Yesterday I preached a sermon called "Stay Awake, Stay Alert" at Main Street Moravian Church in Northfield, MN. We had a great time looking at Jesus words in Mark 13:32-37. What made it even more special was having my 10 year old daughter Isabelle playing piano and leading the church in a couple of Christmas carols.
Here's a few notes, quotes and anecdotes from the sermon.....
At its most simplistic, Advent is a time for Christians to re-focus their hearts and minds on Jesus. Here’s the irony though. If your experience is anything like mine the four weeks of Advent are some of the busiest and most difficult times for people to keep Christ at the center of their lives.
When Jesus talks about God bringing the world to a close he does not do so with gentle ideas. And yet interwoven into his prophecies of destruction and persecution, are hopeful promises that God’s elect (those whom he has foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified - c.f. - Romans 8:28-30) will be protected and collected and brought safely to himself.
I have always felt it was a bit ridiculous and pompous to try and predict the end of the world.
The principle in Jesus’ teaching [Mark 13:32-37] is this ---> As followers of Jesus we are to pay attention, daily, to what is happening around us and to look for things God is doing.
And yet, despite the vast amount of prophecy pointing to Jesus the majority of the religious leaders were never able to put all the pieces together. They were spiritually asleep when Jesus came, and they missed it.
The Bible teaches us in these two passages, and in multiple places elsewhere, that people do not see Jesus because their minds have been hardened and blinded. (c.f. 2 Corinthians 3:14-16; 4:3-6)
Because of the remaining sin in my life, I am not able to see Jesus clearly for who he is. Because sin still lives in me, I must ask God each day to shine his light into my heart and allow me to see what is really happening. (c.f. - Eph 1:17-18)
And as we enter into Advent I fear that a large number of people who attend church on Sunday are living their lives the rest of the week asleep and unalert to what Jesus is doing in the world.
Our spiritual enemy, Satan uses spiritual tryptophan to lull our spirits to sleep. Things like comfort, convenience, and consumerism can all quickly and quietly become the tryptophan of Satan. (c.f. 1 John 2:15-17; 2 Timothy 4:10)
It scares me how easily I can go weeks at a time without praying, reading my Bible, or spending time in the presence of Jesus. I can get so swept away with “life” that I pay no attention to the one who gave His life to redeem mine.
C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters "Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,"
What they have is an engagement problem (c.f. Mark 14 Garden of Gethsemane). The disciples are not engaging with what Jesus is doing. They are on their own schedule with their own concerns, and they can’t move past themselves to where Jesus is.