One More Night

December 23, 2018

               One more night until we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, which happened approximately 2022 years ago, as most scholars estimate that it was between 4 and 6 BC when Jesus was born.   But unlike when we celebrate the birth of any other person born on this earth, we are not celebrating the day Jesus came into existence, for he already existed before he was born in human form.  In fact, he existed before the universe was even created, as you heard in our third Scripture reading (Colossians 1:15-20). 

          We have been preparing our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s first coming for 4 weeks during the liturgical season we call Advent.  The Jews had 4000 years to prepare their hearts for the actual event.  This event, more important than any other before or since, was prophesied back in the Garden of Eden, when God said to the serpent, “I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.  He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15).  Many more prophesies of Christ were spoken through God’s prophets in the Old Testament, pointing them to their fulfillment in the birth of His Son which took place in Bethlehem, was announced by angels, and heralded by a star.  But they missed it.  4000 years to prepare, and they missed it. 

          And so, God turned to the Gentiles (that’s us).  Reluctant at first, the disciples who were eye witnesses to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection took the Good News of the Gospel to the Gentiles, who believed.  And because they believed, they became children of God, heirs of salvation, and part of the body of Christ.  Praise God that we are among them!

          While Christ walked this earth in human form, he himself spoke of his second coming, not as a lowly infant born in a stable, but as the bridegroom coming for his bride, the church.  Not as the suffering Savior, but as King of kings and Lord of lords.  We have had almost 2000 years to prepare for his arrival.  Will we be like the Jews who missed it the first time?  Or will we be ready?

          Jesus warned us not to be like the people in the days of Noah.  In Matthew 24 he said to his disciples, “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.  Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.  So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.  A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 

          No doubt the people that watched Noah build the ark thought he was completely crazy.  Water coming out of the sky?  They had never seen rain before, so they couldn’t believe someone was building a boat because it was going to rain so hard that the water would rise above the tops of the mountains.  I’m quite sure they laughed ‘til it hurt, and made fun of him spending day after day building that ridiculous boat, and then leading all of those animals onto it.  That is, until Noah shut the door, and the rains came.  And after 40 days the tops of the mountains were completely underwater, and those who had mocked Noah all perished in the flood.

          When the angels announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds, at first they were terrified. But they listened, and they believed.  And because they did, they were witnesses to Christ’s first coming.  The Magi understood and believed the prophecy of the star that would lead them to baby Jesus, the promised king.  And because they did, they too were witness to Christ’s first coming.

          Many today hear of Christ’s second coming, and yet treat those who prepare for it the same way Noah and his family were treated as they built the ark.   Even many who know the Bible well, like the Old Testament Jews before Christ’s first coming, don’t recognize the signs of his imminent second coming.   Will you be like the shepherds and the Magi?  Or like the folks in the days of Noah, and the Pharisees in the days of Christ? 

          One more night and we will celebrate the first coming of the eternal Son of God.  But what if in one more night we will also be witnesses of his second coming?  Are your hearts prepared?  Amen.