The season of advent is the season of
preparation, so to facilitate my sermon research this week I
went to where the people go, the mall. How many of you like to
sit and watch people? Well that's what I did for an hour.
This past Monday I arrived at the FSK
Mall just as it was opening and I sat in the rocking chair
near one of the entrances. My goal was to see how many people
would come to the mall, at least through that one entrance, on
what is suppose to be one of the slowest shopping days of the
Christmas season. I figured if they were arriving at the mall
right when it opened on a Monday they were there for a
purpose. And my assumption was there purpose was to prepare
My point in going through this
exercise was basically to verify what we already really know,
and that is, people in general will spend much more time
preparing for the secular celebration of Christmas then they
will in preparing their hearts and souls for the second coming
Specifically more people will shop in
a given hour, then will spend time in prayer, study, and
Did you know that Advent isn't about
preparing for Christ's birth or his birthday celebration,
Advent is about being prepared for Christ's coming again?
Even the most faithful Christians have
made advent a four week season to prepare for Christ's
birthday, but the purpose of advent actually is to direct our
vision much farther, to the second coming of Christ and end of
Now I enjoy the secular part of
Christmas as much as anyone, so what I'm advocating for are
two things: first, a balance in celebrating the secular
celebration of Christmas and the real reason for Christmas,
specifically Christ's birthday; and second I want us to be
aware of something far more important at this point in the
world's existence, and that's the second coming of Christ.
It was reported this past week that
$457 billion will be spent by Americans alone preparing for
the secular Christmas celebration this year, not to mention
the countless hours people will invest in making sure all is
well for the big night three weeks from today. I guess what I
want to know is how many of the folks using God's resources to
make Christmas as special as it can be are spending time on
making sure there not dismissing the season of advent,
ignoring the preparation for Christ's second coming,
essentially falling asleep at the switch when it comes to
making sure their lives are in order for the second coming of
So why do we have to talk or think
about something that seems so devastating as the end of time?
Well the end of time is important to
us because it helps us better understand the present. Knowing
something about the end of time, when the Kingdom of God will
come in its fullness and all God's enemies will be defeated,
helps give perspective to the present.
Now many American Christians today
have one of two main positions about the New Testament
teachings of eschatology, which means the study of the end
time: either they have little to no concern about the coming
Reign of God and have the attitude I deal with it when it
comes, or they're so preoccupied with the end that they lose
all sense of reality. My position is this, both of these
extremes miss the point of our gospel reading. The more
appropriate position with regards to the end of time is one
that is more in the middle of both extremes.
What I mean is, we need to have a
sense of urgency with regards to the coming reign of God to
ensure we're appropriately prepared, and therefore have our
spiritual act together should the end of time comes during our
lifetime. But we shouldn't be so preoccupied with the end of
time that we ignore today's reality and the issues we face on
a daily basis.
So what I'm proposing, which is
consistent with Luke' Gospel, is that we have a balanced
eschatology, with a lively hope in the coming of Christ,
without seeing it either as imminent or predictable. This
approach allows us to appreciate the importance of the end of
time without getting us all hung up on its difficulties.
So the message I want to lift up this
morning has nothing to do with when or how the end of time is
coming, because Jesus himself said, "we will neither know the
day or the hour, only God does." So why do we bother wasting
energy trying to figure out the unknown, it's a mystery, a
mystery of faith.
Instead I'm more concerned with what
Jesus emphasizes in verses 34-36 in Luke's Gospel. Jesus says,
"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with
dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that
day (meaning the last day of the world) will close on you
unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who
live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch,
and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to
happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of
You might remember last week in the
course of my message I asked the question, are we prepared to
die. Well today I'm kind of doing the same thing with a
different twist. Today I'm asking the question are we ready
for the coming reign of God?
Are we spiritually fit so that if the
end of time is near we are fit enough to stand before Christ,
perhaps not completely without blemish, maybe we have a few
smudges, but are we ready? In other words are we working
faithfully on the tasks God has given us, or are we blowing
Are we living a Christ-centered life
so we're not being overly distracted by all the pleasures of
this world, and at this time of the year this means are we
keeping a proper focus on being prepared for the second coming
of Christ and on celebrating the birthday of Jesus, in the
midst of the secular celebration of Christmas?
James Moore writes a story about a man
in his book entitled The Miracle of Christmas. It was
Christmas Eve. A man was waiting for a bus to take him from
Athens, Georgia, on to Greenville, South Carolina. As he
purchased his ticket, the agent said, "The bus was running a
little late. Just watch the electronic letter board over there
in the corner, and it will let you know when the bus arrives
and when it's time to board."
The man wondered around the terminal a
bit and came across a small machine. The sign on the machine
read, "For 25 cents, this machine will tell you your name,
age, city of residence, and something about you."
"That's impossible," the man muttered
out loud. But nevertheless he was curious, so he pulled out a
quarter and plunked it into the machine.
The machine groaned and whistled a
bit, and then printed out a message that read, "Your name is
Fred Jones. You are 35 years old. You live in Athens, Georgia,
and you are waiting for a bus to Greenville, South Carolina."
"Incredible," the man said. "How does
that machine know all that? It's amazing, but I'll bet it
can't do it again." So he plunked in another quarter.
Again, the machine groaned and
whistled for a bit, and then out came the message, "Your name
is Fred Jones. You are 35 years old. You live in Athens,
Georgia, and you're still waiting for a bus to Greenville,
This can't be happening, the man
exclaimed. So he put on some sunglasses, messed up his hair a
bit, turned up the collar on his jacket, and tried another
"Your name is Fred Jones. You are 35
years old. You live in Athens, Georgia, and for the third time
you're still waiting for a bus to Greenville, South Carolina."
The man was amazed.
He glanced across the street and saw a
novelty shop. So he walked out of the bus terminal, crossed
the street, and went into the store. There he bought a pair of
glasses with a large nose attached, a shaggy gray wig, a baggy
shirt, and a cane. He then hobbled back across the street, and
acting like a much older man he walked up to the machine and
put a forth quarter into the slot.
The machine groaned and whistled
again, and then out came the message, "Your name is Fred
Jones. You are 35 years old. You live in Athens, Georgia, and
while you were horsing around, you missed your bus to
Greenville, South Carolina!" Well this story serves as a
warning for us. Sometimes when we spend our time preparing for
our Christmas celebration, we horse around and busy ourselves
so much, that we get distracted with all the secular
preparations of Christmas and fail to adequately prepare for
the second coming of Christ.
This advent season, don't be caught
off guard, don't fall asleep at the switch, be watchful, be
prepared so that you "may be able to escape all that is about
to happen and can stand before the Son of Man."
Read other messages by Pastor Wade