This is the Advent season Ð the four Sundays before Christmas Ð when our hearts are being prepared for the Christmas season. The Christmas message never changes, but circumstances in our lives do. Trials and joys, tribulations and good times seek to bring us new insights into what Christ’s coming really means.
The Advent message is basically centered around this message: Christ is coming back. Keep watch! Be ready!
Late in Jesus’ ministry, he shared with his disciples that he would be arrested and crucified, then resurrected. Within a short period of time, the disciples saw that prophecy fulfilled. However, before he ascended into heaven, Jesus also told them that he would come again. What did he mean? Christ’s Church is still waiting for the day when he will come again. To remind us of this coming event, we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
It was natural that the disciples would ask when he would return. Jesus told them that no one, including himself, knew when that day would be. Only the Father knew. However, his message was clear: Be ready to meet him when he returns.
Jesus assured them that signs would precede his second coming. The temple in Jerusalem, which was the heart of Jewish worship, would be destroyed. (This happened in 70 AD.) There would be false prophets, wars, earthquakes, and famines. Christians would suffer and die for the cause of Christ. However, through it all, the Gospel would be carried to all parts of the world.
This is where we stand today. Two thousand years have passed since Jesus ascended into heaven, and many believe he will never return. Yet Peter reminds us that a thousand years is as one day with the Lord. His promises are sure, and he will return. The message does not change. It is important we remember that.
Recently a lady asked how long I had been preaching. When I told her it had been more than sixty years, she asked, “How can you find something new to tell those who listen?”
My answer was that the message does not change. We are not looking around for something new to say. What changes is the society in which we preach this grand old Gospel. Christmas will not be the same in 2008 as it was a year ago. God’s Word speaks to the day in which we live.
Think of our experiences in this year that is coming to a close. In our part of the country we have experienced floods and tornadoes. Other places have had earthquakes and hurricanes. In many ways, our lifestyle is quite different. Heaven will be just a little closer than it was a year ago. The Christ child is speaking to the same old audience, but under different circumstances.
We have lived through a political campaign that went on for more than a year. During these campaigns, we witness the frailty of human flesh as one candidate after another maligns the character of their opponent, and we wonder how low a person will stoop to win a seat in government. The Savior points out to us that even the best of our candidates do not have the final answer. We are to respect them, but never worship them, for they are but frail people. Circumstances change, but his Word stands.
Some homes will have added a child to the family since they last celebrated the birth of the child in Bethlehem’s manger. What a gift from God, and what an opportunity and responsibility to raise that child in the faith that they may walk through life with the Savior.
Other homes have fought a serious illness and the death of one who had blessed them in many ways, but who died trusting Jesus. Some have lost much of their earthly savings in the financial crisis, but they hear the Savior say, “I will provide.”
The message today is not only to the disciples of old, but also to us: Be ready, for we do not know the hour when He is coming. He is coming soon. Will we be ready to meet him?
We plan for our future. We save for retirement and look forward to those long trips that we read about and can now become a reality. But have we prepared for meeting Jesus?
Sometimes, when we talk about Jesus’ second coming, other people say they would rather not think about it and just take their chances for the future and eternity. They say, “I believe Jesus came to earth in Bethlehem. But I don’t believe he is coming again.”
Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming. Will you be ready?”
How do we get ready? Should we do a lot of good deeds believing we will earn our way to heaven, so that when he returns we will hear him say to us, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
No. We are prepared when we confess our sins, kneel beneath the cross of Jesus and realize that the payment for all our sins has been paid. We are ready when Christ has come into our heart. We live each day with him, and he will live with us forever. Then we can sing the words of Philip Brooks with a sincere heart, “O little town of Bethlehem descend to us we pray; cast out our sin and enter in; be born is us today. . .”
Advent is a rebirth. For some, claiming Jesus at this season of the year will be a time of conversion. It was a different Christmas for I found how necessary it is to be prepared for Jesus’ second coming. Now I am ready; I have laid my sins on Jesus, the spotless lamb of God, and I know that all is well. I am not afraid to die.
Outside of Jesus Christ we would fear death. It is far more than just living so many years on this earth, then closing our eyes and entering into oblivion. At the end, when we stand before God, that is when we have to be ready. We are ready only when we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ himself and have the assurance that Jesus atoned for all our sins. When we know him as our blessed Redeemer, and we know he will come a second time, we do not need to place all our hopes on political campaign promises, for we realize that frail human beings do not have all the answers in life. However, Jesus Christ is adequate. He is the one who can give us a reason for not being afraid.
Advent is going to be a busy season, as it is every year. Take the Bible, read the Gospels carefully, and meditate on what Jesus Christ has done. Take it seriously when the Savior tells you that you haven’t let the Holy Spirit work in your life. Listen once more to his words when he says, “Watch! I am coming again.”
Don’t be so concerned about when he will come. Instead, be more concerned about the reality that Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem’s manger and died on Calvary’s cross, is coming again.