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Summary: Looking at expectations

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READY OR NOT, HERE I COME!

MATTHEW 24:36-44

HOWEVER, NO ONE KNOWS THE DAY OR HOUR WHEN THESE THINGS WILL HAPPEN, NOT EVEN THE ANGELS IN HEAVEN OR THE SON HIMSELF. ONLY THE FATHER KNOWS. WHEN THE SON OF MAN RETURNS, IT WILL BE LIKE IT WAS IN NOAH’S DAY. IN THOSE DAYS BEFORE THE FLOOD, THE PEOPLE WERE ENJOYING BANQUETS AND PARTIES AND WEDDINGS RIGHT UP TO THE TIME NOAH ENTERED HIS BOAT. PEOPLE DIDN’T REALIZE WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN UNTIL THE FLOOD CAME AND SWEPT THEM ALL AWAY. THAT IS THE WAY IT WILL BE WHEN THE SON OF MAN COMES. TWO MEN WILL BE WORKING TOGETHER IN THE FIELD; ONE WILL BE TAKEN, THE OTHER LEFT. TWO WOMEN WILL BE GRINDING FLOUR AT THE MILL; ONE WILL BE TAKEN, THE OTHER LEFT. SO YOU, TOO, MUST KEEP WATCH! FOR YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT DAY YOUR LORD IS COMING. UNDERSTAND THIS: IF A HOMEOWNER KNEW EXACTLY WHEN A BURGLAR WAS COMING, HE WOULD KEEP WATCH AND NOT PERMIT HIS HOUSE TO BE BROKEN INTO. YOU ALSO MUST BE READY ALL THE TIME, FOR THE SON OF MAN WILL COME WHEN LEAST EXPECTED. GROWING UP, I LIVED IN THE MIDDLE OF A LARGE SUBURBAN AREA. WE HAD LONG STREETS THAT HAD A LOT OF FAMILIES AND A LOT OF KIDS WHO WERE ALL AROUND THE SAME AGE. WE GREW UP TOGETHER AND EITHER WENT TO THE PUBLIC SCHOOL OR THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL BUT AFTER SCHOOL AND DURING THE SUMMER, WE PLAYED TOGETHER OFTEN. ONE OF THE GAMES WE WOULD PLAY IN THE SUMMER WHEN IT GOT DARK WAS HIDE AND SEEK. THE LIGHT POLE IN FRONT OF THE BUCKINGHAM’S HOUSE WAS FREE AND EVERY PLACE ELSE WAS OK TO HIDE AS LONG AS WE STAYED OUT OF FLOWER BEDS AND THE CARS THAT WERE PARKED ON THE STREET. THERE WERE NIGHTS THAT WE MIGHT HAVE AS MANY AS TWENTY KIDS PLAYING. SOMEONE WOULD BE IT AND THEY WOULD COUNT TO ONE HUNDRED AS EVERYONE ELSE WOULD SCATTER AND THEN AS THE PERSON WHO WAS IT GOT TO ONE HUNDRED HE WOULD CALL OUT, READY OR NOT HERE I COME AND THEN BEGIN THE SEARCH TO CATCH THE HIDERS BEFORE EVERYONE GOT TO FREE. SOMETIMES THE PERSON THAT WAS IT, THE SEEKER, WAS PARTICULARLY GOOD AT SNEAKING UP ON SOME HIDERS IN A STEALTH MANNER AND HE OR SHE WOULD CATCH THE UNEXPECTED HIDER BEFORE THEY COULD MOVE AND THEN THEY WOULD BE IT. JESUS ALSO SEEMED TO HAVE THE HABIT OF SHOWING UP UNEXPECTED AND UNBIDDEN. IN OUR READING THIS MORNING WE SEE THAT WHEN JESUS SHOWS UP AGAIN, HE WILL BEGIN THE END TIME. AND AS WE SEE IN THE READING WE MUST BE READY BECAUSE NO ONE KNOWS WHEN THE SON OF MAN WILL COME BUT WHEN HE COMES, IT WILL BE AT A TIME THAT IS LEAST EXPECTED. JESUS COMING WHEN HE IS LEAST EXPECTED WILL HAPPEN IN THE END, BUT IT WAS ALSO HOW JESUS’ LIFE BEGAN. REALLY IT ALMOST SEEMS AS IF JESUS’ MOTTO IS READY OR NOT, HERE I COME! THINK ABOUT THIS, DO YOU THINK THAT ZACHARIAS WAS READY TO MEET THE ANGEL GABRIEL AS HE WALKED THROUGH THE CURTAIN TO LIGHT THE INCENSE OFFERING? DO YOU THINK ELIZABETH WAS READY TO HEAR THAT SHE WOULD BECOME PREGNANT AT SO ADVANCED AN AGE? DO YOU THINK MARY WAS READY TO MEET THE ANGEL GABRIEL WHEN HE APPROACHED HER IN NAZARETH? AND WHAT ABOUT JOSEPH DO YOU THINK HE WAS READY TO FIND OUT THAT THE WOMAN HE WAS GOING TO MARRY WAS ALREADY PREGNANT BUT YET STILL A VIRGIN? OR THE WISE MEN, I WONDER HOW LONG THEY HAD BEEN SEARCHING THE SKY FOR WHATEVER SIGN THEY MIGHT FIND AND WHAT THEY THOUGHT WHEN THEY FINALLY FOUND THE STAR TELLING THEM THAT A NEW KING WHO WOULD BE KING OF THE JEWS HAD BEEN BORN IN THE NATION OF ISRAEL DO YOU THINK THEY WERE EXPECTING THAT? AND HOW ABOUT HEROD? HE WAS THE KING OF ISRAEL BUT HE WAS NOT A POPULAR ONE, AND WHAT DO YOU THINK HE THOUGHT AS HE SAW THE CORTEGE OF WISE MEN APPROACHING FROM THE EAST? AND OF COURSE THERE WERE THE SHEPHERDS OUT IN THEIR FIELDS AT NIGHT TENDING THE SHEEP? DO YOU THINK THEY EXPECTED TO RECEIVE AN ANGELIC SPECTACULAR IN THE SKIES THAT NIGHT? AND DO YOU THINK THEY EXPECTED TO RECEIVE A MESSAGE THAT THE MESSIAH WAS BORN? AND I COULD GO ON AND ON WITH OTHER PEOPLE WHO PROBABLY WEREN’T EXPECTING TO BECOME PART OF THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. THERE WAS THE INN KEEPER, THE TEMPLE LEADERS, THE SCRIBE THAT THEY WENT TO WHEN HEROD ASKED WHERE THE KING OF THE JEWS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BORN, THERE WAS SIMEON AND ANNA AND SOLDIERS WHO WERE SENT TO BETHLEHEM TO TAKE CARE OF THE MALE CHILDREN TWO YEARS AND UNDER. THE STORY GOES ON AND ON, BUT YET THERE IS ONE MORE GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO ARE PART OF THIS STORY. WHAT ABOUT US. AS WE SIT HERE TODAY WE HAVE HEARD THE STORY REPEATED YEAR AFTER YEAR AND WE THINK WE KNOW IT, BUT DO WE? CAN WE RELATE TO MEETING JESUS THROUGH A READY OR NOT, HERE I COME MOMENT? I KNOW I CAN THINK OF THREE MOMENTS IN MY LIFE WHERE I MET JESUS AT AN UNEXPECTED TIME AND IN AN UNEXPECTED PLACE. THE FIRST TIME I WAS A 19 YEAR OLD SOPHOMORE ON A COLLEGE CAMPUS, THE SECOND TIME I WAS 40 YEARS OLD DRIVING IN MY CAR, AND THE THIRD TIME I WAS 5O ATTENDING CHURCH. JESUS COMES TO ALL OF US WHEN WE LEAST EXPECT IT. THE PROPHECIES ARE THERE IN ISAIAH 9:6 AND OTHER OLD TESTAMENT BOOKS, PROPHECIES LIKE: FOR A CHILD HAS BEEN BORN FOR US, A SON GIVEN TO US: AUTHORITY RESTS UPON HIS SHOULDERS; AND HE IS NAMED WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE. AND OTHER PROPHECIES LIKE HE WILL BE OF THE LINE OF DAVID AND BORN IN BETHLEHEM AND BE A NAZARENE. BUT YET JESUS ALSO DIDN’T MEET THE EXPECTATIONS OF OTHERS WHO WERE LOOKING FOR A MILITARY HERO, SOMEONE TO CONQUER THE ROMANS AND THROW OFF THE TYRANNY AND OPPRESSION THEY FELT. THESE PEOPLE DIDN’T WANT TO HEAR FROM A BEDRAGGLED RABBI WHO TALKED ABOUT LOVING YOUR ENEMIES AND IF THEY ASK YOU TO WALK ONE MILE GO TWO. THESE PEOPLE WERE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT. TO THEM WHEN JESUS CAME, THEY DIDN’T HEAR READY OR NOT HERE I COME BECAUSE THEY WERE EXPECTING SOMETHING ELSE. JESUS CAN COME IN ALL SORTS OF UNEXPECTED WAYS, FOR ME JESUS WAS AN OLDER WOMAN WHO NORMALLY DIDN’T TALK TO ME AND YET SHE INSISTED ON TALKING TO ME ONE SUNDAY AFTER CHURCH. PAUL HARVEY DEMONSTRATES JESUS CAN COME IN OTHER VERY UNEXPECTED WAYS. ON HIS THE REST OF THE STORY RADIO PROGRAM, HE TOLD THE FOLLOWING STORY: UNABLE TO TRACE ITS PROPER PARENTAGE, I HAVE DESIGNATED THIS AS MY CHRISTMAS STORY, OF THE MAN AND THE BIRDS. YOU KNOW, THE CHRISTMAS STORY, GOD BORN A MAN IN A MANGER, AND ALL THAT, ESCAPES SOME MODERNS. MOSTLY I THINK BECAUSE THEY SEEK COMPLEX ANSWERS TO THEIR QUESTIONS, AND THIS ONE IS SO UTTERLY SIMPLE. SO FOR THE CYNICS AND THE SKEPTICS AND THE UNCONVINCED, I SUBMIT A MODERN PARABLE. NOW THE MAN TO WHOM I’M GOING TO INTRODUCE YOU WAS NOT A SCROOGE, HE WAS A KIND, DECENT, MOSTLY GOOD MAN. GENEROUS TO HIS FAMILY, UPRIGHT IN HIS DEALINGS WITH OTHERS, BUT HE JUST DIDN’T BELIEVE ALL THAT INCARNATION STUFF WHICH THE CHURCHES PROCLAIM AT CHRISTMAS TIME. IT JUST DIDN’T MAKE SENSE, AND HE WAS TOO HONEST TO PRETEND OTHERWISE. HE JUST COULDN’T SWALLOW THE JESUS STORY ABOUT GOD COMING TO EARTH AS A MAN. I’M TRULY SORRY TO DISTRESS YOU, HE TOLD HIS WIFE, BUT I’M NOT GOING WITH YOU TO CHURCH THIS CHRISTMAS EVE, HE SAID HE’D FEEL LIKE A HYPOCRITE, THAT HE’D MUCH RATHER JUST STAY AT HOME, BUT THAT HE WOULD WAIT UP FOR THEM. SO HE STAYED AND THEY WENT TO THE MIDNIGHT SERVICE. SHORTLY AFTER THE FAMILY DROVE AWAY IN THE CAR, SNOW BEGAN TO FALL. HE WENT TO THE WINDOW TO WATCH THE FLURRIES GETTING HEAVIER AND HEAVIER AND THEN WENT BACK TO HIS FIRESIDE CHAIR AND BEGAN TO READ HIS NEWSPAPER. MINUTES LATER, HE WAS STARTLED BY A THUDDING SOUND. THEN ANOTHER. AND THEN ANOTHER; SORT OF A THUMP OR A THUD. AT FIRST, HE THOUGHT SOMEONE MUST BE THROWING SNOWBALLS AGAINST HIS LIVING ROOM WINDOW. BUT WHEN HE WENT TO THE FRONT DOOR TO INVESTIGATE, HE FOUND A FLOCK OF BIRDS HUDDLED MISERABLY IN THE SNOW. THEY HAD BEEN CAUGHT IN THE STORM AND IN A DESPERATE SEARCH FOR SHELTER, HAD TRIED TO FLY THROUGH HIS LARGE PICTURE WINDOW. WELL, BEING A DECENT MAN, HE COULDN’T LET THE POOR CREATURES LIE THERE AND FREEZE, SO HE REMEMBERED THE BARN WHERE HIS CHILDREN STABLED THEIR PONY. THAT STRUCTURE WOULD PROVIDE A WARM SHELTER IF HE COULD DIRECT THE BIRDS TO IT. QUICKLY, HE PUT ON A COAT AND GOULASHES, TRAMPED THROUGH THE DEEPENING SNOW TO THE BARN. HE OPENED THE DOORS WIDE AND TURNED ON A LIGHT. BUT THE BIRDS DID NOT COME IN. HE FIGURED FOOD WOULD ENTICE THEM IN. SO HE HURRIED BACK TO THE HOUSE, FETCHED BREAD CRUMBS, SPRINKLED THEM ON THE SNOW MAKING A TRAIL TO THE YELLOW LIGHTED, WIDE OPEN DOOR TO THE STABLE. BUT TO HIS DISMAY, THE BIRDS IGNORED THE BREAD CRUMBS AND CONTINUED TO FLOP HELPLESSLY IN THE SNOW. HE TRIED CATCHING THEM. HE TRIED SHOOING THEM INTO THE BARN BY WALKING AROUND THEM WAVING HIS ARMS. INSTEAD, THEY SCATTERED IN EVERY DIRECTION EXCEPT INTO THE WARM LIGHTED BARN. THEN HE REALIZED THAT THEY WERE AFRAID OF HIM. TO THEM, HE REASONED, I AM A STRANGE AND TERRIFYING CREATURE. IF ONLY I COULD LET THEM KNOW THAT THEY CAN TRUST ME. THAT I’M NOT TRYING TO HURT THEM, BUT TO HELP THEM, BUT HOW? BECAUSE ANY MOVE HE MADE TENDED TO FRIGHTEN AND CONFUSE THEM. THEY JUST WOULD NOT FOLLOW. THEY WOULD NOT BE LED OR SHOOED BECAUSE THEY FEARED HIM. IF ONLY I COULD BE A BIRD, HE THOUGHT TO HIMSELF AND MINGLE WITH THEM AND SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE. THEN I COULD TELL THEM NOT TO BE AFRAID. THEN I COULD SHOW THEM THE WAY TO THE SAFE WARM AND THEN THE IMPACT OF WHAT HE JUST SAID HIT HIM, TO THE SAFE WARM BARN, BUT I WOULD HAVE TO BE ONE OF THEM SO THEY COULD SEE AND HEAR, AND UNDERSTAND THAT I AM HERE TO HELP THEM AND MAKE THEM SAFE, NOT DO THEM HARM. AS THOSE WORDS ENTERED HIS MIND, AT THAT VERY MOMENT THE CHURCH BELLS BEGAN TO RING. THE SOUND REACHED HIS EARS ABOVE THE SOUNDS OF THE WIND. HE STOOD THERE LISTENING TO THE BELLS, ADESTE FIDELIS, O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL. LISTENING TO THE BELLS PEALING THE GLAD TIDINGS OF CHRISTMAS. HE SANK TO HIS KNEES IN THE SNOW AND GAVE HIS LIFE TO CHRIST. AS I SAID, JESUS’ MOTTO MUST BE READY OR NOT, HERE I COME BECAUSE FOR THIS PERSON ON THIS NIGHT JESUS CAME IN A FLOCK OF BIRDS, TOTALLY UNEXPECTED, TOTALLY UNBIDDEN, BUT TOTALLY IN CONTROL. WE ALL HAVE OUR STORIES ON HOW JESUS CAME TO US WHEN WE LEAST EXPECTED HIM. DURING THIS ADVENT SEASON, DURING THIS SEASON OF ANTICIPATION AND REFLECTION TRY TO REMEMBER HOW JESUS CAME TO YOU THE FIRST TIME. AND THEN THANK HIM FOR COMING INTO OUR LIVES WHETHER WE WERE READY OR NOT! PLEASE BOW YOUR HEAD AS WE GIVE THANKS FOR THE ARRIVAL OF JESUS.


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