Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | November 28, 2010

Sermon on Matthew 24:37-44

Downloadable version

Eyes on Christ Change Everything About Advent

Lessons:  Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:37-44

Hymns (from Christian Worship and CW: Supplement): 2, 705, 220, 771

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Except for Advent candles and blue paraments, you might not know it’s Advent.  Because today sounds like the last four weeks.  We just finished the End Times season.  We celebrated the Reformation, rejoicing that the Lord has kept the Word among us, the Word that changes hearts and gets us ready for Judgment Day.  We recalled the truth that there is a day of last judgment, wrath and mourning for some, joy and release for others.  We remembered that the faithful departed are saints triumphant.  We bowed before Christ the King.

We do this because we forget that Advent isn’t just Christmas lite.  Advent is preparation, for Christmas, yes, when the Savior who brings peace to men on whom His favor rests came.  But it’s also a season to see how the Christ comes constantly to prepare for His coming in glory, which He says is soon.  Because it is, and because we know that we’re not always ready, just as we aren’t always perfectly prepared for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, we prayed this morning, Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.  Protect us by your strength and save us from the threatening dangers of our sins. Advent, then, is to Christmas, what Lent is to Easter.  We say, “Lord, I have not always focused on You and prepared my heart for You and Your coming.”  But, because we are Christian, we do not spend the season cutting ourselves like the prophets of Baal.  Rather, in repentance, in sorrow, in fear, in doubt, in guilt, we turn to Christ.  And eyes on Christ change everything about Advent.

Eyes on Christ change everything, because having our eyes on Christ imparts knowledge.  Jesus said, As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. How could the people of Noah’s time know nothing?  He spent 120 years building an ark and telling people.  So, they knew nothing, not because God said nothing. Peter tells us:  They deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. When the waters of the flood poured down from the sky and up from the ground, they were shocked, but it was too late.  They were outside the ark.  Likewise, on Judgment Day, it’s too late if you’re figuring things out as Jesus descends.

But that need not be you.  Because of Christ, you know something.  You know that Jesus isn’t crying wolf, though it’s been 2,000 years.  You know that falling asleep at the switch isn’t an option.  You know that you don’t have all the time in the world to do all the things YOU want.  You’ve learned the lesson of the flood.  You know that it’s time to cast off the ways of this world, the spiritual laxity, the indifference.  You know that it’s not good to wait until Christ comes to figure things out; that will be too late.  You know this because beautiful feet came and preached the word of Christ to you and faith comes from those words.  The Word placed your eyes on Christ and showed you the Son of Man, who for a time gave up His glory, who became poor, so that you could become rich, who died, so that you could live, who lived again, so that you can live forever.  So you know things.  You’re not caught off guard.  Instead, your faith speaks.  Paul says, It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” What you know, what places your eyes on Christ, changes everything.  It doesn’t just give you knowledge, it assures you your place.

Jesus said, Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Some have used this to support the scheme of a Rapture of believers before the great tribulation.  They say that Christ will come, visibly or invisibly, and take true believers to heaven, leaving the rest to suffer through the worst of times.  But they’re guilty of ignoring Jesus.  Only seconds before, Jesus made it clear that what we’re hearing is meant to be heard in the context of the Last Day, Judgment Day, His final coming in glory, for Jesus put the time of one being taken and one left in this context:  For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man….  At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

The point isn’t to assure us that we’ll be snatched from greater tribulation and others will suffer, but rather to remind us that we are wheat among the weeds.  The enemy has sown unbelief in the world, beginning in Eden, leading people to ignore and change the Word of God.  So weeds have sprung up.  They threaten.  They take nourishment.  They hog the soil.  But we need not fear being pulled up with them.  Jesus said:  The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’….  So it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.  This is Judgment Day:  a swift separation of the weeds and the wheat.  But I said that we are assured of our place.  With our eyes on Christ, we are.  Jesus says, Whoever believes in Him shall not perish. Saved by faith in Christ!  Paul says, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them….  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. In Christ, you are wheat, not weeds.  You are the man and woman taken, not left.

Eyes on Christ change everything about Advent.  Now you know things.  Now you’re assured of your place.  Now your eyes are opened.  Jesus says, Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Because in Christ you are who you are, because in Christ you know what you know, this is what you do.  You stay awake because Christ says that He will come when it suits Him, not you.

The word to avoid is procrastination.  The way of unbelief is the way of the son or husband given a task by a departing Dad or wife who says, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it,” and then does only when they hear the car coming back into the garage.  It’s too late.  Likewise, expecting parents don’t wait eight months, three weeks, and six days to start planning for the arrival of their newborn.  But we’re tempted – and more than tempted – to do the same with Christ.  We’re tempted to put Him on the back-burner, to say, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it,” to sanctified living, to time in the Word, to His Holy Supper, to…any number of things.  But Paul said, Do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Today is the day.  And we do it, because Christ has made us different.  By grace, through faith, we are among the elect.  We are among those whom God cares for during the tribulation.  We are among those for whom God shortens the tribulation.  We are among those for whom Christ sends out His angels.  I know, because I heard His call, and my heart clings to Him.  Eyes fixed on Christ change everything about Advent, because seeing Christ is seeing salvation.  Simeon’s song is apt, Lord, let now your servant depart in peace, according to your Word, for mine eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for every people! And that’s you.  You are the people for whom Christ lived, for whom Christ died, for whom Christ rose!  You are a new creation in Christ, staying awake, keeping watch.

Perhaps what keeps us from being perpetually prepared, is the military’s fear, you can’t always be on alert without losing your edge.  Jesus has provided for the resharpening of the edge.  He sends His Holy Spirit to be our Comforter, constantly re-calling us, constantly re-gathering us, constantly re-enlightening us, constantly re-sanctifying us, into the one true faith.  When my preparedness flags, He gives me words like those I heard today.  He gives me sacraments like Baptism, to wash off the dirt of sin, and Holy Communion to renew strength.  He gives us corporate worship to be encouraged in the faith as I hear His Word.  He gives brothers and sisters in Christ to whom we can go.  He gives the gift of private confession and absolution with my pastor.  No longer must you say, “I know nothing.”  You know everything, in Christ.  Amen.

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