Carolyn’s Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent – 12/1/13

Sermon Advent 1

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

How do you know when you are ready for something?

The year before I moved here to St. Paul, our house in Lincoln was on the market.  It was actually on the market for months.  You always have to be ready when your house is for sale.  You can never have a messy house.

You have to make your bed every morning. You have to put things away right after you use them.  You can’t leave your dishes in the sink thinking you will wash them later.  I couldn’t leave my sewing or crochet projects on the floor by my chair.

The realtor can call anytime and tell you she will be around in an hour to show the house.  I had a list of last minute things to do when she called. Put everything away. Quickly vacuum, dust, clean the kitchen and bathroom.  Clean the cat box. Turn on all the lights. Spray the air freshener.

Put the kennel in the car. Then I had to catch the cat and take him with me for a field trip that could last an hour or two.

Every time I had to go through the process of getting ready, it seemed to take longer.  You see, the cat got familiar with the routine and found new hiding places to avoid going with me and sitting in his kennel in the van.

It was an inconvenient way to live because we could never get comfortable.  We could not start any projects that couldn’t be put away or hidden quickly.  Everything had to be short range.  We always had to be ready.

Today, preparations for the Christmas holiday are in full swing all over town.  Many of our neighbors took advantage of the good weather and put their lights out a couple of weeks ago.

Stores are stocked.  Trees are on sale.  Shoppers are out in full swing. The mail and the paper are full of advertisements for all the latest and greatest in toys, clothes, and electronic gadgets.

Yet, the church isn’t ready to celebrate Christmas yet.  We don’t sing any carols today.  We aren’t decorated in the traditional red and green.  We have blue paraments and a wreath with only one candle lit.

The chancel of St. Mark's Lutheran Church on the First Sunday in Advent.

The chancel of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on the First Sunday in Advent.

The church is observing Advent.  We are taking our time getting prepared.  We have four weeks of getting ready, watching, and waiting.

We don’t hear about shepherds and stables and stars today.  Instead we hear about unpredictable floods and kidnappers and thieves.  We begin our church year with stories about the end times, stories of the end of the world as we know it.

In the church, getting ready for Christmas isn’t just about the tree or the garland or the poinsettias.  Getting ready isn’t just about making sure you have all the presents wrapped. In the church, getting ready for Christmas is about preparing our hearts – preparing our hearts to receive Jesus.

It is about being ready for a guest who can arrive any time.  Jesus tells the disciples that no one knows the day or time of his return, no one but God.

So we must always be ready.  Jesus can come any time.  So how do you prepare?  How do you know if you are ready? And how do you stay ready all the time?

What if your house is decorated, dinner is prepared, presents are wrapped, but the Jesus the Guest arrives, and your life is a mess?

It would be nice if there were a list like I had when our house was being shown.  Vacuum the living room, wash the windows, and put some bread in the oven so the house smells nice.  Then hide the messy stuff in a box in the closet and hope no one looks in there.

What would you do if you knew Jesus was coming for sure in the next year, and the world as we know it was coming to an end? I am pretty sure I would not be too worried about washing windows and vacuuming the house.

If you knew for sure Jesus was coming, would you spend time with people you loved?  Call everyone who lives too far away to visit? Would you call everyone you have hurt and apologize to them?   Would you start reading the Bible every day?  Would you pray every morning and every night?  Say grace at every meal?

Would you never miss a worship service? Would you give generously to those in need?  Spend more time with family and less at work?

Those are all good practices.  They are all ways we prepare our hearts. But we do not know the day or the hour when Jesus is coming again.  Neither do we know the day or the hour when he will call us home.  And he did not give us a list of good deeds to check off, to see if we have been bad or good, to know if we are ready.

So how do we prepare?  How do we know we are ready?  Perhaps it is more of an attitude, a way of looking at all of life.  An attitude of devotion to Jesus Christ.  An attitude of honesty about who we are and what we have done.  An attitude that turns to God in every situation and knows that God’s grace is not only enough, it is all that is needed.

Being ready is not about being good enough, doing enough good deeds.  It is about knowing that God’s grace is enough to cover anything that you face in your day to day life.  It is about accepting that God loves you without condition, right now and always.

Being ready is about accepting that for God, a thousand years is like a single day, and a single day is like a thousand years.  Being ready is going about our daily lives living in God’s amazing grace, and realizing that we have no idea when Jesus will come again.

Jesus says I am coming soon. He tells us to be ready so that we can spend eternity together.  He asks us to accept his love and forgiveness.  Then we will know we are ready.

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.


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