December 3, 2017: 1st Sunday in Advent

Let us pray: Dear Savior, when we forget the pain of the past and what caused it, our emotional state is buoyed up to a higher level.  But our spiritual condition suffers because by forgetting we sow the seeds of having to go through it all again.  Today enable us to appreciate our present blessings by never forgetting the struggles necessary to attain them.  Yes, all blessings come from the cross and Your struggles to save us.  May our lives be worth it.  Amen


TEXT:  Mark 13: 32-37

Dearly Beloved in Christ:

Bitcoin has gone up almost 1000% in one year.  The Dow has now broken 24,000.  Recently a new house just down the street from the church sold for just under a million dollars.  One block the other way a small tear-down fetched $425,000!  Happy days are here again and many are saying that they will never cease!  Meanwhile, the latest report from the Federal Reserve says that consumer household debt is rising 60% faster than wages. One of my old neighbors shakes her head at all this and says: “Where are people getting all the money?”  In the old days there would be only two resolutions to this conundrum.  One, wages would increase greatly—inflation. Or two, prices on everything would drop a lot—deflation.  But increasingly, people believe we’re in a totally new paradigm where bills never have to be paid off and happy days will continue into infinity.  I guess we’ll see who’s right, won’t we?

In former times people viewed time as cyclical.  That is, just like the seasons human history had Springs, Summers, Falls, and Winters.  And within the “Big Wheel” of history there were multiple “Little Wheels” revolving around, too.  I suppose this is where that expression: “What goes around, comes around” got started.  But with this supposed “new paradigm” shift, time is viewed as linear, or in a line.  So, if things are going up, unless someone does something really stupid, they will always go up forever.

Now I bring all this up because on this day we begin a new church year with the season of Advent.  Advent is the preparatory season leading up to Christmas, followed by the other various yearly church holidays and seasons.  We repeat this cycle ever single year.  If the new paradigm folks are correct, I guess we are doing it all wrong!  Why plow old ground year after year?  Why ponder the past—whether it be our sins, or our salvation recorded in the old Bible—if the past has next to nothing to do with our future?  If the past cannot teach us anything about the future, what good is it?  I raise these issues because that’s exactly what much of modern thought teaches today.


Right after WWI—which ended 99 years ago, the world was broke and in chaos.  People were exhausted, frightened, and demoralized.  Millions were dead.  The idealistic American President Woodrow Wilson called WWI: The war to end all wars.  And he pushed the formation of something called: The League of Nations, a forerunner of the current United Nations, to “manage” human history on a global stage.  How has that worked out?  Wars have still happened.  Depressions have still happened.  Plagues have still happened.  They all wax and wane like the moon phases and the tidal cycles.  My point is: we humans want peace and prosperity, but our sinful natures continue to get in the way of it all almost like clockwork.  We forget the past too easily and fall asleep at the wheel as the ship of history glides across the ocean of time.  And when you’re asleep at the wheel, well, that’s when you hit the rocks and crash.

This has happened continuously since time began.  Christ, Father Time, was very aware of this.  That’s why before He left this earth, He tells His people: “No one knows about that day or hour (when the world will end) not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son (since in His state of humiliation He chose not to know), but only the Father.  Be on guard!  Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come.  It’s like a man going away.  He leaves his house in charge of his servants, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.—At Pinewood that’s me. In your house, it’s you.—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.  If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”


God’s faithful people have always watched for the Lord’s coming.  Simeon and Anna of old were waiting at the Temple for His first coming after His birth.  And they weren’t disappointed.  They saw and actually held their Savior, God’s Son, in the flesh.  After Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of all humans, His body was laid in the grave.  The faithful women watched the tomb being sealed.  Then they waited until Sunday morning to honor their Lord.  Their watchfulness paid huge dividends, didn’t it?  They were the first to hear that glorious news that: “The Lord is Risen, just as He said!”  And their joy overflowed.  Now that same Savior tells us to watch for His 2nd coming when He will take His faithful into glory.

Such watchfulness is really a lifetime proposition.  It begins with your baptism.  It continues with Sunday School and confirmation and Bible Class and regular worship.  Watchfulness permeates every aspect of your life.  Do you live in daily appreciation for blessings?  Do you daily confess to God your sins, examine your heart, and plead for His forgiveness?  Do you daily make your mundane decisions about spending money, raising the kids, being a terrific employee, and a faithful friend—governed by the knowledge that good times don’t last forever, life doesn’t last forever, and each of us is accountable to God for everything we do?

Advent is our time to wake up from our slumber of complacency—both physical and spiritual.  It is our time to not be lulled into the linear thinking that: we control our own destiny and just because we want “happy days” of wealth, health, and human peace, obviously our wishes will make it so.  Advent is our time to focus on the Prince of Peace and prepare our souls to meet Him and then reap the harvest of His strength which is the only thing that will get us through the troughs of life and the crests that follow.  Yes, use this time of Advent to watch, pray, ponder and meditate on this singular truth: “God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.”  Amen