Sermon Options: December 1, 2019

October 8th, 2019

GETTING READY

Isaiah 2:1-5

"Are you ready yet?" My parents said those words to me practically every Sunday morning. They had to ask me that question because I was always the last one to be dressed and ready to go to church. Now my wife and I ask the same question of our boys. Even as a child I knew that there is more to getting ready for church than putting on one's "Sunday best." We must also be spiritually prepared.

We should get ready for Christmas, too. Most people are already preparing for Christmas by hauling decorations down from the attic or up from the basement. The industrious among us have even purchased or made some of their gifts. But preparing for Christmas is also a spiritual matter. Since advent refers to the coming of Christ, and the season of advent is when we celebrate that coming, we must get ready to receive him.

The prophet Isaiah was getting ready for the coming of the Messiah eight hundred years before Christ's arrival. In the book that bears his name, Isaiah has provided help for us to get ready for the advent.

I. We Get Ready for Christmas by Believing God's Promises
In some ways, Isaiah's prophecies were fulfilled in the first advent of the Messiah. On the other hand, the complete fulfillment of God's promises concerning the last days will not come to pass until the second advent of Jesus. We live between the "already" and the "not yet." Nevertheless, we can be assured that God will keep all of his promises. The coming of the Messiah on that first Christmas night was in fulfillment of God's promises, and that event is our surety that the last days will occur according to his Word.

II. We Get Ready for Christmas by Sharing God's Priorities
During the lifetime of Isaiah, the worship of Jehovah and the teaching of his Word were confined to the Jewish people. However, God made it clear through the prophet that God's plan for the future included all the nations. His gospel is universal. When Jesus was born, an angel announced to shepherds outside Bethlehem, "I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people" (Luke 2:10, emphasis added).

God's priority is to love every human being to himself. Is that your priority? Are you satisfied that the good news is confined to you and yours? Are you so caught up in the trappings of the season that God's missionary purpose is no longer a priority for you? If so, then you are not ready for Christmas.

III. We Get Ready for Christmas by Personifying God's Peace
Both Isaiah (2:4) and Micah (4:3) prophesied of a time when the nations would reshape their implements of war into implements of peace. This prophetic statement is prominently displayed in front of the United Nations building, but the preceding verses are omitted. The word of the prophets is that the nations will be at peace with one another when they are at peace with God.

The peace of which the prophets wrote began to be realized when Jesus was born. On the night he was born the angelic host announced, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors" (Luke 2:14) . The whole world is not yet at peace. In fact, the Messiah himself promised that until the end there would be "wars and rumors of wars" (Matt. 24:6). However, those who know him know his peace.

There's nothing like a deadline to motivate us to get ready. Our deadline is December 25. Will we be ready? (N. Allen Moseley)

GOD'S WAKE-UP CALL

Romans 13:11-14

Everyone who has done much traveling knows what a wake-up call is. You spend the night in a hotel but need to be up at a certain hour. You call the switchboard and ask for the operator to call you the next morning at your needed hour. With those instructions given, you can relax and enjoy a good night's rest.

The beginning of Advent is God's wake-up call to us. Notice how Paul puts it in verse 11: "It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep." What an unusual call this seems. But consider some of the implications of this mandate.

I. Wake Up to Theological Responsibilities
Faith is always lived in crisis times. That was true in Paul's day and in ours as well. The book of Romans addresses a church in theological conflict with its world. The Christ followers could not and did not fit into the theological molds of the first century. They were willing to give their lives if necessary to stand apart from their society.

Many people have observed that Christians today seem to stand for little that is different from society. If we profess to be Christian, that profession may mean little because we are often just like everyone else. We may attend church regularly and even tithe our income. But if the change is not on the inside, then the Advent/Christmas gospel means little.

Wake up because salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. That is a theological responsibility because it touches our need for vigilance.

II. Wake Up to Moral Responsibilities
Advent can be a crisis, so this is a good time to stake down the meaning of the season. You already know that it is not about packages and trees and wonderful food. It is not even about family and home. Advent is the time of paying attention to our moral responsibilities. As Paul put it, "Let us then lay aside the works of darkness" (v. 12). We need not spend much time imagining lurid tales of violence. Those are in today's headlines. Instead, let us remember that Christ comes as light in the darkness. As vermin scatter at the coming of the light, so do moral failures.

Keep a spiritual vigilance during this season. Also remember your moral responsibilities. What we do matters to God and to others.

III. Wake Up to Relational Responsibilities
The first half of verse 13 seems to describe some office Christmas parties: "Let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness." The second half seems to describe some church business meetings: "Not in quarreling and jealousy."

These are relational matters. The coming of Christ affects how we treat each other. We relate as whole persons to whole persons, not as objects to objects. God is giving the world a wake-up call. His Son is coming. The light is dawning. Let us make no room for evil. (Don M. Aycock)

PREPARING FOR HIS COMING

Matthew 24:36-44

Don't you love a mystery? I grew up on "Perry Mason," watching that masterful legal strategist explore the various alternatives, then unmask the true villain (usually on the witness stand) in the final five minutes. Some people prefer an Agatha Christie mystery, or perhaps another writer. There is something in many of us that enjoys trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle; in such a story, we're just as delighted when we are completely surprised with the outcome. (Although we'll quickly begin to review the earlier clues and see how we could have easily come to the same conclusion earlier in the story!)

One of the great mysteries of the New Testament surrounds the return of Christ. We are told that there is a day coming when Christ will again enter our midst, this time to inaugurate his reign in human history. Countless writers and preachers have tried to identify the time when this second advent will take place; a couple of years ago, hundreds of thousands of copies of a book were distributed, purporting to identify the exact day when Christ would return. Of course, when that didn't happen, a sequel was soon available demonstrating conclusively that it was actually going to be a different day after all!

In these verses, Jesus emphasizes to his disciples that no one can know the time of this remarkable future event. Indeed, it will take humanity by surprise, much as the great flood came as an utter and total shock to a population that had made such fun of Noah and his boatworks.

In the face of such a mystery, Jesus nevertheless counseled his followers to take some practical steps in anticipation of his return. Not only are these good actions in anticipation of the second advent, but they are also actions that will contribute to victorious Christian lives in the here and now.

I. Watch for His Return (v. 42)
Have you ever watched and waited for a loved one you have not seen for a long time? Perhaps your spouse has been on a trip for several days; you have missed this special person in your life, and you've anxiously awaited the time of return. Now the expected time is fast approaching, and you keep looking at the clock; you keep going to the window to see if the car is entering the driveway.

That is the idea here. Jesus says, "Watch!" Live in expectancy of that great day. Live in a sense of anticipation that the One who loves you most, the One who gave his life for you, is about to return. When we live in expectancy, we have a vivid sense of God's presence and direction in our lives. We are alert to his leading, alive to the Spirit's moving within us.

When we keep watch, it will lead to the second thing Jesus encourages us to do.

II. Prepare for His Return (v. 43)
This brief parable is not difficult to relate to our own time. We are growing more security conscious by the day. We carry poison sprays to fend off would-be attackers; we put alarms (or at least stickers threatening alarms) in our car windows; we install elaborate and expensive security systems in our homes, all because we fear those who would violate us or our belongings.

Imagine a person who receives a call one night that "A thief is on his way to your house, and is going to break in and steal your property." Can you imagine that same homeowner grunting at the phone, rolling over, and going back to sleep? I don't think so! I think the recipient of that warning would call the police, make sure the doors and windows were secured, and prepare for the potential thief.

In the same way we might prepare for such a negative event, Jesus says we ought to prepare for the positive event of his return.

How do we prepare? For a moment, imagine what specific steps you might take if you had concrete proof that Jesus was coming back twenty-four hours from now. You'd certainly try to set your own spiritual house in order; you'd probably have a sense of urgency about sharing your faith with some special friends and relatives; you'd be alert to be sure your thoughts and actions were positive and God-honoring. Sounds like we already know how to prepare; we just have to begin!

When we watch and prepare for his coming, we will inevitably follow the third action to which Jesus calls us.

III. Be Ready for His Return (v. 44)
A spirit of expectancy and a life-style of preparation will inevitably result in an attitude of readiness. We do not know when Christ's second advent may be, whether a day or a year or a century from now. We do know, however, that he challenges us to be ready for that day in every area of our lives.

In the earlier verses of this passage, Jesus talked about people in Noah's day, who were doing good things—the typical, everyday activities of life—but who had allowed those secondary activities to redirect their thoughts and priorities away from the most important thing: faithfulness and obedience to God. Jesus calls us to use the reality of his return as a constant reminder that we must be ready for his return, for when we live in readiness, then we are best prepared to serve faithfully and effectively in the days until he returns. (Michael Duduit)

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