11/27/2017 First Sunday of Advent The text is Matthew 24:36-44; Romans 13:11-14.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Ready or not, here I come! I remember those words from a childhood game of hide and seek. With those words, I would uncover my eyes and begin to move. Those words, loudly spoken, warned the hiders that I was looking for them.
Ready or not, here I come! It’s fun to hear those words in a childhood game of hide and seek, but not so wonderful when those words come from the pages of the Bible. For, they warn us that the time of preparation will come to a close and that Christ will come again if we are ready or not.
We get ready for a lot of things. We get ready for school or for work. We prepare for marriage and family. We definitely get ready for vacations and retirement. We can even plan for our death by making a will and funeral arrangements. Seldom do we do anything important without preparation. So, it seems just fitting that we should get ready for the coming of Christ.
But getting ready for Christmas just isn’t the same as getting ready for Jesus. Prepare for Christmas, we do! We buy and wrap gifts. We put up Christmas trees which we decorate with bright lights. We prepare food – ah, special food of all kind. We bake Christmas cookies and breads and make popcorn balls if we are energetic. We prepare for parties and visits with family and friends. We send out cards (a tradition that some of us could do without) for we always seem to forget someone. We rush off to the malls on Black Friday and spend time on the internet on Cyber Monday. Then, finally, when all else is underway, we kick off our shoes and try to wind down by listening to some Christmas music, all in an attempt to get into the spirit of celebration.
All too soon, Christmas passes for another year and we are back into daily routine as if it never happened. To our dismay, we’ve missed the whole thing. We prepared for a celebration, but we’ve never gotten ready for the coming of Jesus into our hearts and into our lives.
We have secularized Christmas. We have made Christmas into a holiday and into a gift-giving party. That’s why non-Christians can celebrate along with Christians. It has little to do with Jesus. But, may that not be so for us! Let us keep Christ in Christmas and every day of the year “for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
We know when Christmas will come. It happens every year on December 25th. But, we don’t know when Jesus will come again. Paul tells us that “salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” So, we are to “lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” We are to live honorably, “not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.” We are not to be out there, gratifying our every want and desire. Oh, my! These words of Paul surely put a major damper on the party we call Christmas! And yet, getting ready for Jesus should be as joyful as a childhood game of hide of seek.
So what are we to do? How do we get ready, “for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour?”
Matthew tells us to keep awake. In other words, to keep our eyes open and stay focused on Christ, especially as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. We are doing that today as we begin our season of Advent with a baptism. Today, this baby’s life will be open to receiving the gifts of God given to the people of God. Today, he will be clothed in the armor of Christ as each of us was clothed on the day we were baptized. On that day our hearts and souls were opened and were made ready to become a place for God to reside. Through the Holy Spirit, God dwells with us, even as we look for the day when Christ will come again.
As we hear the words, “Ready or not, here I come,” we know that something or someone is coming — and now is the time to get ready. So, we better not wait. Now is the time to imitate Christ. Now is the time to love your neighbor. Now is the time tgive to those in need. Now is the time to worship and bow down to the Lord. Now is the time to sing praises to God for God, through Christ Jesus, has only good things in mind for those who wait for his coming.
In him there is new life and the joy of peace even during this season of rushing and celebrating. In him there is plenty even if we feel we need or want more. In him there is hope even if we find this time of the year to be hard to endure. In him there is light even as the days grow darker. In him there is something more than a one-day birthday party.
So, while others are rushing about, driving themselves crazy planning parties, getting Christmas cards or e-mails designed and sent, getting gifts for everyone they think they should, and hiding the goodies from the kids until they can wrap them and put them under the tree, we do something more or at least a little different. As people who are called to get ready for the coming of the Son of Man, we make an effort to take some time each day to prepare our hearts to be a place God can call home.
So, buy an Advent calendar and use it! Take a name or two from the giving tree and think of those who have little! Visit someone who is homebound, bake cookies for first responders, read the Christmas story to your children, sing carols and enjoy! For, the season of preparation has just begun.
And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.