Today we celebrate the first Sunday of a new Church year. As we prepare for the celebration of the Savior’s first Advent we prepare for His Second Advent – His sure and certain return on the Last Great Day. You and I as 21st Century Christians have no better way to live our lives now then from the perspective of eternity. As we prepare for the observance of our Lord’s first coming we must remember that the entire Christian life is oriented towards the last advent of Christ with its glorious eternal salvation.
God requires of us alertness.
I. The Lord wants us to be spiritually alert at all times.
A. Jesus’ inevitable return in power and glory will be sudden, and unexpected. Verse 35 refers to the four watches of the night - making the point that the Lord’s coming can come at any time. "So keep watch! You do not know when the owner of the house will come back. It may be in the evening or at midnight. It may be when the rooster crows or at dawn.
B. While we wait, there can be many things that cause us to neglect our responsibilities of watching and waiting for the Lord sure and certain return.
1. This can happen by overlooking the threatening dangers of our own sinfulness. This is what we pray for in the prayer of the day that we might be rescued from the threatening perils of our sin and then be saved by the Savior’s might deliverance. Isaiah makes mention of this in the Old Testament lesson for today when he says, All of us have become like someone who is "unclean." All of the good things we do are like polluted rags to you. All of us are like leaves that have dried up. Our sins sweep us away like the wind. [Isaiah 64:6]
2. Then there is the temptation to confirm to the world’s view of the supreme importance of material things. Thinking that have the latest thing will cause us true happiness. Says the Savior in the Sermon on the Mount Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. [Matthew 6:31-34;]
3. Then of course there is the very weakness of our own flesh. We are by nature sinful and unclean. We need, especially in this Advent season to pray to the Lord, “Kyrie Elysian.”
C. The result of yielding to temptation is misbelieve, despair, and prodigal living all of which call forth the wrath of the Lord. Although it is correct to conclude that our neglect of God-given responsibilities calls for God’s wrath and punishment it is not correct to give the impression that we can somehow earn God’s favor by changing our lives and carrying out our responsibilities. In other words, the answer to the Law is not more Law. We can’t get right with God by simply saying “We’ll work harder at it!”
The solution to our issues with sin is found in the sweet and comforting message of the Gospel. The returning Lord has already come to endure in our place the punishment for our sinful disobedience and failings: in Him we have the grace of God and so you do not lack any gift; God has called you into fellowship with His Son, who will confirm us to the end. This Paul announces to us in the Epistle lesson for this day!
Transition: God requires alertness and He works it in you.
II. God Himself effects spiritual alertness in us.
A. Mark’s Gospel proclaims the works of our Savior Jesus. In this new church year we will hear 37 selections from the Gospel of Mark. Mark's Gospel has also been called a story of the death of Jesus with a long introduction. Mark's Gospel is about the period leading up to and just after the death of Jesus.
B. The retuning Lord has already come once to accept the punishment for our failings. This is the story of the cross. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not counting our sins against us and He has now given us this message of reconciliation. This is what causes us to say with joy “Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth!”
C. By bringing us to faith in Jesus, God now motivates and enables us to seek and do His will. The Holy Spirit instructs believers by answering the question that arises from faith-filled hearts “what is my Savior’s will for my Life?” The Holy Spirit helps us realize the importance of spiritual alertness. And in His Supper the Lord provides the nourishment that enables us to remain alert. In providing for us this “food for the soul” we are enabled to remain alert waiting for the Lord’s coming.
Only by God’s grace in Christ can we eagerly and alertly look forward to the Lord’s return. No better preparation can be found, either for Christmas or for Judgment Day, than the spiritual alertness that God wills and works.