Text: Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. (Matthew 24:42 ESV) [1]

 

No, no. Don't do that, don't settle into your sermon positions. Don’t get all comfortable. It's time. The time is now. The hour has come.

“The Hour Has Come for You to Wake from Sleep. For Salvation Is Nearer to Us Now

Than When We First Believed.”

            “The hour has come for you to wake up!”

            If we had all the time in the world then, maybe, we could afford to be occupied with dreams, with empty fantasies, to play around with entertaining illusions as if they meant anything. But we don't. He's coming.

            And yet that doesn't stop us from doing it, from being content to be spiritually asleep, as good as dead to the world. We are occupied with things like luxury and honor. Things that will quickly be forgotten. Things that will, on the last day be consumed and destroyed by fire, never to be remembered. Things that have as much to do with eternal life and joy as dream images have to do with flesh-and-blood creatures”

            Our schedules are ruled by our children's sports schedules but we don't have time to pray with them, let alone read God's Word.

            We fiddle around with politics, as if the Kingdom of God could be ushered in by a 2/3rds majority; as if we could be declared not guilty of breaking God’s Law if we appoint the right justices so that the Supreme Court; as if the second amendment were given by God from Mount Sinai; or as if the government could relieve us of our obligation to care for the poor, the sick, the homeless, the refugees.

            We get up in arms over the latest depraved movie release as if it were Hollywood’s job to preach the Gospel.

            When we do get around to sounding a warning about our Lord’s return, its with the tone of a frustrated mother scolding her child, “You just wait until your father gets home!”

In his farewell letter to his dear friend Timothy, Paul cautioned him, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23). He also cautioned him with a couple of analogies: “3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops” (2 Timothy 2:3-6). Our Lord assured us that the fields are ripe for the harvest. Are we as faithful with that kind of farming as we are with corn and bean and sugar beets? What battles are we choosing to fight? Are we giving any thought to the mission that our Lord has sent us out with—to make disciples of every nation by baptizing and by teaching God’s Word?

As some of you heard me ask on Thursday, how many of our comforts were purchased with wealth that God gave us to care for the poor, the sick the homeless, the refugees? How many needless decorations, how many gifts we don’t really need, are being purchased with wealth that He gave us to support the Gospel going out into all the world?

Worse yet, we actually show ourselves to be children of darkness. John wrote in his gospel: “…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19 ESV). That’s not just a judgment for his time. That’s still the response to Jesus’ coming. Too many Christians, even, are awake, but not because they’re hard at work. It’s because we’re making “provision for the flesh,” as St. Paul put it.

If we had all the time in the world then, maybe, we could afford to be occupied with dreams, with fruitless political battles, or our own comfort, or even playing around with our pet sins. But we don't. He's coming.

The hour has come to wake up!

Thankfully, God has not lost track of time. In fact, help me out—you know the verse:

(Sung:) But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

 

            Wake up, because it is your salvation that is drawing near! God Himself has come near to us by taking on our flesh and blood, being born every bit as human as you and I. There was no question, no misunderstanding in his mind about the time. He came, the first time, to redeem you—not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious, blood, and with His innocent suffering and death.

            One of the things I love about this passage of scripture is the verse right after our text. Jesus says, “43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into” (Matthew 24:43 ESV). The thief is Jesus! The ‘master of the house’ is the devil, the prince of this world. Jesus came to plunder the devil’s house, to steal you back by going to the cross.

            He came near to you again in the waters of baptism, when you were clothed with Him, with His righteousness. Your identity was changed in that moment. In that water, you were adopted as a child of God. He still comes near to you in the humble forms of bread and wine. Christ comes to you, personally and individually, to forgive your sins and renew your identity as sons and daughters of God.

            I suppose there is some irony there. The things, the experiences that are all around us, that seem so real, that feel so important, are the dream, if you will. They’re passing away. These unseen things, that come to us hidden beneath water, beneath bread and wine, they are the things that anchor us to eternal life. And they all have one purpose: to establish you as a son or daughter of God.

            Especially at this time of year, we’re also reminded that He’s coming again—soon. Advent calls us to wake. It calls us to repentance and faith. It calls us to watch and pray as we anticipate our Lord’s return. Yes, we do have work to do. While the world spends its weeks before Christmas shopping for new ways to gratify the desires of the flesh, we put on the armor of light and live not in love of ourselves but in faith toward God and love for one another.

            As God’s children, I hope we are doing what we can to make sure that Jesus Christ is not pushed out of the public square, either literally or figuratively. But it’s even more important that He gets a prominent place in the center of our homes; that we’re making sure our children and grandchildren know all that the Bible tells us about God’s plan to bring Him into this world; and that we don’t let anything distract us from the work of living as sons and daughters of God. Living holy lives and caring for those around us.

            So I hope I haven’t put you to sleep this morning. As we sung last week, “The vision of a dying world is vast before our eyes, we feel the heartbeat of its need, we hear its feeble cries. Lord Jesus Christ, revive Thy church, in this, her crucial hour! Lord Jesus Christ, awake Thy church with Spirit-given power.”[2] May God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

 

[1] Based, in part, on “Morning People,” by Rev. Nolan D. Astley, pastor, Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Concordia Pulpit Resources, December 1, 2013.

[2] “The Vision of a Dying World,” stz. 1. Hymns You Like to Sing, hymn #2.