Summary: Advent is a season of preparation. Be ready and watching for Christ’s coming.
In October 2003, a string of Southern California wildfires eventually claimed two-dozen lives. The flames moved at a speed faster than people could flee.
Responding to complaints that some residents did not receive enough warning, Sgt. Conrad Grayson said, "We are begging people to leave, and they don't take us seriously. They want to pack some clothes, or fight it in the backyard with a garden hose. They don't seem to understand that this is unlike any fire we've seen. If people don't move fast, they're going to become charcoal briquettes."
In rural East San Diego County, the fast-moving Cedar fire, sparked by a lost hunter, surprised fire officials by how fast it spread. Jon Smalldridge was in East San Diego County, and was warned by his dog. He frantically warned his neighbors, only to have some disregard him or respond too casually.
He told of those who tried to save their televisions and computers before escaping. "They looked like they were packing for a trip. The ones who listened to me and left the area, lived. The ones who didn’t, died."
1. Advent marks the beginning of the Christian liturgical year. Worship themes focus us on preparing for the advent (Latin: “coming”) of Christ. During this season (begins today and concludes midnight Christmas Eve) we prepare our hearts and homes for his arrival.
2. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter; it is a time of preparation, sacrifice, confession and repentance. We prepare our hearts as we celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.
A. Meanwhile, folks crowd the malls (since 12AM Friday I am told). The Christmas shopping season is at hand. Everyone is getting ready for Christmas. Makes me wonder; is everyone ready for Christ?
3. I want to change the way you think about Advent. Some of you never thought about it at all; it’s a brand new concept. That’s OK; it was for me, too, not so long ago. For others, it’s something only mainline churches celebrate—you know, the ones with stained glass windows, and pastors in clerical collars and robes (i.e. vestments).
A. Guess what; it’s for us too! In fact, as evangelical Christians (those who accept our biblical mandate to evangelize the world) who believe in Christ’s return and rapture of the church, advent should be a time of great anticipation!
4. One could make the argument that with the first advent (birth) past, our preparation and celebration should focus on this Second Advent (return/rapture). Doesn’t that put an interesting twist on this season?
5. That is exactly where Matthew takes us this evening. We consider our readiness to receive Christ, and our watchfulness in light of his coming. TWM to Matthew 24.
Advent is a season of preparation. Be ready and watching for Christ’s coming.
II. BACKGROUND: The Olivet Discourse
1. Chapters 24 and 25 make up the Olivet Discourse, named for the Mount of Olives, where Jesus taught his disciples about the end of the age. They meet privately, avoiding the crowds, where teaching comes by way of intimate conversation.
2. Jesus opens this discourse (1-2) with a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem (AD 70), and then moves on to answer the questions the disciples ask about end of the age. He addresses two primary themes in the text of the morning:  readiness and  watchfulness, as believers anticipate the second advent.
III. READY FOR THE SECOND ADVENT (36-41)
1. Of primary importance in Jesus’ teaching is the fact that no one knows the day or the hour that he will return. Not the angels or even the Son!
2. Jesus uses the account of Noah to explain the circumstances of his coming. We don’t know exactly how long it took Noah to build, equip and fill the ark; what we do know is that it likely took some time to complete.
A. As Noah prepared, those around him went about their lives normally. We should note that what they were doing was not sinful, simply what people do!
B. The point is, they knew nothing of the danger that lay ahead. When the ark was loaded, Noah entered and shut the door, and the flood came and took them all away. The others of Noah’s generation were left behind.
3. So too, it will be in the end. People will be about their work, eating, drinking, shopping, at the movies, etc. when suddenly Christ will return…no notice, no warning.
A. He will take some, and leave others behind. There may be no apparent difference between them as with the two men in the field, and the two women at the mill. Yet one will go, another stay.
4. Jesus’ message is obvious. Be prepared to go when the Son of God returns. On that day, some will rejoice, while others mourn. The text clearly suggests there is no time to regroup; to change one’s ways; or to repent when he comes. On that day, it is too late. You and I must be ready to meet Christ when he returns.