Summary: Facing difficult times by being prepared and praying for the return of Christ.

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Luke 21: 25 – 36 – On Guard, Alert and Praying

Intro: It was a dark, cold, rainy evening in the fall of 1916. A family was gathered in the old log house that had served as the family homestead for many decades. A young couple with four small children was on their way to that same house in a driving rain; but, a flat tire seriously delayed their arrival for the family gathering. When they finally arrived, they discovered the stone foundation of the house still stood; but, the house itself was gone. My mother’s father had lost his entire family with the exception of one sister who lived at a distance. Several days later when all but one body was recovered, my grandfather stood at a huge open grave as his entire family was laid to rest. --- No one is ever prepared for such an overwhelming tragedy. You may ask, “How does one survive such devastation.” --- My answer, “With faith, one day at a time.”

I. Perhaps you remember similar tragedies in your lifetime, your community or your family.

A. The French news agency, Reuters dubbed the decade from 1994 – 2004, the Decade of Disasters. --- During that period, 5,677reported disasters killed 673,070 people and affected another 2.58 billion while causing estimated damage of $691 billion.

B. What can be built, can be destroyed so easily. One car accident, a fire, a mudslide or a dip in the stock market can mean disaster and ruin. Sometimes what we know or think we know as certainty is wrenched from us. We see it on the news nearly every night and whisper a silent prayer of thanksgiving that it isn’t happening to us.

C. Luke 21: 21 – 26 (from “The Message”) “If you’re in Judea at the time, run for the hills. If you’re in the city, get out quickly. If you’re out in the fields, don’t go home to get your coat. This is Vengeance Day---everything written about it will come to a head. Pregnant and nursing mothers will have it especially hard. Incredible misery! Torrential rage! People dropping like flies, people dragged off to prisons, Jerusalem under the boot of barbarians until the nations finish what was given them to do. It will seem like all hell has broken loose---sun, moo, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking.”

II. When nothing is left, what then? What gives you direction when hurricanes strike, loved ones are imperiled, your livelihood is jeopardized, and the future is dark? When nothing is left, what then?

A. At the time of the emergence of the early Christian church a group of philosophers/theologians called “Stoics” lived and taught. They believed that history was circular and that history repeated itself.

B. Many of today’s historians believe the same is true. They believe that every civilization goes through the cycle of emergence, development, decadence and decline.

C. The Christian concept of history is there is a goal. Christians are to see the hand of God at work and to know that their redemption is continually “drawing near.” History is moving toward the end which God has set for it.

III. The “signs of the end” are but the signs of God’s new beginning. Where death seemed to be the only certainty, life bursts forth like spring. The messianic woes usher in the messianic kingdom.

A. God calls His people to trust Him, to live carefully, to be watchful, and to pray in troubled times. We would rather trust ourselves, live for ourselves rather than waste time to watch and pray.

B. People are looking for some assurance, some peace of mind. When people feel “out of control,” they do things so they can feel IN control. - Fung shui - manipulating the environment to improve one’s future.

C. Vvs. 34 – 36 – “But be on your guard. Don’t le the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, the Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.”

Conclu: This week, we begin out Advent journey. For the Christian, Advent is a time of preparation for God’s great and wonderful future. When we invite people into our homes during the holidays, we don’t prepare everything at the last minute. We plan and prepare ahead of time so everything is ready. So too in Advent, we pay attention, we keep watch, and we pray so we are prepared for the Lord when he comes.

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