December 1, 2013: Are You Ready for The Gift?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we begin our holiday, our holy day, preparations; focus our eyes on what’s really important.—You and Your gracious coming. With every gift we purchase and every decoration we put up, cause us to see You, lying in a manger behind it all. For then our hearts will be truly ready to meet You on December 25th. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE COMING CHRISTMAS KING!

TEXT: Matthew 24: 37-44

Dearly Beloved By the Coming Christ:

Were you out and about on Black Friday? Have you already begun your Christmas shopping? Have you already purchased that “just right” gift for a special someone? Every holiday season we receive one gift that stands out from the crowd. I wonder what yours will be? What gift will make 2013 memorable?

It was about 1972. Our church youth group had planned its Christmas party. Everyone was supposed to bring a gift to share for under $2.00 (inflation hadn’t hit yet). I recall wracking my brain to think of something memorable. I wanted it to be THE GIFT of the party. Then one day I spied it. I bought it, took it home, wrapped tissue around it, and put it in a highly decorated box. I smiled when I brought it to the church basement that night. Everyone remarked on it. The box was the size of a basketball and the gift was heavy. What could it be—for under $2.00? We drew names and picked our presents accordingly. Gail Johnson, who I was confirmed with and is now the local bank vice-president, joyfully selected my box. She unwrapped it with eager anticipation, pulled back the tissue, and lo and behold—there sat THE GIFT! It was a large head of cabbage! She wasn’t overly pleased, everyone laughed, but I believe her mother didn’t mind too much when she took it home!

Every single year you receive some highly memorable gift. What shape and size will THE GIFT assume this year? Or, to put it another way,

ARE YOU READY FOR THE GIFT?

I

Today we begin the season of Advent. It is a time to prepare your hearts and minds to receive the greatest Gift, the only One that truly matters, the baby Jesus lying in a manger. That image evokes happiness, peace, inner contentment, and a certain easy ahhhh factor, doesn’t it? No one is afraid of a baby. No one is apprehensive about meeting the baby Jesus. He’s our Savior. He’s the One Who came to redeem our souls from Satan’s power, as the old carol says. So, how would you feel if Jesus came back to earth on December 25th, inaugurated His 2nd coming, and ended the world then and there? ARE YOU READY FOR THE GIFT?

In our lesson, Christ is instructing His disciples a few days before His death on the cross. He gives them and us a lengthy dialogue about being ready to meet Him when He returns to earth. Here He describes what those times will be like: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming on the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”

In other words, Christ will come when people least expect Him to, like on December 25th. They will, instead, be busy with all the “stuff” we deem so important to daily life and the holiday season. Outwardly people will all appear the same, too. And yet, our Savior knows everyone’s heart. He knows His faithful. He knows His believers. And in an instant the believers will be assumed into glory and the unbelievers will be left behind for a harsh judgment. One note here: some build on this passage the idea of the “rapture,” when believers instantly disappear from earth and then Armageddon, some sort of 1000 year reign by Christ, and the final judgment all occur after these ideas are played out. The passage doesn’t support any of that. It is merely a point of comparison at how vanilla it will all appear up to His final coming.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

II

ARE YOU READY FOR THE GIFT? We don’t know if Christ is coming back on December 25th or not. But what we do know is that on that date we will celebrate His first coming—lying in a manger with a smile on His face, full of grace and truth, and with the express purpose of saving our souls. And save them He has by offering up His life as a sacrifice for our lives. He died so that we might live—not just right now, but forever with Him in glory. Yes, THE GIFT of gifts is Jesus Christ and always will be!

Meanwhile, what if He did choose that day to usher in His 2nd coming? Would that be a bad thing? NO!—not for us. He’s still the exact same Jesus Who laid in the manger. He’s still full of grace and love for you and me. He still has compassion for humble souls who wish to embrace Him in thanksgiving. The non-believers of this world are wedded to the here and now. This life is all they have. They fear judgment day because it means an end to what they have staked their lives upon. Most are rather ambivalent about the baby Jesus—it’s a nice story full of warm and fuzzies for them. But human gifts, decoration, and parties are more important to them than THE GIFT. Don’t let that be so for you! Use the season of Advent to prepare your heart to meet Jesus Christ. THE GIFT is coming! He is coming soon! And if He chooses that day to come again as the King of kings and Lord of all creation judging the living and the dead, great! It just means we’ll have the most memorable Christmas of all time! Amen