First Sunday in Advent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here!
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Most modern houses don’t have a doorkeeper. It’s up to the owners to lock up, and perhaps set-up security alarms. But in some big cities, things may be a bit different. Many people now live in apartment buildings which employ a full-time guard by the main entrance. There may even be several guards on duty 24 hours a day. They see everyone who enters or leaves. This is how it would have been with a great house in Jesus’ day. Jesus says he’s like a man who goes on a journey and leaves his servants in charge, each with the authority to do their work. Watch! Be alert! Stay awake! Four times Jesus says it in four verses of this morning’s Gospel. That’s the spirit of Advent – watchfulness, alertness, waiting with sober vigilance. Be on the lookout, as they say. The Lord is near. This is the warning that Jesus issues to his followers as we face the troubles of this world.
Beware of Spiritual Drowsiness
The thing doorkeepers have to do above all, is to stay awake, and be on the lookout. If a security guard fell asleep on duty, he won’t be a security guard for much longer. The guard’s job is to stay awake and keep on the watch until his shift is done. What if the doorkeeper knew the precise moment of his master’s return? What if you knew the exact time Christ was going to return to this world? You’d be ready, of course! You’d have everything in order. And until that time, you wouldn’t have to give it (or Him) a second thought. You could pretty much carry on your business as usual. His coming wouldn’t interrupt your plans in the least. It would be like keeping an appointment with your hairdresser or your doctor. You could pencil in “Day of the Lord” on your day planners and that would be it. Wouldn’t it be great if we could know the day and the hour when Jesus makes His grand appearance? We could greet him in style. We could be ready for him. We could have a special church service, and maybe, just maybe, lots of people might show up. Wouldn’t want to be missing from that divine service, would we? And up until that day, we wouldn’t have to worry about it all that much.
If we knew the day and the hour of Jesus’ appearing in glory, there would be no faith. No trust in His Word. It would be works heaped on more works without an ounce of trust. No ongoing relationship with Jesus who is already with us. No wide-eyed expectation. No anticipation. No watchful waiting. Human nature likes to postpone, to put things off until the morrow.
Scripture is clear that Christians are supposed to grow and mature spiritually. Spiritual procrastination is not good. We are supposed to drown and kill all our sins and evil desires on a daily basis. Christians should not neglect, extinguish, or cast away the gifts of God. We’re supposed to call up God in every trouble. We are supposed to gladly hear and learn God’s word. And yet these are the very things which can be neglected by many Christians today. We are easily bored. Our eyes grow heavy; our hearts grow dull; our minds are distracted. Our attention spans are more attuned to commercial breaks than keeping watch all night. So, Jesus is challenging you: Have you become spiritually drowsy? Are you bored with the story of salvation? Are you apathetic to our mission to make disciples? Do you find yourself disinterested in worship? Does God only matter in your life on Sunday mornings? Have your prayers and Bible reading been sluggish? Non-existent? Instead of self-control, have you enjoyed too much self-indulgence? Have you become spiritually drowsy? Well, it’s time to wake up! To be alert! Keep watch, stay awake! You don’t know when Jesus will arrive. Just as a master leaves home and places someone on guard, so we are to be on the alert and keep awake for the master’s return.
Waiting with Patience
And as you keep watch, Jesus Christ our Lord also invites you to wait for his return. The doorkeeper and the servants are to wait for their master’s return. Waiting is not popular. What is popular is free next-day shipping. Instant access: that’s popular. In fact, most people might think that waiting a waste of time. Our tendency is to want to say: “Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don’t just sit there and wait!” For many People, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. It is not hard to understand the why my kids get mad when I say, “Just wait.”
How do we wait for God? We wait with patience. But patience does not mean sitting around and doing nothing. Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come. The bus is late. You can’t do anything about it, so you just have to sit there and wait. What are we supposed to do while we wait? The master who leaves his servants “each with his assigned task” places a personal responsibility upon them in the light of his second coming. Each of us has been given duties and responsibilities which vary according to our different stations in life. We each have a place in the family, the workplace, and in human society, and certain things are expected of us. As you wait for your Lord’s return, God has given you the task of loving and serving your neighbours. You can do so by being a good parent, a faithful spouse, a child who honours father and mother, a good employee, and by being a good citizen.
Notice, it was the master who gave them their work. God himself has given you your place in the family, the workplace, and in human society. He is at work through us. By means of ordinary people carrying on their work in these vocations, God is providing everything that we need. He does so through other people, through the communities and relationships which he places us in. He uses you, through the talents and opportunities that he has given you, to bless others.
But, Pastor, that’s all well and good, but we have to wait! Our Introit Psalm said, “None who wait for [the Lord] shall be put to shame.” You can wait because as a Christian, you have received a promise that allows you to wait. We have received something that is a work in us, like a seed that has started to grow. To wait patiently for God is to trust in God. The secret of waiting is trusting that God has planted the seed, that something has begun. It’s easier to wait for the bus when you see it coming down the road. It is far easier to wait when we realise that the salvation which we hope to receive has already begun for us. So waiting for God is not about waiting for him to finally do something. It is always about recognising that he has been doing something, and will do something more.
We’re not waiting for a stranger, but of this world’s Creator and Redeemer. We’re waiting patiently for the One we already know, and who knows us. We are watching and waiting for Jesus, our Saviour, who died for the world that we might live in Him. We are watching and waiting for a new creation, the dawn of an endless day at the end of this present darkness. We’re watching for the coming of the One who already came to us in Baptism. In a very real sense, you already had your last day when you were buried by baptism into Jesus’ death. And every Sunday, you experience a foretaste of heaven, an appetiser for which the main course is coming. Every Sunday is a Lord’s Day: a day when Jesus comes to us in the Lord’s Supper, in the Word of forgiveness. And so the coming of Jesus is no surprise – only the day and the hour is. The Christian life is a life in which we wait patiently, trusting that when Jesus returns new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our wildest imagination.
Christ Jesus, who once came to save all humanity, who comes to us even now in Word and sacrament, is most certainly coming again. We do not know when that will be. It could be at anytime. So we are given the charge to be watchful. Be awake and alert. Be on the lookout. Keep your eyes and your ears locked on Jesus. Remember your Baptism. You already diedπ and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood. That’s your food to sustain you through the wilderness of life. Confess your sins; hear His forgiveness. Continue to put sin and evil to death every day. Wait patiently for Jesus. He’s coming to save you, to forgive you, to raise you from the dead. Keep watch! It’ll be worth the wait.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.