Are you ready for Christmas? With Thanksgiving so late this year, the Christmas season is drastically shortened. So retailers prepared: they tried to offset the short season by starting sales before Thanksgiving and even opening on Thanksgiving Day. Did you take advantage of these sales? Did you participate in Black Friday madness? Some shoppers get prepared for the season by doing their research on all the Black Friday sales, planning their strategy and even preparing for standing in long lines: dressing warmly, packing snacks, etc.
Are you really prepared for Christmas? Not the commercial aspects of it, but what Christmas is all about. It's not even necessarily about a baby being born in a manger, although that is an important aspect of it. Christmas is all about the coming of the King! His first coming was to rescue us from our sins, but his second coming is about the full completion of history and entering His kingdom for eternity. And in our passage today, Jesus tells us that we need to be prepared.
In Matthew 24, Jesus is speaking with his disciples. They are marveling at the Temple. But Jesus tells them not to be impressed with things like that because it will be destroyed.
The disciples then have two questions for Jesus: When will this occur? What is the sign of His coming? Jesus answers their questions in the first part of the chapter but in Matthew 24:36-44 Jesus tells them that they shouldn't worry so much about when it will happen but instead to be prepared for it to happen.
In fact, even Jesus doesn't know the exact day and hour. In His humanity, Jesus voluntarily restrained the use of His divine attributes because He was submissive to the Father's will.
Jesus then goes on to describe an example of being unprepared and of being prepared.
In Matthew 24:37-41, Jesus compares His second coming with the story of Noah and the flood. In Genesis 6,Noah is called a righteous man who walked faithfully with God. God had decided that the world had become so corrupt that it was time for judgment. So God told Noah to build an ark. We aren't quite sure how long it took Noah to build the ark, but some estimate it took 50-100 years. 2 Peter 2:5 tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. So it is quite possible that while Noah and his family were building the ark, he tried to warn the people of the coming flood. But for whatever reason, people didn't heed Noah's warning and were not prepared for what happened.
Judgment is coming. The end of the age is upon us. How will you stand before God? Jesus describes it in Matthew 24:40-41. These verses tell us that at the end of the age there will be a separation. Some will be taken away to judgment and some will be taken away to be with the Lord.
One commentator wrote: "Just as God provided the ark for Noah, God has provided a way for us to be rescued from the final judgment through Jesus Christ." The hope and promise that we have is that God always rescues those who trust in Him!
In Matthew 24:42-43 Jesus tells them that if a homeowner knows when a thief is coming, he will keep watch and not let his house be broken into. And Jesus sums everything up in Matthew 24:44: "So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
So what does it mean to be ready? To be prepared?
1) We must have an attitude of expectation - not just of judgment but of eternal hope in the many promises like 1 Thessalonians 5:9 "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."
2) We must live as though Jesus is coming back today; plan as though He is not coming back for a hundred years. We must know the truth, live out the truth and stand firm and hold fast to the truth.
Our job as church leaders is to help prepare you for life in the Kingdom (not to entertain you or keep you occupied with activities). We want to also equip you to help others to prepare for life in the Kingdom by pointing them to Christ.
How will you be prepared not only for this Christmas season but for the coming of Christ?
1) Prepare yourself. If you have ever flown an airplane, you know that in the event of an emergency and the oxygen masks come out, you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before you can help others.
The best way to prepare yourself is to be fully loved by Jesus Christ. We do this by spending time with Him, reading His Word and being with His people. We show we trust Christ when we hear what He tells us to do and we do it.
2) Prepare others. We prepare the way for others to enter the Kingdom by loving them. When we love them in Christ, we are showing them how much they are loved by God and pointing them to Jesus Christ. We know that God always saves those who trust in Him.
How will you make time to be with the Lord this Christmas season? Will you pause and remember how much you are loved?
How will you love others this Christmas season? Will you make time to help others and show them the love of Christ? Will you testify to Christ not only with your deeds but your words?
May we continually and hopefully prepare for the coming of Christ our Savior!