Posted on Dec 01, 2013 by Pastor Dave Whetter
Grace and peace to you from God, our Creator and Sustainer, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit that abides in each of us. Amen.
So where were you on November 22, 1963? That was the question of the week a couple of weeks ago as this nation remembered the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was only four years old at the time, but I can remember like it was yesterday. I had been watching Bozo Circus on the TV, in black and white of course, when they broke in to announce the shooting. My mother was holding my little sister who was only a month old and she began to cry. Those were dark days and as one commentator put it last week, it was the beginning of a new era; an era in which my generation lost its feeling security and had to learn to live differently, much like previous generations had to do when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
As I grew up following President Kennedy’s assassination, I remember, as I am sure many of you do, hearing about all of the scary things that were predicted during the height of the Cold War. The Russians were our arch enemy and the communists were out to get us and we were constantly hearing how we needed to be ready for an attack.
Today we don’t fear the Russians, but we still live in fear. We fear terrorist attacks, don’t we? I remember when we used to go to the airport to pick up people that were coming to visit we would go to the gate to greet them. Now, to guard against attacks, there is security at every turn and no one can get to a gate without a boarding pass. We are constantly being told to be ready.
And it isn’t just for things like national security that we need to be ready for, is it? Around here, in the springtime we are told to be prepared in case we have bad thunderstorms or tornados and now as winter approaches, we are once again reminded to get prepared. Make sure you have snow shovels ready, ice melt for your driveways and sidewalks. Make sure you have a warm coat, heavy gloves and the list goes in. We live in a world that requires us to always be prepared.
Today's gospel reading is a lesson in emergency preparedness. Jesus tries to explain to his disciples what seems to be an impossible task that is to be ready for the coming of the “Son of Man,” an event whose timing not even the Son himself knows (Matt. 24:36). The example of the thief and the homeowner, highlight the problem of knowing when something will happen. We are called to live our lives in a constant state of readiness Jesus says, for his second coming.
But how do we get ready for such an event? Well, think about how we prepare ourselves for everyday events in our lives. Most of us drive cars and although we may never use it, we have a spare tire in the truck all the time. I have electricity in my house that always allows me to turn lights on when it is dark, but I have a couple of flashlight that are on a shelf always ready in case the electricity goes out. Here at Salem, we have an emergency first-aid kit downstairs and one in each building, just in case someone gets hurt. Just as we prepare for such events in our everyday lives, Jesus challenges us to prepare for his return. In his letter to the Romans, Paul said remain spiritually prepared by living honorable lives and putting on the “armor of light.”
Now, I know according to the rest of the world, Santa arrived at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which means it is time to get ready for Christmas. And, I understand that that to get ready for Christmas we all have much to do. We have shopping to do, decorating to get done, parties to attend, baking to do, and so much more. But the truth is, whether or not we do all those things, Christmas Day will come, 24 day from today, and the celebrating of that historical event of the birth of Christ will happen. But that is not the event Jesus speaking of here. No, Jesus is challenging us to get ready for something bigger, something grandeur, something eternal.
You see, today we begin the Season on Advent, and the Advent is not about buying presents or going to parties, it is really about getting ready for a promise of eternal life. The promise that, although one may experience disaster and hardship, God has promised to be present with us. So does this mean we should change how we prepare for Christmas Day and all the fun stuff? NO, of course not, even Jesus spoke about all the daily activities that preoccupied the people of Noah's day and his own: marrying, the grinding of meal to eat, working, eating and drinking. All things that preoccupied the people in those days, but notice that Jesus did not say these activities were are necessarily bad or improper. He merely was pointing out that we ought not to let them distract us from seeing and experiencing his presence in our lives today or in the future.
As you go about preparing for your Christmas Day holiday, think about the primary activities that fill your lives? How might you altar a few things so that you create some space to pray, to offer praise to God through service and charity so that others might experience joy this holiday season? This is what Advent is about; preparing ourselves to live differently.
Notice we have not Christmas decorations up, yet, and we do not sing those beautiful and fun Christmas carols, yet, either. We do not do this to keep you from having fun, the church offers this time of Advent to help remind us and prepare us for the bigger promise that Christ brought to the world, the promise of an eternal life.
As you look around here you will see bare branches that await the coming of leaves; a bible that reminds us of the prophecy of the coming of the Christ-child, a cross that reminds of us the one who died and is resurrected and who will come again. There are evergreens to remind us that even in the darkest of days, there is hope for life.
Brothers and sisters, as you go about preparing for the fun to come, I pray you take time this Advent season to get ready. I pray you can make room in your lives for Christ and prepare his way for his coming into this world. We need not live in fear anymore, for his promise is real and he will come again. Amen.