Ephesians 1:17-19; Matthew 13:13-17
This concludes a four-part Advent preaching series entitled “Practicing Patience,” as we wait, watch, listen, and, this evening, look for the coming of Christ. What about looking? Where, at what, why, when should be looking? There is a difference, after all, between our experience and those who were waiting, watching, listening, and looking for the Messiah 2,000 years ago. We are not in the position of Mary and Joseph or Elizabeth and Zechariah, nor are we in the position of the shepherds in the hills, nor the magi in the east, nor nasty King Herod on the throne who were waiting for the first coming of the Messiah. As Christians we recognize Jesus born in Bethlehem as the Messiah, and that was 2,000 years ago. What we now celebrate on Christmas Day is a remembrance. It’s not a reenactment, nor is it a re-visitation – Christmas is not “the second coming” of the Messiah – but a remembrance, a living reminder, that Jesus the Messiah was already born among us, and is really present to us now, which invites a whole different way to look at life every day. That’s a promise, and that’s also a problem.
One of the things that used to be fun about driving to Heathrow Airport was, as you approached the airport, the road took you through a tunnel under the main runway, and as you entered the tunnel there was this large airport notice on the side of the road – “WATCH FOR THE SIGNS.” We used to laugh because this road sign sounded so much like an apocalyptic warning, such as we hear during the season of Advent.
In this second of our Advent preaching series, the word I have been given to reflect on, is the word watch. It is amazing how often this word comes up in Scripture, and it is clearly one of the main characteristics of a faithful Christian disciple, that we WATCH. So why watch? What does it mean, to watch, and why should we watch?
On this evening of the first Tuesday of Advent we begin a four-part sermon series entitled “Practicing Patience”. We invite you to join us following the service for soup and conversation with the preacher. The topic I’ve been asked to comment on this evening is “waiting”. I need to begin with disclosure and a disclaimer: I am not a patient person by nature and I most certainly do not like to wait. So you must all wonder if I actually know what I’m talking about. But since I’ve been asked to address the topics of patience and waiting, I shall now fulfill my obligation by talking; and you, a captive audience, must sit and wait patiently for me to finish—which I will do eventually—although you know “neither the day nor the hour”!
The early Christians seem to have believed that the end times and the second coming of Christ were just about to happen—maybe even later today or tomorrow or not much later. So the New Testament has very few references to future generations—no admonitions to “tell this to your children and your children’s children”. There would very soon be a new heaven and a new earth, so don’t get too attached to this one. The great and terrible and wonderful day of the Lord was just about to happen—Jesus would come again very soon.