number of times that I shocked Sofi. I would call her at the last minute and tell her that I was bringing company. Let’s see, there was the time that I brought Bill Jones home for lunch unannounced. We lived in Virginia when I did this. There was the time that I invited Tony Marrero and his wife Yvonne and his kids for breakfast - and I forgot to tell Sofi. We lived on a tiny Azorean island so we just couldn’t pop over to Denny’s. Whoooo boy, it sure was an interesting adventure. Well listen – I’ve sort of learned my lesson – sort of. You see, preparation IS important.
And that is what Advent is all about - preparation - being ready. The Gospel Lesson today tells us that the coming of the Jesus will be more like the unexpected surprises I pulled on Sofi. Jesus tells us, “Be careful! Watch! You don’t know the exact time when I’ll return.” Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples for the next few days - his arrest and death on the cross. But they were not listening. They were dreaming - thinking Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom. Their eyes were on this world. Jesus pointed them to the end of the age when this world and it’s vanities would not matter. In the same way, Jesus wants to prepare us for the events that will lead to the end. We don’t want to be ill prepared when Jesus returns – because the stakes will be heaven or hell, life or death.
As we begin Advent, we anticipate the return of Jesus. We are asked to think in terms of his final advent – when Jesus shows Himself in the fullness of his glory. He tells the disciples and us: “Make sure that when I return I don’t find you asleep.”
When I was a very young man, I preferred to drive at night when I made a long trip. When I got transferred from the Bay Area of California to Philadelphia I made the trip by car. I had plenty of time to make the trip – 7 days. But back then I was a single person with a girlfriend in South Texas. So I decided to make a little detour. I drove from the San Francisco Bay area to the Rio Grande Valley. I spent a couple of days there with a señorita named Sofi. Then I had just a couple of days to drive to Philadelphia.
So I took off late one afternoon. It was early the next morning, just as the sun was peeking over the horizon, when I fell asleep at the wheel. What woke me up was the sound of huge semi-truck’s horn and the sound of my car’s wheels thumping as the car fell off the pavement onto the median. Talk about a high adrenaline experience – my heart went from 60 to one hundred in a matter of seconds. It was a shock! And that is what Jesus is warning us about. Be awake! Don’t let my return be a shock to you!
It is difficult to be ready. You see, life tests us. It’s so easy to abandon the faith and to fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus and the things that He points to are irrelevant. Hey, who needs to get up early for Sunday School and Worship? Isn’t it better to stay warm in bed? Isn’t it better to stay home and watch the NFL today? No! That’s being asleep at the wheel spiritually. The sound of the last trumpet will surely shock the one slumbers like that.