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How Then Should We Wait for the Lord?
Matthew 24:36-44
Rev. Frank Schaefer

I am preaching this sermon on "Family Sunday" with children of all ages present, hence the informal tone and use of objects . . .

“Watch out”

Sermon Introduction:

Our passage this morning could be summarized with a short command: “Watch!”

We are supposed to be like watch-guards: --a watch-guard doesn't go to sleep (during the sermon? =) --spiritually.

This morning I brought some tools that you need when you work as a watch-guard (binoculars, a wrist watch, a flashlight)

Ask for volunteer to be our sample watch-guard.

1) (Binoculars) What to watch out for? Watch for Jesus’ return--that’s what Advent is all about: We eagerly await the return of Christ.

A few verses before our passage we read a little about what the return of Christ will be like.

(Verse 17): “For as the lightning comes from the East and flashes as far as the West, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."

The early church lived much more faithfully in the expectation of Christ’s return than the modern church does. Did you know that the church up until the medieval would “east” their church buildings? In "easted" churches the people in the congregation sit with their faces toward the East, so that they would be able to see Him upon His triumphant return.

Also: through excavations archeologists can tell you when exactly entire populaces converted to Christianity as you will find the remains of Christian bodies buried with their feet toward the East in expectation of Christ’s return according to that Scripture passage.

Today we don’t understand this verse literally any longer, but unfortunately the church of Christ seemed to have thrown the baby out with the bath water --because you don’t hear much about Christ’s return anymore.

We don’t even know how to celebrate Advent anymore. We skip right over to Christmas--we sing Christmas carols in Advent. If you look through our hymnal you’ll find that there are only 4 or 5 Advent hymns. So, this year I decided we’ll have a real Advent with advent hymns.

All this to say that we need to start using our “binoculars of faith” once again (Have Watch-guard direct the binoculars to the East) So, the binoculars remind us that this Advent we need to start expecting Christ’s return again.

2. ( Wrist Watch): In Verse 42 of our passage, Jesus says: “watch out therefore, because you do not know the day (or the hour) your Lord is coming.”

Q: if we don’t know the hour why should we even wear a watch? Well, the watch really symbolizes the signs of the time.

In the passage just previous to the one we read today, Jesus talks about the signs of the times we need to be aware of: There, Jesus talks about a fig tree that will grow tender leaves, in another place, he talks about certain signs in the sky above and on the surface of the earth that will give us a clue as to when His return will be near.

I don’t claim to be a prophet, but I will nevertheless deal with these “signs of the time” in next week’s sermon. There are observations we can make by looking at what’s going on in the world in light of prophetic Bible passages. (And we can make these observations with a certain degree of accuracy).

So the watch reminds us that we are to watch out for the signs of the time. (Have guard look through binoculars and at the watch, alternately) God wants us to interpret the signs of the time, use our eyes, the Scriptures, and our brains as we try to figure things out. That’s part of our job description as watch-guards in this world!

3. (Flashlight) The third thing a watch-guard should have is a concerned attitude toward the ones s/he stands watch for.

Now, once s/he discovers something the others need to be alarmed. S/he needs to give the others a sign of some sort. That’s what the flashlight is for. (Have watch-guard give signal to the people)

When speaking about how it’s going to be like in the last days, Jesus draws a parallel to the times of Noah.

Q: What happened in the times of Noah? People didn’t want to think of God, they forgot about God. And Noah was instructed to build an ark--a huge ship. The ship he build was a sign from God to the people.

It was Noah’s job to alarm the people: “Yo! Listen people, there is going to be a big flood. That’s why I’m building this ship”

The thing was the people couldn’t imagine anything like a flood. You see, according to the bible it had never really rained before.

So they thought Noah was a crazy old man building a huge ship in the middle of the dry land!  Now, Noah could have just as easily decided to move to a remote part, perhaps to the top of a near mountain or to the nearest shore and build his ship there in an inconspicuous manner.

And some Christians do that today. They see something on the horizon, they interpret it . . . . and they decide to keep it to themselves, to cut themselves off from the “wicked world.”

Those are the Christians that keep their faith a private issue. They never invite anybody to church even if they see that people around them are searching for the truth, groping in the dark.

My theory is that God keeps us deliberately in the dark on 1) when Christ will return, 2) and on what exactly to look for.

And God does it for a purpose --so that we will be: bearers of flashlights, givers of signs.

Example: When I'm picking up my parents at the airport, I may not even notice anybody else around me--I'll just keep looking for those familiar faces in the crowd. But if I'm supposed to pick up “Mr. and Mrs. X” whom I've never seen face to face, I'll be standing there with a sign "Mr. and Mrs. X" studying every passenger that comes out of that gate trying to establish eye-contact so they'll be sure to see my sign.

Christ wants us to be "sign-bearers" as well as "establishers of eye-contact" brothers and sisters. That's part of being and staying awake spiritually!

Would the cobbler in our story even have noticed anybody else had he known exactly whom to look for? Would he have given away the white shoes?

A true watch-guard watches out not just for him or herself, but also for the others around him or her. (Have watch-guard do all three things)

Conclusion: In this season of Advent, God reminds us that we are called to be watch-guards. That we: 1) need to get our binoculars out, and once again start living in expectation of Christ’s glorious return; 2) that we need to wear our watches in order to interpret the sings of the time 3) and that we signal others, that we need to share with them about the glorious return of our Lord which is the beginning of the age of eternal peace, peace on earth and goodwill to all people. Amen.