1st Sunday of Advent
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus who came once to save us and will come again, dear friends in Christ. Many of you are aware that one of the jobs that I had while I was working my way through school was a job where I cleaned, serviced, delivered, and picked up portable toilets. Many of you probably think that would be a rather gross job to have, but I honestly didn’t mind it and it was a pretty good paying job, my boss was not only a close friend of our family but in my estimation one of the best employers there is. Well, for most of the summer we had a contract with the local Renaissance Fair to provide portable toilets for them and since the Renaissance fair took place on the weekends we had to go there early Sunday morning to service the over 100 porta potties there. We took 3-4 trucks there and most of my co-workers didn’t really mind this because we earned double time pay to do it. Well, I remember hearing a story about one of my co-workers before I worked there, that when he was there he finished his assigned work early, and if you finished early you were supposed to go and help another truck out so everyone could get done. But he didn’t. He took his truck into the parking lot, parked it, sit back, relax, and get paid double for taking a nap. But this particular Sunday morning something very unusual happened. Our boss decided to drive there to see how his men were doing. Well, I think my boss ended up pulling him through the driver’s window of the truck waking him up. He wasn’t ready, he wasn’t prepared. Probably one of the worst things that can happen to an employee is to be found by the boss sleeping on the job. But really, that’s also true of us as Christians. Don’t let the Lord find you sleeping on the job! Be ready! Be focused! Be watchful!
And that’s really the theme of the Advent season: Be ready. Jesus is coming. Jesus came once and He will come again. In our text the disciples had asked Jesus about when the end of the world would happen and about the signs of the end. Jesus described some of the signs when the end would come, but whenever Jesus was asked about the time of the end of the world, his answer was always the same: Watch! Be on guard! Be alert! Why? Because “no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” No one knows when the Lord will return. There is no hidden code we can decipher, no magical formula, no superstitious clue to figure it out. In fact, we’re told that Jesus himself didn’t know. While Jesus lived on earth he set aside the full use of his glory as God for a time and so He chose for a time not to know when the end would happen.
No one knows when Jesus will come a 2nd time. But what’s the purpose? “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” The very fact that no one knows when Jesus will return makes it imperative that everyone be on their guard, be alert, be watchful.
To illustrate this, Jesus told a short parable: “It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back- whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn” A man leaves to go on a journey and its not his duty to tell his servants exactly when he will return. It’s the duty of all of the servants to be actively engaged in their master’s work should he come home suddenly. One special direction is given to the doorkeeper- keep watch so he can be ready to open the door when his master returns. What’s the lesson for us? Throughout our earthly lives God has given each of us tasks that he wants us to be doing. Whether it’s being a Christian father, mother, husband, wife, child, student, employee, employer, citizen, member of a church, etc. God wants each of us to be actively serving him in every calling that we have. Because he may return at any unexpected hour, like any unexpected hour of the night.
“If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.” The worst possible scenario for any servant of the Master is to be found sleeping on the job. God doesn’t want any of his servants to stop watching for his return, to grow spiritually dull, unresponsive. Don’t be sleeping on the job when God’s given every person the task of watching for his coming. What Jesus told his disciples is also meant for us: “What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!”
Jesus is coming, He could return at any moment. He wants the world to be focused and to be watchful and ready. But is it? The world at Noah’s time was not focused. God sent Noah to preach God’s Word to the world for 120 years. In incredible patience and love God waited, God did everything to rescue people from the coming judgment. 120 years God waited, but what did the people focus on? Themselves! They were too busy seeking earthly treasures and pleasures. But then God came, He came with waters to save His Church, Noah’s family, and waters to judge the unfaithful servants.
But what about today? Is the world ready for Jesus’ return? Is the world waiting patiently for Jesus’ return, actively seeking God’s will, actively honoring God with their lives? Or, do we see people in the world openly rebelling against God, wanting nothing to do with God. Romans chapter 1 gives us perhaps a good picture of the world we live in: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strive, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful, they invent ways to do evil.” Or 2 Timothy 3 gives us another picture of what people in the world will look like: “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
Where are all the people hungering for heavenly treasure? Where are all the people alert and watching and excited and determined and focused on the day when Christ will return? Are they ready? The Master could return at any moment: “If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!”
But then, what about us? Are we ready? Are we focused? Or are we being lulled asleep by the world in which we live? God calls us to live self-sacrificing, grace-filled Christians in every station of life we’re in. But are we? Do coworkers, customers, children, friends, acquaintances, see us as self-less, caring, grace-filled Christians? Or, are we falling asleep on the job? Or maybe it’s a sin that I keep falling into, keep doing, even though I know it’s wrong, but, well, I’ve lost the battle so many times- what’s it hurting anyway? God warns us that He could return at any moment. Are we ready? Will he catch you sleeping on the job? Or maybe I’m harboring some bitterness, anger at someone, refusing to forgive someone in my heart, am I being lulled to sleep by the ways of this world? Am I ready for Jesus’ to return?
The answer is, by myself, no, I’m not ready. I’ve fallen asleep on my Master more times than I could possibly count. I deserve only one thing- to be fired and quite literally to be cast into the fire of eternal death. So, you see, the only way we can be ready for Jesus’ second coming is to be ready for his first coming. While our focus is so often on ourselves or on the glitter of this world, where’s God’s focus? God’s focus has always been and will always be on one place: rescuing sinful people like you and me. At Christmas we celebrate the miracle of God’s love that He came to this earth, He set aside His glory to be born into our world and placed in a manger. In the garden of Gethsemane when his disciples were sleeping on the job he had perfect focus on God and doing God’s will. When His disciples fled from him when he was arrested, he had perfect focus on going to the cross to make the full payment for our sins in full. Jesus never lost his focus, was never distracted, never slept on the job, but perfectly rescued us with his perfect life and death on the cross and glorious resurrection. Knowing that makes you ready for when Jesus will return.
So, take to heart the words of your Savior: What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch! Be ready, He’s coming. Let Him not find you sleeping on the job, but let him find you in sorrow over your sin, let him find you in faith in Jesus as your only Savior, let him find you diligently serving him faithfully at your job, in your home, with your life. Let him find you diligently reaching out to friend, neighbor, relative with the good news of Jesus so they won’t be found sleeping when He comes. As you prepare for Christmas, be ready, be watchful, be focused, He came once to save us, He’ll come again bring us the full reality of what He’s one. Don’t be found sleeping…watch! Amen.