The Advent Season
By: Thomas E. Brewton
Advent is the time of preparing ourselves for Christmas to celebrate the coming of Christ Jesus for our salvation. It’s also a time for watchful awaiting the Second Coming.
For her sermon today at the Cohocton (New York) United Methodist Church, Rev. Karin Porch’s text was Mark 13:1-37. Her focal points were, first, a call to prayer for a new Great Awakening of spiritual awareness and a return to the principles of morality that shaped the formation of our nation, and, second, an awakened watchfulness for the spiritual arrival of Jesus this Christmas and for His return as depicted in the Book of Revelation.
“As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belongâ€”let the reader understandâ€”then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until nowâ€”and never to be equaled again. If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the electâ€”if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
“But in those days, following that distress, â€¨” ‘the sun will be darkened, â€¨and the moon will not give its light; â€¨the stars will fall from the sky, â€¨and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come backâ€”whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ “
To say the least, that is hardly the frame of mind of most people when they think of Christmas. As Rev. Porch expressed it in her church newsletter:
“The church of God is declining – especially the major denominations. The church is dying for lack of interest and lack of love for God. Many people today do not know God and believe they can handle life all on their own. But that is not the way God designed the world. We are to look to Him for help and hope. God’s Word says He will give us all we need for this life.
Do you believe it?
As you watch all the pretty lights, buy presents and make preparations for the Christmas dinner, remember that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday. It is a special day to share the gift of God’s entrance into our world because he loves us.
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.