First Sunday of Advent
December 3, 2006
The Gospel: Luke 21:25-31
Sermon: "Preparing for the Second Coming"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near."
Preparing for the Second Coming
First Sunday of Advent - December 3, 2006
It is unmistakably the Advent season. Small towns all over the United States have already held their Christmas parades. Pretty wintry decorations light up the downtown area of Reidsville. The newspapers are brimming with sales off all kinds. Churches are advertising the hanging of the greens. Christmas carols are playing on the radio. In the grocery stores can be found weekly newspapers all mentioning the prophecies of Nostradamus and declarations that the end is near. All of these symbols in our world tell me unequivocally we are in the season of Advent. For only during this time of year do all of these things occur at the same time.
All of these symbols, most of them secular, promote one thing business. The Christmas parades, while enjoyable, remind us that Christmas is near and much has to be done. The decorations in town remind us of the need to decorate our own homes. We have to pull down the lights and make sure all the bulbs are working. Where did we store the crèche from last year? The sales ads remind us of all the shopping we have to do. After the shopping, there comes the wrapping, the taping, and the mailing. I just get tired thinking about it all.
Then to top it all off, there is some newspaper, the weekly rag, telling me the end of time is near. I can't think about that right now. There is too much to be done. Don't bother me with thinking about the end times.
Yet, here we are on the first Sunday of Advent in church and what do we hear? We hear prayers and lessons that remind us of the second coming of Christ, in secular words, the end of the world. What is the deal? Are we not celebrating the birth of Christ the King? Why aren't we hearing stories of his birth?
Advent in the church is an interesting season. It is a time of preparation. In fact, we are attempting to do three things. First, we look for the Second Coming of Christ. Second, we prepare our own hearts and minds for Jesus' coming again. Third, we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ.
As our lessons tell us today we are looking for the Second Coming of Christ. We are very blessed as Christians; for we do not view the Second Coming of Christ with trepidation and fear. It is true that the prophecies of the Second Coming often have hard times and cataclysmic signs as preludes to the event. In the reading from Luke we read of cosmic signs in the universe the stars, the sun and the moon as a prelude to the Second Coming. We read of people fainting from fear and a sense of foreboding that is pervasive throughout the world. We also read about Jesus coming in a cloud with great power and glory. These events sound very awesome and frightening. One could be frozen with fear if one doesn't know God. Yet, for those who do know God the reading says for us to stand, and raise our heads with expectation. We can stand in this way because we know what awaits. What awaits is life everlasting in the presence of God. The Second Coming is not to be a time of fear. So, during this season we look for the Second Coming. We pray for it to come. We desire for Jesus to come and come soon.
As we look for the Second Coming of Christ, we prepare. We prepare ourselves to stand before him. Advent is a time of introspection. We look deeply into our own hearts and minds. As we search ourselves we look for anything that would keep us from the love of God. We ask God for help to cast away our sinfulness. We ask for help that our hearts might be filled with love and our minds with knowledge of God's righteousness.
Our problem is that the secular world keeps us thinking of other things. We go to bed thinking of all that we have to do to prepare for Christmas morning. We think of the bustle of activity right now and not the true task at hand. The true task is taking time, intentional time above and beyond our normal time with God, to seek God at a deeper level. At this level of deep introspection we can begin the process of healing and cleansing that promotes health and wholeness. It allows us the opportunity to get at our real fears of living in this world and give them to God. This introspection helps us to be able to stand and raise our heads as Jesus draws near. Without this time and without this deep introspection, we lose an opportunity. We lose an opportunity to prepare ourselves for the coming of the King.
As we prepare ourselves for the coming of the King, we can also prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of the King. Birthday celebrations are always fun. They are times of great laughter, joy, and remembrance. As we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world, it is the same. We prepare during Advent to remember the greatest gift that God has ever given us. God gave us God's own self. God Incarnate walked among us, taught us, healed us, died for us, and rose for us. We actually celebrate not only his birth, but his entire life. So we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus among us.
Here is a question we might ask ourselves? What gift would be appropriate for Jesus? Should we bring a tie with Christian symbols? How about some smoked salmon ordered from a catalog? Should we bring bread and wine to the celebration or will he have that already provided? Somehow, I don't think any of these are what Jesus would really want. Somehow I believe Jesus would like us to come before him with truly contrite hearts, humble spirits, and an openness to love. This gift, this gift of ourselves, can only be ready if we are willing to take the time to prepare. Even with all of the business of this season in our world, I pray each of us will take the time to prepare for Jesus' coming. I pray our hearts will be filled with love, our minds with knowledge, and our spirits with joy as we await the day of His coming.
Have a Happy and Spiritually Deep Advent,