“Christ’s Advent Call – Watch!”

 (Mark 13:32-37 – Advent 1 – November 29, 2020)

Mark 13:32-37 – 32“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 34It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. 35Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming – in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning – 36lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

Dear Redeemed in Christ Jesus:

At this time of year, there is a lot of excitement and anticipation. Christmas is coming, and people are getting ready – decorating their homes, shopping for gifts. And perhaps even in a year like this, some are looking forward to having a special guest come for a visit – someone to share the love and joy of the season.

At this time in the church year, in the season of Advent, God’s Word leads us to look forward with excitement and anticipation to good things to come. Advent means “coming,” and it is a time of getting ready for a special Guest who is coming. That Guest is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He comes to share with us the greatest gifts we could desire; he comes to share with us His love and joy as our Savior. We look forward to celebrating the first time He came into the world, when He was born in a stable at Bethlehem. At that time, He came to bring His gifts of salvation for us. He came to win our forgiveness and peace with God. He came to fill our hearts with joy in His gift of salvation and eternal life. Therefore, knowing who He is as our loving Savior, we also look forward to His second coming. Jesus will come bearing gifts for all who are awaiting His appearance. He will give us the greatest joy in the heavenly home He has prepared for us.

Here in our text, Jesus encourages us to watch in faith for His coming. He says: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” Therefore let us take heed to “Christ’s Advent Call – Watch!”

Jesus spoke the words of our text to prepare His disciples for His coming death and resurrection, and also for His ascension. He wanted them to know that He was going to leave, but that He would also return. The disciples did not quite understand, so Jesus told a parable to help them understand.

He said: “It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.” Jesus’ ascension into heaven is like the master of a house who goes away on a trip. He wants to make sure all the daily chores of the household will be done in his absence. To make sure everything runs smoothly, he puts his servants in charge. He gives them authority to make decisions he would normally make if he were at home. The master gives specific responsibilities to each servant.

Of all the tasks involved in running the estate, one is given special mention. The master gives the doorkeeper the order to watch for his return. Jesus had given the same order to His disciples. They were the leaders of the early church. As witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection, they were to preach repentance and remission of sins in Jesus’ name. As “doorkeepers” who stood at the post, watching for the Lord’s return, He wanted them to prepare themselves, and also to help others be prepared, for His return.

Jesus’ command to the doorkeepers extended beyond the original apostles, to pastors and teachers in His church through the ages. What the apostle Paul wrote to the pastor Timothy, remains the command of our Lord to all who are given the charge keep watch over souls until His second coming: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). In the face of a world opposed to Christ and His truth, ministers of His Word are to keep watch by faithfully preaching His truth – for their own good and the good of others – that all may stand ready for Jesus’ coming.

But Jesus’ Advent call to watch is not only for church leaders. Jesus includes all believers in verse 37: “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” He puts us together in His Church to help each other stay watchful. We note that in the parable the master assigned “to each his work.” We are reminded of Scripture’s teaching that the same Spirit who makes us members of the Body of Christ, gives each of us spiritual gifts and abilities to be used for building one another up (1 Corinthians 12). As we gather around His Word and Sacraments, our own faith is strengthened; and we also encourage each other to stand firmly in faith, watchful against falsehood and sin. Until, as it says in Ephesians 4:15-16: “speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

And we take our faith and our spiritual gifts outside the church into our daily vocations. As spouses, as parents, as children, we live our faith as we serve each other’s needs – not only in temporal, but spiritual and eternal matters. What better gift can we give to our loved ones than to help each other stand prepared for Christ’s coming, as we share His word in the home? And this carries into our place in society. Wherever we serve, whomever we serve, we serve as to the Lord (Colossians 3:23); and by our Christian witness, we encourage others to watch for the Lord’s coming.

We do not know when Jesus will come again; we must simply live in expectation at all times. Jesus says: “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming – in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning – lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.” Here Jesus described the four watches of the night used by the Romans soldiers, when they were given charge to keep watch. Jesus is telling us that His return is set for such a time as the watches of the night – a time a visitor normally is not expected.

Here, as the disciples wanted to know more about when the end of the world would come, He simply tells them to wait in constant expectation: “Take heed, watch and pray.” He told them to keep their eyes open, to chase sleep away.

It is like when you are driving along a road late at night. The low hum of the tires and the red tail lights ahead can almost lull you into a trance. The eyelids start to get heavy. All of a sudden, when you realize you were nodding off, your head snaps up with your eyes open wide and heart pounding and hands gripping the wheel. You might turn up the radio and open the window to fight off your drowsiness.

Jesus knows how easy it is for us to become so focused on the things of this world, entranced by its glittering gifts and short-lived joys. We are surrounded by the constant hum of worldly teachings and the “sensitivity training” others would impose on us. He knows how easy it is for us to become desensitized, and drift into a less watchful spiritual state. He knows how easy it is for us to follow the pattern of the world and drift off the straight and narrow path.

In our text, we hear Jesus’ Advent wakeup call – Watch! He is telling us to chase away spiritual sleepiness, and wait in full expectation of His return. As believers, we watch by being vigilant in His Word. We watch by letting His Word convict us of our sin and lead us to repentance. We watch in prayer against temptation, confessing our sins and clinging to His  Word of forgiveness. We say with believers through the ages in Psalm 130:5-7: I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning – yes, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption.”

We wait in hope for the Lord’s second coming, because His Word tells us how we stand ready to meet Him. His Word reveals that He already came the first time to win our redemption. At His first Advent, the Son of God descended to earth, leaving behind His heavenly glory. He was conceived and born in humility as the Son of Man, so that He could work out our salvation. For every way we have not served faithfully in the tasks given by our heavenly Master, He Himself served in perfect obedience; and for Jesus’ sake God counts that perfect life of servanthood to us. For every way we have not lived in expectation of His coming, but have set our hearts on the things of this world, the Master Himself carried all our sins to the cross; and for Jesus’ sake, forgives all our sins and offenses.

In the name of our once crucified, and now risen and ascended Savior, we stand pardoned before God and found holy in His sight. Through faith in our Savior, we stand watching and ready for His Second Advent.

Our time of waiting is like the excited anticipation of a child when he goes to bed on Christmas Eve. A child may dream about the presents that will be waiting under the tree in the morning. Maybe that night he gets little sleep because he is so excited about what the future holds. Advent is a time of such anticipation for us. We eagerly expect the Lord’s return on the Last Day. As children of God in Christ, we are filled with excitement about our future. We do not merely look forward to opening presents that will soon be forgotten. We look forward to meeting Jesus face to face, for He will bring the gift of Paradise He has won for us, a gift that will keep on giving in eternal joys.

As we watch with excitement and anticipation, we hear our Savior’s promise in Revelation 22:20-21: “Surely I am coming quickly.” And with the faithful through the ages we respond in the spirit of Advent: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20-21).

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.