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Stay Alert! 

Scripture:  Mark 13:24-37

Today we begin the Advent season. Advent is a season of expectancy and an opportunity to prepare for the Christmas celebration. This season invites us into the ancient longing that God would send a Savior, the promised Messiah. Advent also reminds us that we must be alert for Jesus’ Second and Final Coming. As we watch and wait, we are to focus our attention, not on humans or any created things, but on Jesus. He is the new center of worship and life for everyone who trusts and believes in Him. 

Today’s Scripture reading continues on from the previous chapter where Jesus’ disciples marveled at the majesty and the splendor of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Built by Herod the Great for God’s worship, Jewish people believed that the Temple was the place where God’s Presence and Eternal Light dwelled. Instead of agreeing with His disciples’ assessment, Jesus recalls a vision from the Book of Daniel. In this prophecy the Son of Man will replace the Temple as the place or person through whom people can find access to God.

By the time Mark’s gospel was written down, Christians were experiencing terrible persecution. The city of Jerusalem and the great Temple had been destroyed by Roman tyrants. But before Jesus returns in His full Glory and makes all things right, all who follow Christ must embrace sufferings and persecution. Then the end will come. Jesus says in vv. 13:24–26:

“after the suffering of that time, the sun will become dark, and the moon won’t give its light. The stars will fall from the sky, and the planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken. Then they will see the Human One coming in the clouds with great power and splendor.”

With these words, Jesus redirects His disciples’ point of view. We should pay attention too, because His teaching is relevant for us today. When Jesus tells His followers about the destruction of the Temple, He is saying that in the future, God’s Light will not reside there. Instead, God’s Light lives in Jesus, and can be seen in His Divine Presence. When Jesus returns to earth full of Glory, every person will experience His dazzling light. Nothing and no one in creation will compare to it.

Jesus’ announcement shows that He expects us to prepare for His Second Coming. He uses the parable of the fig tree to make His point. In the same way that the tree only produces fruit when it is ready and the time is right, the Son of Man will return when all is ready and the time is right. This is a trustworthy promise.

So, how must we prepare? Ponder this! God is working to transform us into His image and invites us to advance and transform this world into His kingdom. Because we belong to God, WE are the light of the world. We are to see, listen, and discern the signs that are happening around us and accept God’s grace to transform our lives. We are to be prepared because, “nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows. Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming.”

We have to get ready and stay alert as we wait for His arrival. How do we do this? We must trust in God’s Holy Word, repent of all our sins, live in and do God’s will, and bring more people to Christ. Vs. 31 tells us that Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will certainly not pass away. Waiting patiently ushers in the brighter future to come.

But the most revealing statement follows this one.

If our trust and awareness are founded upon Christ’s Holy Word, we don’t need false prophets to scare us with erroneous and catastrophic forecasts. There are so many things we can’t control, but we can be prepared and stay alert. Our Redeemer will come again. We can count on it!

As I conclude, I have one last question for you. Have you ever spent time contemplating a sunset?

I see a great sign of hope with every sunset. When I ponder a sunset, God whispers to me that the mystery of life is ongoing. A sunset ushers in the darkness of Night, yet Night cannot take away from us the real hope that God will bring us a new and beautiful sunrise in the morning. Each day brings me new hope that our unique journeys will all end up at God’s kingdom.

As you know, Rosa and I face a sunset as we leave our beloved Tomoka UMC. But, this is not the end of our faith journey. It is a beautiful sunset that brings us the hope of a new dawn, a new day, and a new beginning in our ministry. Our journey has just begun and will take us to new places. We will finish our call by keeping our eyes on Jesus. May we all keep a firm hope in Christ and His Word, and be ready not only for His call, but His promised return.

 “Keep us, Lord, so awake in the duties of our calling, that we may sleep in thy peace and wake in thy Glory.” (John Donne, 17th Century English cleric)

Please, also accept Rosa and my gratitude for allowing us to serve together with you. Our Joined ministry has been very significant for us. Church, receive our love and prayers on this First Sunday of Advent.

Blessings and peace be with all of you…