Our November 29 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. All scheduled worship services from Thanksgiving through the end of the year will be online only with minimal in-person participation to reduce COVID risks.
The December 6 worship service will be held without in-person attendance because of the rise in COVID cases in our state. It is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
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Sermon, November 29
Isaiah 64:1-9 | Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Corinthians 1:3-9 | Mark 13:24-37
Wake up! Or, as the text has it today, “Keep Awake!” Why? Well, for starters, today is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of the Church Year. So, we could say, “Happy New Year!” And we all know that on New Year’s Eve you are supposed to try to stay awake until midnight so you can watch the funny big ball fall in New York to usher in the New Year. Why should the Church Year be any different? Don’t we celebrate the beginning of the secular year by staying awake? Shouldn’t we try even harder for the Church Year?
Don’t we approach the secular year with expectations and hopes for a “Happy New Year!?” It is not different. We approach the Church Year also with expectations and hopes. Don’t we all make New Year’s resolutions, hoping that by keeping them, we will be better people in the New Year? True, we’ve probably broken all of those resolutions by the second week in January, or the second day, but we try, try to be better, try to be good, hoping.
I’ve just also described some of the main emphases of the Season of Advent. We enter Advent (which is very similar to the Season of Lent) with hopes and expectations. We hope and resolve to be better children of God. We also know ahead of time that we will fall short. No matter how hard we try, we know that that nasty thing called sin will step in and foul up our resolutions. We will break our resolutions, not in a week, but daily, thanks to sin. But, we have the hope of forgiveness of those sins, through the hope which has been given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ, who’s Advent we await. We must stay awake for that! His coming we anticipate, and we know the signs of its coming.
We know the signs of Advent, don’t we? Bright lights appear on people’s homes. Decorated trees show up in living rooms. Lots of glossy flyers appear in our newspapers. Television bombards us with commercials, many with the background sound of Christmas Carols. People line up at the doors of their favorite stores early waiting for the doors to open, so they can rush in for that special item, which always seems to be sold out already. I sincerely hope that has not happened this year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. I hope people have the sense to stay home and stay safe. Buying on the internet makes a whole lot more sense this year. But, considering the emails that I’ve already received from large chain stores, there are people out there crowding into the shopping areas. Indeed, even this year, some of that started before Halloween. But, as these things become more manifest about us, we know that Advent is here. Advent is about us; that Christmas is coming, which we prepare for, at least the secular version. At least there is still a baby Jesus in there somewhere. But, that is not the signs which Jesus is talking about (nor Isaiah), nor the Advent to which he refers. Indeed, the lessons for today sound a lot like the lessons of the last few weeks, for the ending of the Church year, and the coming of the Day of the Lord, a Day of Reckoning, a Day of Judgment.
Jesus in the preceding verses of Mark 13 gave other signs, “false Christs, false prophets, false teachers to lead the elect astray.” He included, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the power in the heavens will be shaken….Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.” Jesus is speaking of another Advent. He speaks of an Advent which we are to prepare for all the more, and all of the time. These signs do not arrive once per year, sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. No, it seems to me that these signs seem to be with us always. These signs tell us all the more urgently to prepare for the Advent of the Lord, the Second Coming of Christ. It is the Day of the Lord, that Day of Reckoning and Judgment. It is a day far more glorious than even the way we celebrate Christmas. Because that Advent of the Lord is our hope! For then, he comes in his glory, to “gather together all of elect from all of the earth.” And, we are hoping, and counting on, that we are among the elect.
Then, our full vindication is at hand. Then, we will receive fully the gifts which have been promised to us, not under a tree, but by way of a cross, “the forgiveness of our sins, everlasting salvation, and eternal life with him in his glory.” These are gifts far greater than we expect in a few more weeks; gifts that in time will wither and break. No these are the gifts of eternity, of God’s own grace, given to us in faith through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, prepare, and keep awake, for the Advent of Our Lord surely comes, and we are to be ready and waiting at that time. Watch for the signs!