1st Sunday in Advent – B LSB #’s 331, 332, 354
Text – Mark 13:35 NIV
Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.
IS THE ROOSTER CROWING?
My childhood was spent growing up in the countryside of Michigan. My parents built our home on the farm of my father’s parents, & yet no one, within earshot of our house, raised chickens. So, the first several summers that I spent a week or two at an uncle’s farm, it took some getting used to, waking up at 5 or 6 am, as the roosters were crowing.
After a few years, however, I got used to it & learned to look forward to it. The sound of the roosters foretold the end of the night, & the coming of another day, a day of hard manual labor, but also of good times. For me the crowing of a rooster sets in motion the fond memories I have of those weeks of summer vacation on my uncle’s farm.
Are there sounds like that in your life, in your memory bank, sounds that foretell something to come, whether good or bad? Are there sounds that have the power to remind you of something, or bring back very clearly certain emotions?
Maybe it’s the sound of the train coming into town, or the familiar musical theme of a radio or TV program; the sound of children laughing & playing in the yard; the sound of a particular Christmas song, or in today’s culture a popular video game.
Sounds are able to remind us of what used to follow, or what is still soon to come. Have you heard any of your roosters crowing lately?
In the verses from today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is foretelling of things to come: “Keep watch!” That’s what should be forthcoming from our attitudes. Watchfulness! This is the 4th time He uses that phrase in the 13th chapter, all four of them in response to two initial questions from His disciples: “Tell us, when will these things be, & what will be the sign when all these things are to be fulfilled?” The disciples were concerned about the future just as we are.
This 13th chapter marks a transition, from the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry on earth, to the beginning of Passion Week – His suffering, death & resurrection. No doubt the disciples noticed a change in Jesus’ mood & outlook. They were concerned about what the future would bring, & where it would lead.
But, rather than answering the questions directly, Jesus tells them what they should be asking in the 1st place. The disciples were looking for an answer to when? Jesus told them no one knows that except the Father. Rather, they should be asking the question, “What?” What should they do in order to be prepared for the “when”?
The disciples were asking when the Jewish Temple would be destroyed, & they were connecting that event to the end of the world. They were correct in that connection, but were at least several thousand years off the time schedule.
Jesus teaches that the destruction of the Temple would happen during that very generation, but it was only the beginning of the end times, & not even He nor the angels knew when the final end would come.
You & I & our world are in those end times even now, & have been ever since the year 70 AD. That’s when the Romans set fire to the Jewish Temple, & not one stone was left upon another, just as Jesus predicted at the beginning of the chapter. The Wailing Wall, that is famous in our day, is merely one foundation upon which the Temple courts used to sit.
Our focus is not to be on the end times. That’s one reason why God did not reveal the day or the hour to us. How could we help but obsess & worry over it? Look at how people stress out over a wedding & all its plans. Now, imagine what it would be like if we knew the date of the end of time? Our attention is to be applied to Jesus Christ, & Him alone. One of the historical teachings of the Advent season is preparation for His arrival. As long as we are prepared, it matters not when the end comes. What if the roosters are crowing? The answer is not for us to know. Anyone predicting the date of the world’s end is dealing in false prophecy.
Jesus’ answer to the disciples is consistently the same, “Be on guard! Watch!” Watch for false prophets that you will not be deceived. Watch for complacency in your faith, watch for worldly things taking 1st place in your life. Watch for the temptations of Satan, who would lead you astray from the Way, the Truth & the Life. Watch for your friends & watch for your family, that they too are not misled or deceived.
All those admonitions are things for us to do, & history shows that whenever we are required to do something we will not do it well enough. The OT is a continuous record of the failure of God’s chosen people, their failure to keep God’s covenants. We are no better than Israel. We all shrivel up like a leaf, & like the wind our sins sweep us away.
And thus the reason for the season of Advent, the season of Christmas & Lent & Easter. We fail… Jesus succeeds. That’s why our focus is to be on Him & not on the end. Jesus is whom we are to watch for. Advent is meant to help us watch for the Christ child; for it’s through Him that you & I are made ready. That’s why He came.
Whether the end is far or near, it is possible to lose our faith. Satan never sleeps. He’s constantly at work, cajoling, teasing & tempting us to take our eyes off of that insignificant looking baby in the manger. He’ll lead us to focus upon anything else, be it the end of time, our career, our illness, our national elections. If it isn’t Christ Jesus, it does not save you.
What is your focus as this Christmas arrives? What are you alert for? Are you ready with anticipation for the arrival of Christ, or are you ready with the hope that all the hoopla will soon be over with? Don’t the parties & the shopping become the focus, & often a negative one at that? Is the Advent season, as it was designed to, really preparing your heart for the Son of God to live there? Through your baptism, Christ took up residence there. Through your baptism He is actually coming to you every single day.
The Son of God is born anew every morning in the hearts of those who trust in Him. Have you been welcoming Him? Have you been talking with Him? He is the One making your heart ready to be His eternal residence. As His brothers & sisters we live in Christ, & Christ lives in us. Jesus is the owner of the house & He will come back.
He’s put us in charge & assigned our tasks. As we love Him we diligently go about the work He has given us. As His brothers & sisters we desire to be actively engaged in His service. It’s an honor & privilege, & brings many blessings with it. But the responsibility is there as well – the responsibility to keep watch because we don’t know when Christ will return.
Throughout the 13th chapter Jesus emphasizes vigilance. That suggests that the final call to watchfulness, in v. 37, is not focused exclusively upon that last day, but also has in mind the continuing life of your spiritual nature. That spiritual life is actually in more danger now, during these days of complacency & false teaching, than it will be on the day when Jesus comes again.
That’s why the Advent season is so important. It affords us an opportunity to examine our lives in light of the approaching celebration of our Messiah’s birth.
What is there in your life for which God would send His Son to die? Was it merely to solve your day-to-day problems & overthrow your earthly enemies? Or did God’s Son need to die for your sins? Did He live, & die, & live again – so that you could truly live & live forever? Do you hear the rooster crowing? Amen.
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive &
bear a son, & shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 ESV) The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet