This is the first of four Sundays in Advent. Advent is the season in the church year where we have an opportunity to be prepared to celebrate Christ’s coming to earth. We know that little happens in our lives unless there is good planning. So the planning begins in families where Christmas is a big event. I hear grandma asking, What’s on your Christmas list? and the grandchild replies, I don’t need anything. Then grandma says, Please help me. It’s so much easier to shop if I know what you want.
God knows far better than we do exactly what needs to happen in our lives this Christmas but suppose He asks, What’s on your Christmas list? What do you want to happen that will create or strengthen your relationship with Me?
Why don’t you prepare your list and be specific. Here is mine and I plan to prepare my sermons on these four themes. They are the first sentences in my Advent prayers.
“Lord, awaken us to the seriousness of Christ’s coming.” “Heavenly Father, direct our family in a spiritual inventory.” “Lord Jesus, help us with our emotions which are so evident at Christmas.” “Eternal God, convict us that You walked on planet earth.”
Today my theme is, “The Seriousness of Christ’s Coming.”
It was a gorgeous October day when I was called from the golf course to go immediately to the hospital. A very close friend of mine had been rushed there by ambulance. I could not imagine what had happened to him. He had dinner with us on Sunday and appeared well then, but one look at him in the emergency room told me he was a very sick man.
The doctor showed me the x-rays of his lungs, pointing out that they were filled with fungi. The pictures meant little to me, but I believed the doctor when he said, “This is serious. If something is not done immediately, he will die soon.” Since none of his family were present, I helped my friend make the decision to be put on a breathing machine. It helped for a few days, but finally he went home to be with the Lord.
I use this story to illustrate what God is telling us in the Scriptures. Our spiritual condition is serious and if something is not done about it, we will perish. As human beings we are eternal. We are not animals who live and die and that is it. There is an eternity before us. William Barclay writes, “We live in the shadow of eternity, and that is no reason for fearful expectation. It only tells us that we must be ready to meet Christ when He comes.”
In order that we might live in fellowship with God, He sent His Son into this world to be our Savior. The first coming took place in Bethlehem. Let it suffice this early in the Advent Season to say that a virgin named Mary gave birth to the Christ child. His name was Jesus and He lived on earth for 33 years and then died for the sins of the world. Three days later He was raised from the dead and forty days after his resurrection, ascended into heaven with the promise he would return to earth. Christ’s second coming will be different than the first. At that time He will come to judge the living and the dead. Paul writes, “Every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
Jesus tells us in our text that “No one knows about that day or hour, net even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father.” But our Lord goes on to say, “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” There is a sense of urgency to be ready to meet Christ when He returns. It’s something like the doctor talking to me in the emergency room about my friend’s lung condition. He was saying, “Do I have your attention? This is serious. Something has to be done or your friend will die.” That’s what our Lord is saying to the person who does not trust Christ as his/her Savior, This is serious. To die outside of Christ means that you die in your sin and God can have nothing to do with sin so you are lost forever.
When the doctor gave us this news, my friend and I accepted what he had to say and in only a few minutes he was resting on a breathing machine. This is not always the case when God speaks to us about receiving Christ. When His own people heard about Jesus being their Savior they rejected Him. “This is foolishness,” they said. “Isn’t he Joseph, the carpenter’s son? Why should we believe that he is the Savior of the world?” John, in his Gospel, says, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God” (John 1:10-12).
In this Advent Season there are millions who have never heard the story of Christ’s coming. When I was a boy the percentage of people in the United States who didn’t know the story of Jesus’ birth and His promise that He would come again was far less than today. They might not have entered a church to hear about Jesus, but they received this message in school rooms, and other public places. Today this is not legal, for the courts have ruled against such practice. It could be compared to my friend not hearing about life supports that would prolong his life. This causes the Church to understand that its mission of evangelizing our nation is more important than ever, for if the people are going to hear of the Savior, the message will come from the lips of believers.
While millions living in our nation know little or nothing about Christ’s first and second coming, there are many who have heard the story but are not very excited about it, just kind of apathetic. To hear about the seriousness of sin and the need of a Savior, in their opinion, is not fitting for such a lovely time of the year as Advent. People are in a loving mood. Let’s just enjoy the holidays and not get too serious about what might be very disturbing to some when you begin to talk about sin and the need of a Savior. This is not the time to do it. This does not mean that many of these people will openly reject Christ. No, many of them will be found in the churches singing the great Christmas carols and enjoying the traditions related to the season, but letting it go at that.
It is in this state of apathy that my first Advent prayer is, “Lord, awaken us to understand that sin is so serious You had to send your Son to free us from its damning consequences. Only then will we appreciate your love for us. Only then will viewing the Christ child in the manger have true meaning for us. Only then will Christmas be what you intended it to be for us. Open our hearts to understand why Jesus had to come.”
Awaken us as individuals, as a Church and as a nation.