Advent – Jesus Christ is coming soon!

Date: 27 Novem­ber 2022 | Pre­a­cher:
Series: | Bible text: Matthew 24, 44
Hint: This ser­mon has been machi­ne trans­la­ted. Plea­se note that we can­not accept any respon­si­bi­li­ty for the accu­ra­cy of the content.

Advent focu­ses on the direc­tion and anti­ci­pa­ti­on of Christ­mas, the birth of Jesus Christ. His first coming brought sal­va­ti­on to us humans, but Advent is not only about the first coming, but also the second. Jesus will come again one day, but we don’t know the exact time. It hap­pens unex­pec­ted­ly. While his first coming brings hope for all peo­p­le, his second coming brings sepa­ra­ti­on. It sepa­ra­tes tho­se who belong to him from tho­se who choo­se to be against him. Sin­ce fol­lo­wers of Jesus Christ do not know when he will return, they are to be ever vigi­lant. The­r­e­fo­re, the­re is a con­stant Advent time for them. They are to use this time to be vigi­lant, but also to tell as many peo­p­le as pos­si­ble the good news of Jesus Christ.

Christmas 1.0 as a starting point

Today, 27 Novem­ber, marks the start of the Advent sea­son. On a total of four Sun­days we are in joyful anti­ci­pa­ti­on of the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent is of Latin ori­gin and means arri­val. It is the arri­val of Jesus Christ. It is the coming of God here on earth. It is the coming of the hea­ven­ly ans­wer to the mise­ra­ble situa­ti­on of us humans here on earth. It is the coming of the hope of this world. The four Sun­days of Advent final­ly cul­mi­na­te in Christ­mas Eve, the bir­th­day of Jesus Christ. It does­n’t mat­ter whe­ther Jesus was actual­ly born on this day, it is more about the sym­bo­lism of this day. Christ­mas is the begin­ning of God’s work of redemp­ti­on in this world. The birth of Jesus Christ is only important becau­se it is fol­lo­wed by Eas­ter. Through his death on the cross, Jesus con­quers death. All who belie­ve in him and belie­ve that he is the Son of God will no lon­ger die but have eter­nal life.

For today’s first Advent, the Evan­ge­li­cal Church in Ger­ma­ny gives, among other things, the bibli­cal pas­sa­ge that we usual­ly asso­cia­te with Palm Sun­day. Jesus Christ rides into Jeru­sa­lem as King on the foal of a don­key (Matthew 21:1–9). Just as the Israe­li­tes at that time rejoi­ced at the arri­val of Jesus Christ, so should we. Cha­rac­te­risti­cal­ly, his appearance is writ­ten in the Bible. «Rejoice aloud, you peo­p­le of Zion! Rejoice, you inha­bi­tants of Jeru­sa­lem! Behold, your king comes to you. He is righ­teous and vic­to­rious, yet he is hum­ble and rides on an ass – yes, on the foal of an ass, the boy of an ass» (Zecha­riah 9:9 NLB).

Advent heralds the end of the year for us. It is a fit­ting end to the calen­dar year. But it is quite dif­fe­rent with the so-cal­led church year. The church year does not end with the Christ­mas sea­son, but beg­ins with it. Today marks the begin­ning of the new church year. This chan­ges the per­spec­ti­ve. The year beg­ins with Jesus Christ coming into this world. It beg­ins with God doing some­thing for us. It is not at the end of the year that he comes into play, but it beg­ins with him. Wit­hout the earth­ly birth of Jesus Christ, which actual­ly hap­pen­ed, ever­y­thing else that comes is invalid.

Jesus» second coming is more than Christmas 2.0

In addi­ti­on to the per­i­cope order for Ger­ma­ny, the­re is also one for Switz­er­land. The Bible text from the Gos­pels, which is sche­du­led for today’s first Advent, points to a second aspect of Advent which we do not noti­ce at first glan­ce. It is the joyful expec­ta­ti­on of the return of Jesus Christ at the end of time. Advent is the­r­e­fo­re about both. Loo­king back and being thank­ful, but also loo­king for­ward to the second coming on this earth. «When the Son of Man returns, it will be as it was in the days of Noah. In the days befo­re the Flood, peo­p­le cele­bra­ted lavish feasts, orgi­es and wed­dings until Noah got into his ark. They did not rea­li­se what was hap­pe­ning until the flood came and washed them all away. It will be the same when the Son of Man comes. Two men will work tog­e­ther in the field; one will be taken, the other left behind. Two women will grind flour in the mill; one will be taken along, the other left behind.» (Matthew 24:37–41 NLB). Admit­ted­ly, this text is any­thing but what we ima­gi­ne a joyful Christ­mas mes­sa­ge to be.

The second coming of Jesus Christ brings sepa­ra­ti­on. It brings a sepa­ra­ti­on of peo­p­le becau­se of their decis­i­on on the first coming of him. It is exci­ting that Jesus hims­elf brings Noah into play here. Noah was a man who lived at the begin­ning of human histo­ry. He distin­gu­is­hed hims­elf by being faithful to God in an envi­ron­ment that did not want to know any­thing about God. They enjoy­ed their lives and did not was­te a moment in wor­ship­ping God and giving him the glo­ry he deser­ved. Rather, they were preoc­cu­p­ied with them­sel­ves. The­r­e­fo­re, God deci­ded to des­troy the peo­p­le by means of a flood. But sin­ce Noah stood by God, God cho­se him and his fami­ly to make a new start. So Noah built a ship and sur­vi­ved this flood with his fami­ly and various ani­mals. While we strugg­le with this sto­ry, the exis­tence of Noah and the truth of this sto­ry is bey­ond ques­ti­on for Jesus. This refe­rence to Noah shows the fun­da­men­tal evil of man, name­ly that he does not want to ack­now­ledge God as God.

In addi­ti­on to the refe­rence to the times of Noah, the­re is a second image that cha­rac­te­ri­ses the time of the return of Jesus Christ. It is about the effect of the sepa­ra­ti­on and also the actions of peo­p­le on the fol­lo­wers of Jesus Christ. «The­r­e­fo­re, be rea­dy, for you do not know when your Lord will return. Rea­li­se one thing: a house­hol­der who knows when the thief is coming is vigi­lant and does not allow his house to be bro­ken into. You must be rea­dy at all times. For the Son of Man will come when you least expect it». (Matthew 24:42–44 NLB). Actual­ly, a thief is some­thing nega­ti­ve. This is becau­se he ste­als some­thing from you and abo­ve all becau­se he comes as a sur­pri­se. The image of the thief fits the second coming of Jesus Christ becau­se if you don’t expect it, you will be sur­pri­sed. But sin­ce fol­lo­wers of Jesus Christ are firm­ly con­vin­ced of his second coming, they should be alert and rea­dy. Becau­se if we knew that a thief was coming, we would be on guard all the time, not just for a few hours. «Think back to how you recei­ved and heard the mes­sa­ge; hold fast to it and turn to me again! If you do not wake up, I will come upon you as unex­pec­ted­ly and sud­den­ly as a thief» (Reve­la­ti­on 3:3 NLB). It is important to remem­ber and hold on to the mes­sa­ge again and again. So Reve­la­ti­on 3:3 is an encou­ra­ge­ment and invi­ta­ti­on for followers.

The permanent Advent season

I come back to Noah again. When Jesus Christ comes to earth again, it will not only be as it was in Noah’s time, but fol­lo­wers are to emu­la­te him as an exam­p­le. Noah is in fact a wort­hwhile and fit­ting exam­p­le for our time as well in three respects. «By faith, Noah built an ark to save his fami­ly from the flood. He obey­ed God, who war­ned him of some­thing that was not yet to be seen. His faith was the jud­ge­ment on the unbe­lief of the rest of the world; but he beca­me heir to the righ­teous­ness that comes from faith.» (Hebrews 11:7 NLB). First, Noah obey­ed God. Noah built the ark at a time when it was not even rai­ning. The­re was no indi­ca­ti­on out­side of God’s pro­mi­se that a huge flood would come and des­troy ever­y­thing. The­r­e­fo­re, ever­yo­ne lived as usu­al, got mar­ried and cele­bra­ted feasts. But Noah belie­ved God and is the­r­e­fo­re cal­led righ­teous (Gene­sis 6:9). This means that he was a per­son who lived accor­ding to God’s will. Second­ly, it is clear from God’s dra­stic jud­ge­ment towards peo­p­le out­side Noah’s fami­ly that ungod­li­ne­ss can­not stand befo­re Him. This dra­ma­tic sepa­ra­ti­on bet­ween Noah’s fami­ly and the other peo­p­le will also hap­pen one day in the future. Name­ly, when Jesus comes again, one will be saved in the field and the other will not. Third­ly, Noah drew atten­ti­on to God in faith and tried to con­vin­ce them to return to God. So the Bible says the fol­lo­wing about God’s decis­i­on at that time. «Nor did he spa­re the for­mer world – with the excep­ti­on of Noah and the seven mem­bers of his fami­ly. Noah had war­ned the world of God’s righ­teous jud­ge­ment. Then God des­troy­ed the world by a migh­ty flood and all god­less peo­p­le peri­s­hed in it». (2 Peter 2:5 NLB). As fol­lo­wers of Jesus Christ, we are cal­led to emu­la­te Noah. This means first­ly to be obe­dient to God. Second­ly, to ack­now­ledge and inter­na­li­se that out­side of Jesus Christ the­re is no way to stand befo­re God. Third­ly, to warn the world of God’s judgement.

The time of the return of Jesus Christ is unknown. But we do know this, what Jesus hims­elf says: «The mes­sa­ge of the king­dom of God will be pre­a­ched throug­hout the world so that all nati­ons may hear it, and only then will the end come» (Matthew 24:14 NLB). As soon as all peo­p­le have heard of the king­dom of God, Jesus will come again. And to the king­dom of God belong all who have a firm hope in him. They are not only citi­zens of this king­dom, but child­ren of God. «But to all tho­se who recei­ved him and belie­ved in his name, he gave the right to beco­me child­ren of God.» (John 1:12 NLB). But the ten­si­on as a belie­ver remains. For the king­dom of God is alre­a­dy visi­ble in this world, but unfort­u­na­te­ly not yet com­ple­te. For even peo­p­le who have let Jesus Christ into their hearts expe­ri­ence dif­fi­cul­ties. The­r­e­fo­re, the ques­ti­on ari­ses, would it not be bet­ter if all fol­lo­wers imme­dia­te­ly dis­ap­peared into hea­ven? Why does this not hap­pen auto­ma­ti­cal­ly? What sen­se does it make to stay on this earth? The mea­ning is deep­ly roo­ted in the essence of belon­ging to God’s peo­p­le and thus to the pro­mi­se made to the pro­ge­ni­tor of the Israe­li­tes, to Abra­ham. «I will bless you and you shall be known throug­hout the world. I will make you a bles­sing to others». (Gene­sis 12:2 NLB). Fol­lo­wers of Jesus Christ also stand in this pro­mi­se and this is on the one hand a pro­mi­se but also a com­mis­si­on. The com­mis­si­on is expres­sed by Jesus Christ once again at the end of his time of acti­vi­ty here on earth. «Jesus came and said to his disci­ples: «All aut­ho­ri­ty in hea­ven and on earth has been given to me. The­r­e­fo­re go to all nati­ons and make disci­ples of them. Bap­ti­se them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spi­rit, and teach them to keep all the com­mandments that I have given you. And I assu­re you: I am with you always, to the end of the age» » (Matthew 28:18–20 NLB). It is a four­fold com­mis­si­on, go, make disci­ples, bap­ti­se and teach. This call to pur­sue this goal goes out to all fol­lo­wers of Jesus Christ. The­re are then four levels whe­re this is to hap­pen. 1. fami­ly & fri­ends; 2. your work­place, school, vil­la­ge, club; 3. your coun­try. May­be in a dif­fe­rent lan­guage, with dif­fe­rent cus­toms, but still very much the same and abo­ve all you can move the­re wit­hout a hurd­le; 4. abroad among a for­eign cul­tu­re, with a for­eign lan­guage. This requi­res a gre­at effort of trans­la­ti­on on the part of tho­se who want to share the Good News the­re. When we hear the com­mis­si­on of Jesus Christ, we often think of field 4: for­eign count­ries. But field 1 and 2 is the mis­si­on of every fol­lower of Jesus Christ. Some have the task to go to field 3 and few are cal­led to go abroad. But no one can talk hims­elf out of the fact that he does not have a clear mis­si­on and that God has to show this in more detail. It is about tel­ling the peo­p­le the mes­sa­ge of the angels at Christ­mas: «The angel reassu­red them. «Do not be afraid!» he said. «I bring good news for all peo­p­le!» » (Luke 2:10 NLB). It is about pro­mi­sing peo­p­le an abun­dant life, as Jesus Christ said: «But I have come to give them life in all its full­ness». (John 10:10b NLB). Howe­ver, serious­ness should not be negle­c­ted. «For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoe­ver belie­ves in him should not peri­sh but have eter­nal life. God did not send his Son into the world to con­demn it, but to save it through his Son. Whoe­ver belie­ves in him is not con­dem­ned. But whoe­ver does not belie­ve in him is alre­a­dy con­dem­ned becau­se he has not belie­ved in the name of the only Son of God» (John 3:16–18 NLB).

Final­ly, I would like to come back to the so-cal­led Gre­at Com­mis­si­on. Imme­dia­te­ly befo­re, the fol­lo­wing is writ­ten by the disci­ples of Jesus Christ: «Then the ele­ven disci­ples went to Gali­lee to the moun­tain Jesus had told them about. When they saw him, they wor­ship­ped him – but some still doub­ted.» (Matthew 28:16–17 NLB). The­se ele­ven disci­ples here are the same ones to whom the com­mis­si­on is given in the fol­lo­wing ver­ses. They are the same ones who then set out into the who­le world. They are the same ones who prac­ti­cal­ly all wit­hout excep­ti­on gave their lives for this mes­sa­ge. They are the ele­ven disci­ples who, through the mes­sa­ge of hope, were to give the start­ing signal to turn the who­le earth upsi­de down. They are the ele­ven disci­ples who saw Jesus and wor­ship­ped him. They are ele­ven disci­ples, some of whom doub­ted. But God’s king­dom is not what we would ima­gi­ne it to be, becau­se God uses even the weak. Jesus Christ’s com­mis­si­on to pro­cla­im this good news of hope goes to all tho­se who doubt and to tho­se who have a firm confidence.

Possible questions for the small group 

Read Bible text: Matthew 24:37–44; Matthew 28:16–20

  1. What is the mea­ning of Advent for you? What is your atti­tu­de towards the first and second coming of Jesus Christ?
  2. Do you belie­ve that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and came to recon­ci­le the world to God? Are you rea­dy for the second coming of Jesus Christ? What does this idea trig­ger in you?
  3. Is Noah a role model for you? What new things can you learn from him?
  4. Do you reco­g­ni­se the importance of the com­mand in Matthew 28:18–20? What excu­ses do you often suc­cumb to when it comes to ful­fil­ling it? In which field would it be your turn to pro­cla­im the good news of Jesus Christ? How could you do this?
  5. Do you know doubts in your dai­ly life of faith? What influence do they have on whe­ther and how you tell about Jesus Christ?