Pastor Sherry’s message for November 27, 2022
Scriptures: 11/27/2019, Isa 2:1-5; Ps 122; Ro 1:11-14; Matt 24:36-44
In a sermon by a preacher named Mark Schaeufele, I heard the following story:
“The Butterball Turkey company [had] set up a hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing holiday turkeys. One woman called to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for 23 years. The operator told her it might be safe if the freezer had been kept below 0 degrees the entire time. But the operator warned the woman that, even if it were safe, the flavor had probably deteriorated, and she wouldn’t recommend eating it. The caller replied, “That’s what we thought. We’ll just give it to the church.”
That, like you, made me laugh! Now I could go on to preach about giving God our best–not a 23 year old frozen turkey—but instead I want us to consider how prepared we are for Christ’s 2nd Coming. If the lady of the joke had been stocking-piling frozen food for 23+ years, we might assume she is ready for any earthly emergency (hurricane, sunami, tornado, volcano, deadly virus, etc.). But is she, and are you, spiritually ready?
This is what our Scriptures address this morning. They all ask the question, “Are we ready for the Second Advent?” Now you may be thinking, “Wait just a minute…I’m doing my best to get ready to celebrate the first Advent, the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus:
(1) I’ve donated a Shoe-box or two, or 20.
(2) I’m baking Christmas cookies and fruit cakes like my hair’s on fire.
(3) I’m decorating my place…inside and out.
(4) I’m gathering gifts from weeks of Black Friday sales.
(5) I’m beginning to write out Christmas cards;
(6) I’m humming Christmas carols in the shower.
(7) We are anticipating Christmas on the Square and the Christmas parade in Live Oak.
(8) The grandchildren and great grandchildren are talking up their Santa lists and are already beyond excited!
(9) Why, we have even decorated the Church—thanks to all of you who came out to help—and lit our first Advent candle, the candle of Hope!
We really are getting ready for Christmas, but our lessons today aren’t about the First Noel. The Mass of Christ (that is where we get the word, Christmas) focuses on the past and the present. Past: Jesus’ birth in a manger long ago; Present: Our attempts to live out that magnanimous love of God the Father—in gifting us with His Only Begotten Son—in our lives today. But Advent also focuses on Jesus’ future return.
To facilitate our hopeful readiness for this future return, our lessons today spotlight the Second Coming of Christ, as the King!
A. Isaiah 2:1-5 Our OT lesson is clearly a Messianic Prophecy: Verse 2 speaks of…the last days….This is a Blibical expression for the end of time. It refers not to when bad things start to happen—like the Great Tribulation—but to when Jesus establishes His Millennial rule and reign on the earth (after He has defeated Satan and evil at the Battle of Armageddon). Several things will happen then:
(1) (V.2) The mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains. The mountain of the Lord is Mount Zion, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. But mountain also means the kingdom, the authority, the rule of Jesus. So we could read the sentence this way: The rule of Jesus will be established as chief among all rulers. Right now, Moslems control or rule the Temple Mount. The Mosque of Omar sits on the former site of the Jewish Temple, and most holy sites are controlled by Christian gentiles rather than Jews. But in the future Advent, God’s Holy Temple will be re-established on Mt. Zion with Jesus and the Father as its residents, and as a gathering place for all Christ-followers.
(2) Jerusalem will become the world center of both government and religion. There will be one, Christ-centered world order. You hear occasionally now calls for a “total world order,” including using the same currency, etc. But don’t be fooled. This is a secular movement, not a movement of God. In the last days, however, we will learn God’s will for us—if we haven’t already–and we will do His will, gladly, joyfully.
(3) Jesus will judge disputes between nations and settle them so He will create true peace. As Isaiah predicts in verse 4 They [all people] will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks [weapons will be turned into farming implements]. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. There will be no need for the service academies, military bases, warships or planes, or standing armies. Imagine a world totally at peace.
(4) So, Isaiah urges us to walk in the light of the LORD as we await King Jesus’ return. We should act like we know Jesus is looking—because He is–and we should wait for Him in hopeful readiness.
B. Psalm 122 is a Psalm of Ascent, sung by faithful Jews as they walked uphill toward Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. However, it is also a Messianic prophesy, looking forward to the time when all of the tribes of the Jews will be reunited in Israel and will worship God–and Jesus– in Jerusalem. Hosea 3:4-5 is not one of our lessons appointed for today, but it repeats or echoes this prophecy For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice [as they are doing right now, today]….Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king [Jesus, David’s descendant]. They will come trembling to the Lord and to His blessings in the last days. In other words, in the last days, the Jews will finally have accepted Jesus as the rightful Messiah.
It may be difficult for us to envision this grand reunion of Jews and Gentiles who all love Jesus, but if we believe Scripture, we can await it with hopeful readiness.
C. Romans 13:11-14 Paul focuses on how we treat our neighbors. He says, in so many words, we demonstrate love for our neighbors in what we do, rather than in what we say. Just prior to this passage, he reminds us not to break the 10 Commandments (not commit adultery, murder, steal, or covet—all sins against others). Then, he goes on to exhort us to Wake up! Because Jesus is coming again! In verse 12 he declares …the night is nearly over, by which he means this present evil age. He goes on to say, The day is almost here, meaning the long awaited second appearing of Jesus Christ. We want to be ready by avoiding, as best we can, deeds of darkness—sins…and to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, Paul is exhorting us to put Christ first in our lives, and to display outwardly what has taken place inwardly within us. Simply put, Paul wants us to practice all the virtues associated with Jesus, as we wait with hopeful readiness….
D. Matthew 24:36-44 In this passage, Jesus is describing when He will come again. 1st of all, no one knows when that will be–not even Jesus! Then He offers us two metaphors to encourage us to be ready:
(1) When Noah built the ark, no one else much believed it would rain enough to require a large boat; but, it did! And those who had not listened to the Lord (through Noah), and had ridiculed him, drowned. It was a time of great immorality—much like today–and all gross sinners perished.
(2) Burglars tend to come to our homes at night, or when we are away. If we want to thwart a robbery, we need to be prepared. We lock our doors. We have a dog, a burglar alarm, or a gun to ensure our safety. We keep our important papers and jewelry in a safe or bank deposit box. Similarly, Jesus is warning us to be prepared, to be ready. Going back to the issues at hand—Jesus’ 2nd Coming–we should live each day as though it is our last.
All of our lessons exhort us to be hopeful and ready. We can’t just count on looking like we are right with the Lord when He shows up again. We need to practice, daily, being surrendered to His will; and trying, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to live in a way that pleases Jesus.
We could say, then, that Advent is really a “wake up call.” We never really know when the God-moment (2nd Coming) is going to arrive, so we have to be ready all the time. This readiness is not a matter of hanging decorations, baking cookies, sending out Christmas cards, or attending holiday parties—though those things are all fine and good. This readiness is developed by establishing tenderness/love in our hearts, for God and others. It is a willingness in our spirits to hear God’s Word and go God’s way.
Remember, our God has a habit of sneaking up on people, often making appearances in unusual ways, through unlikely people, in unexpected places. In the 1st Advent, it was thru “a little baby, the child of an unwed, teenaged mother, in a dirty, smelly cow-stall, on the other side of nowhere.” (Stated by Fairless and Chilton, The Lectionary Lab, A, 2013, p.4). Who knows when or where God will show up again? It could be this afternoon, or tomorrow, or Christmas Day. But whenever it comes, we need to be awake, hopeful and prepared! Amen!
©️2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams