Summary: Fist Sunday of advent, exhortation to watch and pray
Of Signs and Traps
To Alerts the congregation to the signs or the return of Christ& to encourage them to avoid the traps on the way
To introduce Advent
Introduction – Advent
Happy New Year. That may sound like a strange thing to say just before Christmas, but the season of Advent is the start of the churches year. Today is the first of four Sundays in the run up to the birth of God into our world.
So I’m going to ask you to make a new years resolution – one that you will keep and build on during the year.
1 coming or arrival; first appearance.
2 (Advent) Christianity the period which includes the four Sundays before Christmas.
3 (Advent) Christianity the first or second coming of Christ.
Each of the four Sundays in Advent is used to help us prepare our selves for that Arrival. On the first Sunday , right at the start of the year we look at the coming and the coming back – perhaps better known as the first and second comings.
Background to passage
The passage that was read today is just a short part of Jesus teaching to his disciples on the future. The full passage starts back in verse 5. The disciples are admiring the great architecture of the temple. Jesus sees his opportunity. His chance to make an impact. Every one of these stones will be thrown down. That got their attention. Then there is the famous Wars and rumours of Wars passage. These things must happen but the end is not yet. There will be persecutions and witnessing – and then Jerusalem will be destroyed. Watch for the signs of that Jesus says and when you see them RUN AWAY. Then follows the time of the Gentiles – the time we are now living in, or towards the end of. Then we come to the passage we heard this morning.
Then Jesus starts talking about signs – “you recognise the signs of the seasons” he says to his disciples, and so do we. Even if sometimes we are less than certain about when they start an finish. It’s advent, but we’re all talking about Christmas – the expectation of some time away from work or school, a chance to enjoy some good food and drink and take it easy for a few days before the worst of the winter arrives. But when does Christmas actually start.
It’s not really Christmas until ...
X-Factor (or Strictly) is on TV
Children in Need
The first Carol service (tonight 5pm @ Christ Church)
The town lights are switched on (next Wednesday)
Break up for school holidays
The coke ad is on TV – you know the one with the big truck with way too many lights on it brining the Christmas Coke.
Until there’s a postal strike
The shopping is complete.
In my house it will be until Pete has started his Christmas shopping, or was that Its not Boxing day until …). Well I’m ashamed to say its early this year – I’ve already received some of the gifts I have ordered for people.)
The decorations are up and the tree decorated.
midnight on December 24th
We know how to read the signs of the seasons because we grow up with them and are taught them. We have plenty of practice, but for most Children it only takes two or three attempts before they have the basic idea of Christmas, and the looking forward to it.
Signs in the World
The longer term signs are much harder to read though. The signs that Jesus talks about are in the Sun, Moon and Stars, and in the roaring and tossing of the sea. These may refer to physical events, but I think it is a LOT more likely that they refer to political events. The sea is a Jewish symbol for Chaos and Danger. The Sun, moon and Stars are the heavenly bodies – those placed over us – our political and religious leaders, and the systems they work in.
Signs of the End
The world is fascinated with looming disaster – especially the end of the world. There is always some scare, some threat – real or imagined that sets an end date for us all. The latest is 2012. Not the Olympics, but 21 December 2012. Its the date on which the Mayan calendar ends. Their calendar runs from August 11, 3114 BC to 21 December 2012 and is based on astronomic cycles. It is said that it ends as our solar system moves across the galactic equator. This is due to cause all sorts of physical disruption on the earth – from an eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano to earth quakes, tsunamis and environmental collapse. Inevitably someone has also calculated 2012 as the date for the battle at Armageddon, but so many of those have been calculated and proved to be false, I will not be worrying about this one. As for the Mayan calendar, it ends because that is the end of the astronomic cycle – just as our yearly calendar ends at a fixed point after the winter solstice. When its finished we just start again, so would the Mayans. There’s a lot more to the 2012 disaster predictions, but we must remember that Jesus also said Mk 13:32 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. x