Sermon

The First Sunday of Advent: Stay Awake! (Mark 13:33-37)

The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means arrival/coming. Even though it starts near the end of our calendar year, it is the start of the Christian calendar year. When we observe Advent, we celebrate the birth (arrival) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a time to retell the story of how and why Jesus came to Earth. It is a joyful time of remembrance of the Shepherds, the Magi, the Angels, and most importantly, Jesus. As the old hymn says, “Joy to the world! The Lord has come, let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing!”

Advent is a special time for Christians to remember the birth (arrival) of Jesus. On the first Sunday of Advent, we start with a celebration of Jesus’ Second Coming. Jesus is coming back for us, therefore, we take heed to Jesus’ instruction for us to “Stay awake” and be on guard because Jesus is coming back suddenly. In Mark 13:33-37, Jesus illustrated this with a parable of a man going on a journey. Before he left, the man “gave authority to his servants, gave each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to be alert” (Mark 13:34). How do we stay awake? We stay awake in Prayer, in Scripture, and in Church.

Stay Awake in Prayer

We stay awake and remain alert for the Lord’s coming in prayer. We should “pray constantly” (1 Thess 5:17). This involves both private and public prayer. We need to pray in our “private room” (Matt 7:6) without distraction. We need to pray in “every place” (1 Tim 2:8) with and for one another. We should pray shamelessly (Luke 11:8), persistently (Luke 11:9), and expectantly (Luke 11:10). Prayer is an act of worship in which a person communicates with God the Father, through the access provided by God the Son, and by the prompting of God the Spirit.  

In prayer we ask God for what we need (Matt 7:11), but it is far more than just asking God for things. Prayer is an act of worship and is an essential means by which God makes us more like Jesus Christ. There is no spiritual growth apart from prayer. Prayer is a time for aligning ourselves to God and His will. Since prayer is an act of worship, the content of our prayer should be on the worship of God and what we need to appropriately worship Him. In prayer, we remain alert and watchful for Jesus’ coming.

Stay Awake in Scripture

We stay awake and remain alert for the Lord’s coming by immersing ourselves in Scripture. We must hear, read, study, and meditate on the Bible regularly because it is God’s Holy Word. It is divinely inspired, divine instruction that is true and trustworthy. Biblical intake is not just commanded by God, it is a blessing from God. Hearing, reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible is good for you; namely, your head, heart, hands, and home.

It’s good for your head. God uses the Bible to teach us what is right and to encourage us to right thinking. It’s good for your heart. The Bible says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Prov 17:22). This world with its sin and evil will dry you up; only by coming to the Bible and being reminded of God’s holiness, love, and goodness can we find the “good medicine” to bring us joy to our hearts. Only the Bible can truly guide your heart to good and proper things while keeping a proper perspective. It’s good for your hands. Most people want to do something good with their lives but are unsure what to do. The Bible is good for your hands because it reminds you that your hands belong to God and should be employed for His glory. It’s good for your home. The family that has Jesus as its foundation is a family that will last. When the rain comes and the wind blows, the firm foundation of Jesus will make sure that the house will not fall. 

Stay Awake Together in the Church

We stay awake and remain alert for the Lord’s coming in the Church. The Church is not a building or a Worship Service. The Church is “the people of God who have been saved through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and have been incorporated into his body through baptism with the Holy Spirit.” The Church is important to Jesus. He died for the Church (Acts 20:28). The Church is Jesus’ Plan (Matt 16:18), Jesus’ Bride (Eph 5:25–27), Jesus’ Body (1 Cor 12:27), and “God’s household…the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Jesus’ Church gathers throughout the world as local congregations. God has planned that our spiritual growth and sanctification occur in the context of the local church. Jesus intends for His followers to gather together for prayer, singing, preaching, evangelism, correction, and to help one another. We stay alert together in the local church.

Stay Awake!

As we learned earlier, Jesus illustrated the need for watchfulness with a parable of a man going on a journey. Before he left, the man “gave authority to his servants, gave each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to be alert” (Mark 13:34). Jesus is the man in charge who has left for a short time. He has left Christians work to do (Eph 2:10) while He is away. He has given us His authority (Matt 28:18) to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). Let us work in His power and for His glory as we eagerly await His return. Stay awake!