Bible Passage: Mark 13:32-27
Pastor: Pastor Berg
Sermon Date: November 26, 2017
I don’t know if it’s a product of laziness or rebellion or a fierce desire to be independent or simply a longing just to get things done as quickly as possible. Whatever the case, we have a tendency not to follow directions. Think about your time in school. How many of you have had the teacher remind you to follow the directions only to get your paper back with a number of checkmarks because you didn’t follow the directions?
Just like in school, following the directions is important when it comes to getting prepared for Christmas. Many families have the tradition of setting up their Christmas Trees on this weekend after Thanksgiving. Your tree could look pretty funny if you don’t follow the directions in putting it together. Your Christmas cookies could taste pretty awful if you don’t follow the directions in the recipe. Those toys that you pre-assemble so the kids can play with them right away might not work properly if you don’t follow the directions. It’s certainly important to follow the directions when you’re getting ready for Christmas.
This morning, we begin the season of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation. We are preparing our hearts to receive our coming King. We are preparing our hearts to be ready for Christmas when Jesus comes to us to be our Savior. But there is also a second coming that we’re preparing for, for Jesus to come again, just as he promised. Just as we make all sorts of preparations to get ready to celebrate Christmas with our families and friends, we also want to make the proper preparations for our souls. And thankfully, God has given us a set of directions. God has given us some directions to follow as we prepare for Jesus to come. Let’s take a look at what God shares with us in his Word so that we can be properly prepared for Christmas!
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” One of the challenges of preparing for Jesus to come is we don’t know exactly when he’s coming. It’s easy to prepare when we have a deadline. But when the end date isn’t clear, it’s even easier for us to procrastinate, isn’t it? Certainly we can see that in our world today when it comes to preparing for Jesus to come again. Even in the church, we’ve just spent a few weeks talking about Jesus coming again and now as we start Advent, that’s still the focus and the emphasis of our lessons. It’s all too easy to become complacent and live our lives as if Jesus isn’t coming again for a very long time. And that’s where procrastination comes in. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, right? And we don’t have to travel too much further until procrastination becomes indifference—when we don’t even seem to care.
Friends, God loves you too much to allow you to slip into procrastination and indifference without warning you. That’s why these words of Jesus are filled with urgency. Jesus’ directions are imperatives. They are commands. They are directions that we aren’t just supposed to do once or once in awhile, but directions that are to be done constantly. Listen to the urgency in his words. “Watch! Be alert and pray, because you do not know when the time will come.”
Watch; be alert, literally, “Chase sleep away!” Jesus can’t emphasize enough how serious this is, how important this is. It is so important to be ready, but how? What are the directions Jesus gives? What does God want us to be doing to be ready? Like he so often does so we can understand and relate, Jesus tells us a short story. “It is like a man going away on a journey. When he left his home, he put his servants in charge and assigned what each one was to do. He also commanded the doorkeeper to keep watch.”
So, who are you in Jesus’ story? Where do you fit in? You’re not the man going away. Clearly, that’s Jesus himself. And even though we like to focus on the one at the door, the doorkeeper; for almost all of you, that’s not your place in Jesus’ story either. No, you are his servants. And notice what Jesus has given you. To each servant he’s given an assigned task. Do you understand what that means? Each one of you has some preparations to make. Each one of you has something to do.
What does God want me to do? Isn’t that the question running through your mind? Jesus doesn’t go into details here. And that’s intentional. Because each one of you is different. Each one of you has been gifted differently. Each one of you has a different assigned task, one that is tailored specifically to you.
But before we define exactly what that is, we must reemphasize what it’s not. Jesus is not telling us that we must do something in order to be saved. Jesus is not telling us that there’s a list of works that we can do that will earn his favor and merit a place in heaven. Notice, the servants are already part of the household. They already have their place in the family. You also are already part of God’s household. God has already made you part of his family when he sent Jesus to be born as a baby, to take on our human flesh, so that he could live and suffer and die and rise for you. There is no hint of earning righteousness or merit from God based on our works in Jesus’ words here.
But, as members of the house, God has given you things to do and also the power to do them. And some tasks are different than other. Each of you has been given a perfect gift package to carry out your assigned task, whatever that may be: father, mother, son, daughter, employer or employee. Certainly, God wants you to be using those gifts as you serve him in your daily lives. But there’s one preparation that will help you to be alert and to chase that spiritual sleep away. Another one of Jesus’ stories will help.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.””
The greatest Christmas preparation that you can make is really not doing anything at all. It’s sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to his Word. Of all of your other vocations, of all of your other duties and stations in life, this is the most important. Did you hear the urgency in Jesus’ words? There is no better time to take your Christian tasks. There is no better time to devote yourselves to spiritual things. Listen to Jesus again! “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know when the owner of the house is coming: whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or early in the morning. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Keep watch!”
This time before Christmas seems to be one of the busiest times of the year. And because of that, it’s one of the easiest times to become spiritually sleepy. There are so many other things to grab our attention, it’s easy to let our guard down. Jesus warns us of this truth. Don’t let your master find you sleeping on the job. Keep watch! Watch because the one whom we are preparing for is the only one who can save. Watch, as we hear the sacred story once again of how the King of Kings first came to earth as a lowly baby. Watch as we see God’s promise come to fruition at the fullness of time. Watch as you see John come to the world to prepare the way for the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world, including yours and mine. Watch as you see Mary and Joseph chosen by God to serve as our Savior’s earthly parents and how humbly they carried out their appointed tasks. Watch as you see the angels announce the good new to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. Watch how they calm their fears with the sweet words of the Gospel. Watch this wondrous incarnation, Jesus taking on human flesh, that precedes our salvation.
Friends, these aren’t hard words. Jesus’ directions aren’t hard to understand. We hear his urgency. We know what to do. So let’s make our Christmas preparations by following his directions. Let’s sit at his feet, like Mary, and soak up his words. That Word will keep us awake and watchful better than any cup of coffee or bottle of Diet Dew! And then, using the power of that Word, let’s carry out the tasks that God has given us to do. Let’s live our lives wherever he has placed us to his glory, letting our light shine so that people may see our deeds and praise our Father in heaven. Christmas is coming. The time to prepare our hearts is now! Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today. Follow God’s directions! Prepare your hearts to receive your coming King! Amen.