Are You Falling Asleep at the Switch?

(Luke 21: 25-36)

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 for Christmas.

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 of Christ.

Specifically more people will shop in a given hour, then will spend time in prayer, study, and reflection.

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 time.

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 Jesus.

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 Man."

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 him off.

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, South Carolina."

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 quarter.

"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