1st Sunday in Advent
November 29, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace be yours in the name of God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The sermon today, on this a brand-new church year is the Gospel lesson read from Mark 13.
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
I would be willing to be that your parents used a variety of ways to wake you up every morning. Maybe they were traditional about it and just turned on the light in your room. Maybe they were clever and played reveille with their mouth to wake you up. Yeah, that one is ALWAYS hysterical at 6:00 AM. Maybe they came in and nudged you; maybe they came in and yanked the blankets away. My parents, my mom specifically, came in my room in the morning and almost always said, “wakey, wakey, eggs, and bacey.” I’m not making that up! She would say “wakey wakey, eggs, and bacey.” It’s not as if we had eggs and bacon every morning, but it was her clever little way to wake me up in the morning.
I bring that up because the theme for our Gospel reading – and one of the themes of Advent in general – is the idea of being awake, vigilant, and ready for the coming of our Lord Jesus. This is Advent – a brand-new church year, a brand-new church season, and a new theme for us to consider for the next coming weeks. Before we celebrate the coming of the Lord as the Word made flesh as the Babe of Bethlehem, we will focus for a few weeks on His Second Coming and our need to not be found sleeping; to “wake up” and be ready! Wakey wakey!
In Mark 13, Jesus warns the disciples 4 times in 5 verses (repetition was a common way to emphasize in Greek) using a Greek word form known as an imperative. That would be like our exclamation today. In verse 33 he tells them to “be on guard” and “keep awake.” In verse 35 Jesus says they should “stay awake!” and in verse 37 he again strongly urges them to, again, stay awake. Wakey wakey!
What does this mean? Were the disciples or are we supposed to never go to sleep? No…that’s not it at all. The message for the disciples – and for us as modern-day disciples – is that we are to stay vigilant and be in a constant state of spiritual readiness should the Lord return at any given moment. Sounds easy, right?
Well, not so fast. As we prepare to enter the Advent season and a new church year, today is a good opportunity for us to stop and reflect on our state of readiness for the coming of Christ. Are we ever vigilant and ready to meet the Lord, or have we allowed ourselves to become distracted, that is, lulled to sleep by this world and the awfulness of this year? Are we being faithful to what Jesus calls us to do on this earth – to know Christ and make Him known – or are we often times distracted by how much of a struggle it’s been since March? There is SO MUCH out there to distract our attention and make as “asleep at the wheel” so to speak: worries about the future, struggles with our money, our pursuit of sinful desires, and on and on it goes. Especially amid all our COVID-19 issues, there is so much that makes it so difficult to focus on what our tasks are as Christians.
Through this Gospel lesson, Jesus encourages us to live just the opposite – not to fall asleep in our sinfulness as life stays tough, but to stay awake and remain in a state of grace-filled readiness. But living in a state of constant readiness is almost impossible, and God knows that so He did something about it.
He issued the ultimate wake-up call for humanity. He did not encourage us to “wakey wakey,” but instead His wake-up call was a shout…“It is finished!” (John 19:30). The cross was the call that wakes us out of our sinfulness when we realize the sacrifice that was made there. The death that Christ died was not just the result of Jewish persecution or Roman viciousness; His suffering and His death had a purpose. St. Paul wrote “The death (Jesus) died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:10).
Those are more than just words; they are a promise. That promise and that gift changes us; the life that Christ lives to God is also the life that we desire to live to God. We are called to not spend our time in pointless speculation about when that might be, but rather to wake up and watch and be ready ALWAYS. Wakey wakey!
And how do we do that? Easy. Hebrews 12 says, “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (verses1b-2a). To be prepared for the end of the age, whenever that may be, is to stay awake spiritually and keep our focus on Jesus. That means more than just looking up to heaven or the occasional pre-meal prayer. It is living in the faith that He gives. It means that we are to work faithfully for the Master who will return just as He promised. But we also work with confident assurance because we know it is the Master who returns.
Today’s Gospel lesson is a call for us to Watch! Stay awake! Be alert! Watch out! It is not a simple call to “wakey wakey,” but instead we are to remain vigilant in faith until the end comes. Christ has overcome sin and this world and given us faith in Him so that, when the end comes, there will be no need to fear the end, but instead welcome it with wide open eyes and a wide open heart and then, one day, we will “wakey wakey” to an eternity in Heaven with Christ for all eternity. May our Advent plea this year – and ever – be “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.” Welcome to Advent in the year of our Lord 2020