Seward United Methodist Church
Saturday, August 24, 2019
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Prepared for His Coming

Luke 21:25-36 and 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Today, as you can see at the top of the bulletin, is the first Sunday in Advent. What is Advent? The word means “coming.” I think a lot of people think Advent is preparation for Christmas. After all, this is the “Christmas shopping season,” which begins the day after Labor Day, it seems. And somehow still, the retailers all complain that they didn’t sell as much as they were hoping to.

But let’s remember that the Church’s celebration of Advent precedes the world’s celebration of “Christmas shopping season” by several hundred years. So Advent is not preparation for Christmas. After all, it would be weird to prepare for something that happened more 2000 years ago. Advent is preparation for Jesus’ coming that has not yet happened, his “Second Coming.” Yes, Advent ends with Christmas, a celebration of his first coming. But thinking about his first coming should lead us to think about his second coming. His first coming is not complete, his work is not complete, without his second coming.

How do we prepare for his second coming? Often, there is a lot of fear-mongering in connection to Christ’s second coming. People get talking about the “Great Tribulation,” and the “Mark of the Beast,” and the rise of the Antichrist, and all that. And the message seems to be, “Be afraid; be very afraid!”

Consider Jesus’ words in Luke 21:

“There will be strange signs in the skies.” Solar eclipses, comets, and lunar eclipses, affectionately known to some today as “blood moons,” have all been seen as portents of disaster through history.

“Nations will be in turmoil!” Isn’t that kind of par for the course?

“Perplexed by roaring seas and strange tides.” Hurricanes, tsunamis, check mark!

“The courage of many will fail when they see the stability of the heavens shaken.”

It certainly sounds like reason to be afraid. But I’d like to think there are better ways to be prepared for the coming of Christ than just fear. Consider the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians, a letter that has a lot to say about the return of Christ. I think Paul has four things to say to the Church about being ready for Christ’s return:

First, “We have great joy.” The thought of Christ’s return should fill us with joy, not fear.

I think joy and happiness, while bearing a superficial resemblance to each other, have very different things. Happiness is based on present circumstances, but joy is based on our confidence about future circumstances. We can’t be happy when circumstances are bad. Illness, death, job loss, tragedy, conflict, and a million other things get in the way of happiness. But joy is based on our confidence about future circumstances. Christ will return. A new creation will be ushered in. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Death, mourning, crying, and pain will be no more. Things might not be good now, but we know how the story ends. So we can have joy in all circumstances if we have faith in Christ and are confident of his return.

Second, pray for each other. Don’t just pray, but pray for each other. And, along with that, love each other. The return of Christ is for all of God’s people. It’s not for me or you. It’s for all of us. So keep on praying for each other and loving one another until he comes.

I think our default position as human beings is to fall back on getting wrapped up in ourselves. And we certainly live in a cultural situation where it’s easy to get wrapped up in self. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say our society is self-obsessed. We don’t think about others as much as we should. But Jesus taught us that the most important thing God wants us to do is to love each other, to do good for each other, to sacrifice of self to serve one another. Is there anything else we could do to be more ready for his return?

And finally, we prepare for his coming with holiness of life, so that we can stand before God on the day of Christ’s return. We must not be like the world. We must have different values, different priorities, and different behaviors. That’s what holiness means.

Jesus said, “Keep watch. Don’t be found living in careless ease, or drunkenness, or filled up with the worries of life.” If we claim to have confidence Christ will return to establish a new creation, then we shouldn’t be living as if this world is all there is.

In the month of December, the world goes crazy over Christmas shopping and Christmas decorating and Christmas baking. They’re going to throw themselves into preparing for Christmas, often without much appreciation for what they’re celebrating. But for us, this is Advent. We should be preparing for his return. Why prepare for something that already happened? And we prepare by living holy lives, filled up with joy, prayer, and love for each other.

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