Summary: We need to slow down in order to assess where we are spiritually.
liff and Saltillo UM Churches
First Sunday of Advent
December 1, 2002
“Slowing Down for Reflection”
Introduction: When I was growing up, there was a woman at our church who would always say, “STAY ready so you won’t have to GET ready.”
She was saying basically what today’s scripture says--live your lives in such a way that you will be ready if Jesus should come today. Each week in the Apostle’s Creed you say, “I believe that he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” Live your lives in such a way that you won’t be caught off guard if that day would be today.
How do we do this in our busy 21st century lifestyles when our days are filled to the brim and overflowing with all kinds of obligations and responsibilities. How can we find time--or take time when everything seems to crowd out thoughts of the spiritual side of life to the point that we think of it as optional. After all we have to go to work, babysit the grandchildren, shop till we drop, and think about the bills and financial responsibilities. Maybe after the rush of the season there will be more time to concentrate on thinking about reading the Bible, praying, going to Bible study and church. After all we do have other priorities too.
Well, another year is almost gone--the weeks fly by quickly and we often still do not have our lives in order. A time for slowing down and reflecting has never come. We are not ready for Christmas and we are not ready for Jesus either. Many people will say, “I used to go to Sunday school and church, I heard the Bible stories when I was growing up, I was faithful to go to church but I “just got out of the habit.”
The First Sunday of Advent is a special time set aside in the Christian calendar to “Slow down for reflection.” Just how prepared are you if Jesus should come today?” Would he break into your live unexpectedly?
Let’s take a look at today’s scripture and see how it applies to our individual lives.
1. Fear about the Uncertainty of World Events: People in Jesus’ time were fearful about the uncertainty of the times. And today’s scripture begins sounding like it came right from this week’s news headlines as well.
“Amazing things will happen to the sun, moon, and stars. On earth, nations will be afraid because of the roar and fury of the sea. [ The roaring of the sea is mentioned in Isaiah 17:12 and the sea often symbolizes chaos or stands for a source of fear. ] They will not know what to do. People will be so afraid they will faint. They will wonder what is happening to the whole world” (vs 25, 26 New Century Version).
Does that sound familiar? World leaders are not in agreement as to how to go about solving the problems caused by terrorist groups. People do not know if they can feel safe in their own communities or in public places. People worry about the safety of their children. There is a greater sense of fear lurking in our minds as we live our daily lives today. News reports of being on elevated terror alerts don’t help us to feel calm and peaceful. Not only are there heightned terror alerts but there are overwhelming natural disasters in the form of tornados, earthquakes, floods and other devastating events. Add fearfulness to the stresses of our already fast-paced lifestyle and we can identify with what Jesus was talking about in Luke. We might think, “What if it lands on my doorstep. What if...?
Jesus is saying, “Well, WHAT IF...” “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near--the time when God will free you is near.”
Jesus then went on to give an example that they could all understand. He said, “Look at the fig tree and other trees. When their leaves appear, you know that summer is near.” It’s the same way when the kingdom of God is getting near. Know that as you are waiting and looking forward to Christ’s Second Advent that it will unfold in due time just like the First Advent. Once the sequence begins, it will be brought to completion. Jesus gives ASSURANCE concerning these events. He is not going to leave us in a state of fear and anxiety. He will bring us through to completion.
People will ask you, “Are you ready for Christmas?” Most of the time we say, “Not yet.” “Still have more shopping to do. Still have more cookies to bake.” Well, Christmas is coming whether or not you are ready. The days go by and the events unfold.