Have you ever wondered what a preacher’s nightmare is? I’ll tell you.
I’m standing up in front of the congregation and nothing will come out. Either my voice just doesn’t work, or I can’t remember what I was going to say. My mind is just spinning. I can’t find my Bible. I’m breaking out in cold sweats and then wake up and realize it’s Tuesday.
I’m sure other jobs have their similar fears. You schedule a meeting and then forget to prepare. You clam up on the big sales call. Whatever it is, you are caught off-guard and not ready. There’s nothing worse, right?
Well, today God’s Word talks about being ready for something even more important. Our text is Matthew 24:36-44, where Jesus tells us that he is coming – whether we’re ready or not.
Jesus’ disciples had asked him what it will be like at the end and what will be the sign of his coming. So, our text starts with Jesus reminding us that no one knows when Judgment Day is, so it isn’t like we can plan to start the preparations in a couple of months or years. He says that it could be any time, so we have to be ready now.
And really, it’s hard enough to be ready for stuff when we know it is coming. Think about it.
Even when the teacher gives the student the assignment two months before it is due, why does it always seem to be the last night when the bulk of the work gets done?
Why on earth would a student ever need to pull an all-nighter? Let’s be real. We have a way of pushing things off. There’s always something else to do, right?
Do you see what I’m saying? We’re all getting ready for something.
This month, are we getting ready to celebrate Christmas for the sake of tradition, because that’s what we always do? Are we getting ready for Christmas for the sake of fun and family? Or are we doing all of this to have our hearts prepared to meet our God?
Jesus makes the comparison to the days of Noah – when people were doing good things, "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" – all blessings from God.
They were doing good things, right up until the day the ark was closed. And notice, that’s exactly the same thing that Noah and his family were doing, right? His three sons all got married somehow.
It’s just that the rest of the world missed seeing God as the giver of all that. Most people missed realizing that all the busyness of life was just an overflowing of God’s grace and instead saw it all about the blessings instead of the Blesser. In fact, they forgot the Blesser. Noah and his family were the only ones who saw the Blesser. That prompted them to worship Him in how they did all that stuff that everyone else was doing.
On the last day, all people will be doing what they are normally doing — and Jesus doesn’t pick on those who are out breaking a commandment.
He mentions farmers working in the field and ladies grinding at the mill. They are all doing the same thing, but one is ready and one not. And so, Jesus says – one will be taken with Jesus to heaven, the other abandoned to hell, because one is seeing the Blesser in what they he or she is doing.
Does any of this strike a chord?
Think about what we’re getting ready for this month. Would it hit home to talk about preparations that were more frustration than appreciation? How quickly the CHRISTmas gift becomes a source of envy or jealousy, hosting the CHRISTmas party becomes a fight between husband and wife over preparations. … Hard feelings, anger, sin – all in the name of Christmas preparations. Isn’t it so clear that too often we’re getting ready for the wrong thing?
If any of that sounds familiar, I’m glad you’re reading this. We need to be reminded what we’re preparing for. We need to ask God for that forgiveness that Christmas is all about — the humiliation God went through to become man, to become that helpless baby so that he could help — so that he could save us from what all our failures had coming.
We need to ask him for the strength to be ready for the right thing in the right way — because he’s coming whether we are ready or not.
So let’s make sure we keep our focus in this season of preparation and take regular time in God’s Word to see what it is all about.
We at Abiding Grace would love to help you in that, so join us for Sunday morning services at 8 or 10:30 a.m. or at Christmas4Kids on Dec. 14, or Advent Midweek Meditations on Wednesdays, with Soup Supper at 6:15 p.m. and devotion at 7 p.m.
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington.