“Are You Ready?” A sermon for the 1st Sunday in Advent
What were you doing Friday morning at 10 a.m.? Think back: what were you doing last Friday morning at 10 a.m.? Imagine someone coming up to you at exactly that time and saying, “Stop what you are doing right now.” And you say, “But I’m not done yet.” And the person says, “Stop now.” And you say, “But it’s only 10 in the morning. I still have the whole day to go.” “Stop now. Let’s go.” “But where are we going?” “You’ll see. Come on.”
And so you stop what you are doing, and you ask, “Will I be able to finish this later?” “No.” “You mean I can’t come back?” “That’s right.” “But where are we going?” “It’s a long way off. Come on.” “But I had such big plans for the weekend.” “Come on. Let’s go.” “Can’t I go back just for a minute?” “No. Now let’s go.”
I think you can probably figure out who this mysterious person might be (or maybe not). Today is the First Sunday in Advent. Today we are reminded of the Second Coming of Christ. Our Lord Jesus promised that he is coming back to this world. He is coming back for the final judgment and to usher in the new heavens and earth. The Last Day is coming and it could suddenly happen at anytime.
Therefore, we need to be prepared and ready. Our Lord often spoke of the end of the world. He said it would be like the days of Noah. Back in the days of Noah, the normal course of life was going on when suddenly the flood came. No one was expecting it, even though Noah had warned everyone repeatedly. People were caught by surprise even though they should have known better.
And so, Jesus tells us that we are to watch for his return. No one knows when that day will be. Our Lord says, “You are to watch and be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect him.”
But the truth is most of us are unprepared for our Lord’s return. Even though we should know better, we don’t take his promise very seriously. Most of us probably doubt that Christ is coming back to this world at all. We don’t really think about the end very much. We act as if this earthly life is going to continue on and on forever.
But the truth is that end comes for all of us. It might be the end of the world or the end of our life. But the end comes to all of us sooner or later, so we had better be prepared.
Perhaps the problem here is that we don’t have a sense of urgency when it comes to our eternal salvation. We think that we are too busy to focus on the eternal things of God. Our life is too hectic. There’s so much going on, so much I have to do. I’m just too busy right now for God. I’ve big plans this weekend. Worship will have to wait. I’ll think about salvation some other time. Not now… maybe later.
Now imagine if the Devil held a council meeting in hell; imagine all the demons in hell gathering to discuss how to best fulfill their evil mission. They are debating the best way to destroy faith in Christ.
One of them stands up and says, “I will go to the earth and tell everyone that the Bible is not true. It’s all a myth. You can’t take it literally or believe it’s actually true.” Another demon then says, “I’ll go and tell people that there is no God – God doesn’t exist. Christianity is just an old superstition made up by ignorant people long ago.”
That’s when the Devil stands up and says, “No! We’ve tried all that, and people still believe in Christ as their Savior. We need something else.” That’s when another demon says, “I’ll go and tell everyone that the Bible is true and God is real, but that there’s no hurry to believe it right now. You can put it off. There’s plenty of time. Live your earthly life now; God can come later. Christ can wait. Think about salvation some other time.”
You can probably guess which plan the devil chose. However, that is the exact opposite of the message of Advent. Our Lord says, “Keep watch. Be ready. The time to believe is now. The end is coming.” This is why Jesus tells us to be alert and watchful. You have to be prepared and ready for the Second Coming of Christ.
People outside this church building are watching, ready for the things about to happen. The highway patrol is watching the turnpike. Policemen are ready for the next call. Nurses are watching patients in intensive care. Firefighters are listening for the alarm bell. Ambulances attendants are ready for the next call. Air-traffic controllers are watching the planes in the sky. Soldiers and sailors are alert as they carry out their watch.
Are you ready? Are you prepared? Is your soul ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus? Are you prepared for the end? Imagine that 10 o’clock last Friday has come and gone. You are now standing in the presence of God. What will be the final verdict on your life? What will God say about your life?
In one seminary class, the professor had each student write his own obituary, then lie on a cot with a handkerchief over his face, and listen to other members of the class discuss him and his life. The real question, however, is not what your friends might say about say about you, but what will God say? Are you ready? Is your soul prepared for the end? Our Lord says, “No one knows about that day or hour. Therefore, keep watch.”
Listen - as Christians, we are not on the brink of falling into hell. We are baptized, redeemed children of God. We live in the grace and mercy and love of the heavenly Father each day. Our souls are in the care of God. We belong to the Lord. We are his. And because of Christ’s death on the cross for our sins, we are forgiven – forgiven even for not being ready – forgiven even for our apathy and indifference and unpreparedness with regard to the things of God.
Today we rejoice in the Advent message that our Lord comes to us: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation.”
Look and see! Your king comes to you today in mercy and grace. Advent reminds us that we are to live in the present tense. We should live each day with a true and honest faith in Christ as our Savior. If we do that, we will be prepared and ready for anything. If we live in faith today, God’s final verdict will be, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and enter the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.”
Just look back at your life this past week. Think about this past week. For most of us, it was a fairly level road. Nothing special or dramatic happened. It was pretty straight and level. But that could suddenly change next week. Some gigantic challenge may meet you within the next few days – an accident, an illness, a calamity in your home or business, a loneliness or desperation the likes of which you have never experienced.
Sickness, calamity, loneliness, desperation – even death itself. Are you ready? Are you prepared? The best way to be prepared for the future is to give attention to today. Right here and now, trust in Christ as your Savior. Cast your cares upon him, for he really cares about you. Fill this present moment with a true faith that says, “I can do all things in Christ.” Receive the power of the Holy Spirit and you can be ready for whatever may come your way next week.
In the little things of life today, prepare for the big emergencies tomorrow. On the ordinary level road you travel right now, get ready for the rough, bumpy road ahead. Things will not always be level and smooth; you have to prepare for the road hazards ahead. You need to spiritually fortify yourself in the green pastures of worship and the still waters of God’s grace. Then, you will be ready to journey through the valley of the shadow.
Commit yourself to God’s Word. Study the Bible. Learn the Holy Scriptures. Immerse yourself in worship and the Sacraments. Live in the Lord. Then, when you go through the valley and face that emergency, you will be ready; you will be prepared. Live by God’s grace in the present, and the future will not frighten you.
Now it’s true: Advent reminds us that the end of all things is near. But, so what? We have all eternity stretching out before us. Though Christ, we have the promise of life everlasting and the reassurance that better days are coming. Eternity awaits us. We will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. We do not fear the future, or the end, or 10 o’clock Friday morning because we know that we are always safe in God’s love. We are baptized, redeemed Christians. We are the children of the heavenly Father.
We belong to Christ, and today we rejoice and praise our God by saying, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is our Lord Jesus Christ, the King who comes to us today in mercy and grace. Amen!