If I had known you were coming I would have baked a cake! How often have we heard that expression. More often than not, the meaning behind that expression is that if we had announced our coming our host would have been able to prepare something special for our arrival and visit. Today is the first Sunday in a brand new church year. I might as well have begun by saying, “Happy New Year!” As we begin this new Church year our Scripture readings are concerned with getting us ready to celebrate Jesus’ first coming, as a baby, in a manger, in Bethlehem. At the same time, our concern continues to be in getting ourselves ready for Jesus’ Second coming. Jesus gives us fair warning that He is coming again, because He does not want us to be left saying, “If I had known You were coming I would have baked a cake.”
“Be on guard, keep awake.” is the warning Jesus has for us. “For you do not know when the time will come.” We do know Jesus will return. We do know the time will come. A quick review of history will refresh our confidence in God and His promises and especially in Jesus’ promise that He will return. Way back in the beginning, and I do mean in the beginning, in the book of Genesis, we are told that God created. With mere words God created. God created all things, out of nothing. God spoke or breathed them into existence. God said, and it was. On the sixth day, God crowned His creation with the creation of the man and the woman, Adam and Eve. After each day of creation God said that “it was good.” After all was created, about all His creation God said, “It is very good.”
God created Adam and Eve in a special way, different from the rest of His creation. He did not simply speak or breath Adam and Eve into existence, instead, God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life and Eve He formed from Adam’s side. God created Adm and Eve and especially for them He created a Garden. He placed them in this beautiful garden and in His infinite wisdom He gave them a way to respond to Him, that is a way to show their love and gratitude to Him for all that He had done for them. He told them that they were to care for the garden, you see, work is not a result of the curse of sin. They could eat from all the vegetation of the garden, except the tree in the middle, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Of this tree, God warned, that if they disobeyed and ate of it they would surely die.
Soon after creation the devil, a fallen angel who thought himself equal with God, Satan or Lucifer, came into the garden in the form of a serpent. He tempted Eve and Adam with the lie and the desire that they could be come like God, if only they ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Up until this time Adam and Eve only knew good, not evil. So the woman and the man disobeyed God and ate of the fruit. That one act of disobedience brought sin into a once perfect world and with sin came death, eternal death or hell and physical death. Now Adam and Eve knew evil as well as good. What was once perfect, even very good, is now tainted.
However, God, being a God of love, immediately stepped in so that He might reconcile the broken relationship of His creation to Himself. God had to do this because His creation could not reconcile itself with the Creator. God’s plan was to send a Savior. The Savior God promised to send would be His one and only Son. The Savior God promised to send would be God in flesh. Truly human in order to live in the perfection demanded of His creation and in order to give His life for ours. And truly God in order to be perfect and in order to raise Himself from the dead.
However, God did not immediately fulfill His promise. It was only after some 4000 years that God fulfilled His promise. During this season of Advent, the beginning of our current church year, not only are we getting ourselves ready to celebrate Jesus’ first coming at His birth in Bethlehem, we are also getting ourselves ready for Jesus’ second coming. In the days of Jesus’ first coming, in fulfillment of God’s first promise, the people were waiting, expectantly for a Savior, for Jesus to come, at least that was the case with some of the people.
Jesus did come to earth. In a few weeks we will celebrate that coming on Christmas morning. Jesus gave up the glory that was His as true God in heaven in order to come to earth and while He was here on earth He did for us what we are unable to do. He lived for us, perfectly. He overcame all temptation for us, perfectly, including temptation above any we may ever suffer. He obeyed all of God’s laws and commands perfectly, for us. After living a perfect life He took our sins upon Himself and suffered and died in order to pay the cost, the price, the wage that our sins had earned. And after He rose from the dead, before He ascended into heaven Jesus said He would return.
Before Jesus left this earth, before His ascension, He left us with His great commission. He gave us His instructions, His authority and a promise to share the good news of Jesus to all nations through baptizing and teaching. We have His instructions and we have His authority and promise. As we are living our lives we are to proclaim His name with His authority and we have the promise that He will be with us to help us in carrying out His work.
But there is more, Jesus gives us gifts, talents and abilities in His Church to do the good works He has for us to do. We are not left to our own devices, we are to work as our Lord gives us to work. As we heard two weeks ago, He also will hold us accountable for doing the work He has for us to do as well as making use of the gifts, talents, and abilities, and here we would include the gifts of time, talents, and treasures that He has given to us and we are to use these in service to Him in His kingdom.
So far Jesus has waited some 2000 years and He has not yet returned. God took some four thousand years to fulfill His first promise to send a Savior. That does not necessarily mean that He will wait another two thousand years, for a total of 4000 years before He fulfills this second promise to come. He may wait another 1000 years. He may wait only 100 years. He may not wait even one more year. What we do know from his keeping his first promise is that just as He fulfilled His first promise, so He will fulfill His second promise. And so we wait. And as we wait we keep watch.
Jesus says, “Be on guard, keep awake.” We do not know when Jesus will return, neither does He, only the Father knows. We have an indication when He will return, as Jesus tells us, “just as in the days of Noah, so will it be in the last days.” In the days of Noah people were eating and drinking and marrying and being given into marriage so that they were oblivious to the fact that the flood was coming soon and they perished in the flood. So it is today that so many people are eating and drinking and marrying and being given into marriage and living their lives as if this world is all there is and are oblivious to the fact that Jesus will come again soon.
Our focus again today is on getting ready. How do we get ourselves ready? Or how do we know if we are ready? We get ourselves ready or better said, God gets us ready and we know we are ready when we believe that Jesus is God’s Son. That Jesus came in fulfillment to God’s first promise. That Jesus suffered and died in order to pay the price for my sins. We are ready when we believe that just as Jesus came the first time, so He will keep His promise and will come again, soon.
We know we are ready when we speak about being ready. It is interesting how our psyche, if you will, works. Have you ever noticed how it is when you get really excited about something? You can not keep it to yourself. You have to share it with someone. Faith works in a similar fashion. When God gives us faith it wells up inside of us so much so that we can not keep it to ourselves, we have to tell someone.
We know we are ready when we act like we are ready. Here again, following the analogy of getting excited about things. When we get excited we talk about it, we even get kind of antsy. Our body language tells others that we are excited. Even more so, as we get ready and as we are ready for Jesus second coming we know it and believe it in our hearts. We speak about it in our conversations. Our whole body language, our lives show it in our actions. We do those things which reflect our getting ready for something wonderful.
This morning then, just as Jesus says, Be on guard, keep awake, so I say to you, “Be on guard!” - “Keep awake!” Do not fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus will not come during our lifetime. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that the things of this world are more important than the things of the world to come. Do not get sidetracked by the temptations of the devil as he tries to pull you away from Christ and His church through filling your life with so many unimportant and trivial matters other than getting yourself ready for Jesus’ return.
When will Jesus return? We do not know, but we do know that He will return. I believe that God intentionally does not tell us when Jesus will return, because He knows we have a short attention span. He knows that if we knew when Jesus would return then we would waste our lives up until the last minute. By not telling us when He will return He is assuring that we live our lives in such a way that we are ready at any time and at all times. And if we are ready at any time and at all times, then we will work at getting others ready as well so that when He does return He will be able to gather even more into His kingdom.
God gives. God gives life at creation. He gives each of us life at conception. He gives us faith and new life through Holy Baptism. He has given His life for our forgiveness. He gives us gifts, talents and abilities to use in our vocations, to use in service to Him through our service to others. He gives His promise to return to take us from this valley of tears to be with Himself in heaven where He will robe us with His robes of righteousness. How can we not be excited? How can we not yearn and desire His return? How can we not yearn and desire to continually come into His presence, to come to His house to be given more and more of His gifts, forgiveness and strengthening of faith? How can we not live lives of faith showing that we believe His Word that He will return, soon and showing that we are indeed, ready?!
Finally, as you are ready for Jesus’ return, my prayer for you is that of Paul’s words in our Epistle lesson, “4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—6even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.