Sunday Sermon 29th November -When will Christ come?
The chosen hymns for this week, O come o come Emmanuel and Hark the herald can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
When will Christ come?
Mark 13: 32-37
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 29th November, the first week of Advent.
So Advent has started, we are beginning to realise that Christmas is not far away.
We need to prepare for that day, especially this year with all its uncertainties.
What will we do if we are in stage 4 or stage 3 or will there be a special stage for the Christmas week?
And each version needs different plans.
We need to be flexible but we also need to have some structure or the day will appear and we won’t be ready and it will be chaos.
If that is true in a physical sense, how much more true is it for our spiritual lives?
That is what Advent seeks to do, to prepare us for the birth, or rebirth of Christ into our world.
Elaine is going to lead us in prayer, and give our first Advent reading.
Elaine: Reading Mark 13: 32-37.
Doesn’t this seem a strange reading for the start of Advent?
You would have thought it would be maybe a prophecy in the Old Testament about the coming of Christ, or maybe something that is leading up to the birth of Christ, like the arrival of John the Baptist, the proclaimed that Christ was arriving.
But no, we have this passage when Christ is talking about the Second Coming, that time when he comes again.
Can I say something that maybe I shouldn’t?
We’re not bothered about the Second Coming.
I know this is meant to be a big thing, ‘ONE DAY CHRIST WILL RETURN.’
It is meant to be the culmination of history, that glorious moment when the old world is destroyed and a new heaven and a new earth are created...but truth be told we’re not all that bothered.
It used to be a big thing.
The original disciples thought Jesus was coming back within their lifetime.
They had a short period of time to convert the world.
Paul, travelled round the Roman Empire at that time spreading the good news, because he believed he didn’t have all that much time to do it.
The eternal lives of the people he knew where on a thread and that thread could be cut at any time, the world could end and their chance of heaven would be lost.
This passage was written at a time when these first disciples were dying out; they were warning passages to keep the followers motivated.
‘Don’t get lazy, don’t give up, we are at our final hurdle, the race is nearly over, the end is near, keep on striving...’
But centuries have past, millenniums have passed, and the world hasn’t ended.
Not that we haven’t had scares in the past.
We had the Cold War and the constant fear that the world could be destroyed in a burning apocalypse.
We had the Millennium Bug, remember that? All our computers were going to do something weird and switch off. Aeroplanes would fall from the sky, our bank accounts would make all our money disappear, the economies of the world would collapse, all the information that we had on computers would suddenly evaporate and we would revert to the dark ages.
How many times have we heard that people had worked out exactly the day and hour the world would be destroyed, only for that date to come and go?
We have heard it all before, and we have survived, so we don’t believe it any more.
One day the world will end, but probably not today.
So we don’t care.
And my response to that?
You’re probably right.
You see the original message was created from a place of fear.
If Christ returned, if that time was near, then people we love may not have made the decision to believe, and be cursed to eternal damnation.
That was the fear, that fear was very real for them.
And it was a great motivator in the early church.
If you loved your family and cared for the family, then why wouldn’t you work hard to get them a place in heaven, especially when the end of the world was so near?
But then time passed.
And you can only live off fear for so long before you don’t care anymore.
That moment when you say to yourself, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to live like this. So I am going to live differently.’
There was a case in point in the news recently.
This nursing home had all the protections in place to keep their people safe. But they have lived like that for months and months, and when people tried to complain they played the fear card, ‘You can’t visit because you might bring COVID into the home.’
And this woman and her daughter decided that her mother was suffering more because of the lack of visits, that her mother was no more than a prisoner in the nursing home and that her mental health was really suffering. The daughter felt that the lifespan of her mum was so short that it was more important that she had contact with her family. So she stole her mum from the nursing home.
It caused a right ruckus.
In a similar way I said to my wife, ‘You see all that healthy food that you are giving me so that I live longer. To be honest I don’t think I will live longer because of it, it will just feel longer.’
‘No one knows however when the day or hour will come-neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, only the Father knows. Be on watch; be alert, for you do not know when the time will come.’
I don’t think Christ wanted us to be preoccupied with the time he returns.
I don’t think Christ wanted us to be worried about it or our lives motivated by the fear of it.
I think Christ wanted us to reach out to others, those we love, those we know, and even strangers, but not with a message of ‘We are all doomed, the end is nigh, your only chance of surviving is following this path.’
I think Christ wanted us to share a different message completely.
The first time round Jesus changed the message that was going around.
The message that was going around was, ‘God is so disappointed with you. You are such failures. Look at your life, is this the best you can do?
Your life is life of failure and God is punishing you for your failure, that is why you are ill, that is why you are not blessed.’
And then Jesus came along to the disciples who thought they were failures and said, ‘God has a path for you that is wonderful.’
Jesus turn to the woman caught in adultery and said, ‘God cares enough for you that he is giving you another chance,’
Jesus turned to a thief on the cross and said, ‘God loves you so much that he is giving you a place in heaven.’
Instead of a message that God was against them, Jesus gave the message that God was on their side.
And not only did he give them the message, he showed them, he healed them, he wept with them; he was in their lives.
So in a weird way I am asking that we might keep up the traditions of advent; that we keep on looking for the signs, not of Christ coming back, but of Christ being present.
Because the message still needs to be heard.
People still need to hear the truth, ‘God is on their side, God is on our side.’
Too many people, too many Christians, believe that either no one is on their side and they have to face life alone, or that God is actively against them.
Last week on the news they were recording record levels of loneliness.
People are living their lives in such a way because they believe the lie that they are on their own, that they have no one on their side, that no one cares.
And they will continue to live that lie until someone tells them and shows them different.
That during this advent we point to the signs of God’s presence in our lives, in their lives,
in the fellowships that we have,
in the blessings of strength and hope and resilience that are given to us,
in the practical care that is given and received,
that is seen and then celebrated.
If we fail to look, if we close our eyes because we are scared, then all we will see is the darkness.
Let us open our eyes, look for the presence of God, and see him there with us, walking the path with us, journeying together with us because he cares, because he is on our side.
Let us pray
you have given us everything we could possibly need to live well on this beautiful, fertile, fragile planet which is both our temporary home and a sacred trust, demanding out care.
We have eyes with which to see the world’s beauty, and reflective minds with which to appreciate it.
We have language with which to communicate the gifts we have been given and hearts equipped to love the other living creatures with whom we share our planet.
Most of all, and best of all,
we have your promised presence with us, always and everywhere;
not just in the person of Jesus, but most tangible there.
But also in the relationships that we share with others,
in the way in which we interact within this world,
in the simple joy or seeing your creation as a thing of beauty and each life as a thing of hope.
May we accept these gifts with hearts of gratitude, and respond with a greater longing
to walk by Christ’s his side and follow in his ways.
Before we go I would just like to remind you that if you want to be part of our live services then you can book a place for our 10.30am and 3pm Sunday services by phoning me at 01259 760262 between 6-9pm Monday to Friday.
May God’s kingdom come and God’s will be done
And may we through grace, with or without words, know the way, show the way, be the way.