Summary: As we begin Advent we need to be aware of the needs of those around us. It will only be when Christ is born in their lives (as God uses the Body of Christ) that they might find a faith like ours.
When I was in seminary there was a man in Dallas who got his “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” over the period of a couple of weeks. He was on the Dallas news almost every night. Why? Well he said that he had uncovered a message from space aliens through the static on his television. The aliens, on a given night that was about a week into the future, were going to come and shine down from the sky a stairway of light. He, his family, and his followers, all who would be gathered at his home, were going to climb the stairway on a spaceship. After that, the aliens were going to destroy the world with a giant ball of fire. Only he and his group would survive the destruction.
The night in question came, every television station in Dallas had a news crew there. Guess what, no spaceship ever came. And, obviously the world was not destroyed by a giant ball of fire. And, like most others who get their fifteen minutes of fame, the man has never been heard from again.
There have been other predictions for the end of time of course. The Christian world has always been fascinated with the subject of the end times. I can remember from my youth the popularity of Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth, which taught that we humans could understand the meaning of the end times.
That book certainly was not the first conversation ever about the end times. I read this week in a sermon that during the great plague of Europe in the middle of the fourteenth century, prophets predicted Christ’s re-appearance within ten years. Two hundred years later Martin Luther predicted the final conflict would align the reigning pope with the Turks against the reformation church. John Knox predicted 1547 was the year for Christ’s return. Even John Wesley made a prediction that 1836 would be the year that ended history.
Folks in the Church have been preoccupied with the idea of the end. What is more we still are. The popularity of the “Left Behind” series of books by Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins illustrates our fascination with the subject. For most preachers, Revelation is the book of the Bible most often requested for Bible study. Please notice, I didn’t say that it was the book most studied, just it is the book most requested.
Who of us could forget the change in the Millennium and how that was supposed to bring about the end of time. Then others, on September 11th were proclaiming it the beginning of the end. I heard that one person had predicted June 6, 2006 as a date because of the numbers 06/06/06 and 666 being the mark of the beast.
Since I started writing a blog on MySpace I have noticed a number of other blogs in the “Religion and Philosophy” category where the writer begins a discussion of the end times and how they are close at hand.
In my research for this sermon I have found what I would guess is the most recent prediction of the end, December 12, 2012 because it will be the last of the identical month, day, year dates for another thousand years, and surely the earth cannot last that long.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The lectionary Scriptures for this day each year point to the advent of Christ’s return and the end of time. As I looked through my record book I realized that I hadn’t preached one of these texts since I have been here at Aldersgate. It isn’t that I don’t want to preach them, it is more that I think that at this time of year, we are ready to start talking about Christmas and I end up looking toward Christmas thinking that I will preach one of these texts later and never actually get around to it. I know that I have alluded to it at times, but I have never actually preached one of them. So, this year I thought I would talk about the advent of Christ’s return.
The one thing that all of these people I have mentioned share in common on this score is, they all forgot or ignored our text for this morning. That even includes John Wesley. Jesus said in our lesson, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
You see friends, I can stand here and make predictions and call them prophecies saying that Jesus will return on this date and proclaim that I alone have this great prophetic insight, but I don’t and neither do any of these who have made these predictions in the past. Jesus clearly says in our lesson this morning that he himself doesn’t know, only the Father. If Jesus doesn’t know when his return is, how can any of us ever say that we are privy to this information?