Ready or Not! Jesus is Coming!
Mark 1: 1-8
Happy New Year!
Now, I know what you are thinking. ďPastor Pete has totally lost it. Heís passed right over Christmas and gone to wishing us Happy New Year.Ē But itís true. One thing I learned among many things since becoming a Pastor is that the Christian year truly begins with Advent. Did you know that?
When you think about itÖ.why would it be the last season of the year? Itís about the coming of our newborn King! This is not a time of ending. It is a time of new beginnings. And Our God is a God of Second Chances. So if you need a Second Chance at life, and Lord knows I do, this is the time of Celebration!
So we celebrate the Advent Season this morning. And I want to do so by doing one of my favorite things. One that I got to do with you all the very first Sunday I joined you at Wheatland back on July the 3rd and something I think we need to do often. Celebrate the Great Thanksgiving of Holy Communion.
This morning when you come to
this Table, I want you to explore what Jesus wants you and I to receive at His
Table: forgiveness and newness
of life! The news is not nearly as
grim as you may have been brought up to believe. Itís actually VERY good news!
In a way that can only be
described as a mystery, the bread and the cup, are for me and for you the body
and blood of Christ. By taking them, we:
We become Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World! This is a Celebration of some incredibly GOOD NEWS! NOW we can come together for the Great Thanksgiving of Advent.
Thank you very, much to the Bastrop Mission Team. I was so overjoyed to be with you all and see us grow in Christ by serving. We are going to do more mission trips. And I hope others may join us next time. Hopefully as soon as March during Spring Break! I believe these are truly transformational experiences both for us and for those we serve.
While we were gone on the Mission Trip, a number of you got together and decorated the church. And I have to tell you that when we rounded that corner coming back from Bastrop and saw the Wheatland United Methodist Church lit up, ready for Christmas, my heart just leaped with joy. I am so glad to be here as your Pastor. I believe God is in this, through and through, and I look forward to my first Christmas with you.
Letís look at this beautiful place. In the Hanging of the Greens, everything here has a symbol and purpose:
How shall we prepare this house for the coming of the King?
With branches of cedar, the tree of royalty!
How shall we prepare the house for the coming of the eternal Christ?
With garlands of pine and fir, whose leaves are ever living, ever green. Because the needles of pine and fir trees appear not to die each season, the people of long ago saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us that there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore, we hang the wreath of evergreens shaped in a circle, which itself has no end, to signify the eternal reign of Jesus, the Christ.
How shall we prepare the house for her coming of our Savior?
With wreaths of holly and ivy, telling of His passion, death and resurrection. In ancient times, holly and ivy were considered signs of Christís passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns. The bitter bark suggests the drink offered to Jesus on the cross. And get this---the red berries signify the blood of the Savior. May you never look at a red holly berry again without thinking of the blood Jesus shed on the Cross, just for you.
As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, the Light of the World, we light the Christmas tree during this Advent, wherever you see a lighted Christmas tree, let it call to mind the One who brings light to our darkness, healing to our brokenness, and peace to all who receive it.
There has been much done at Wheatland to prepare us for the Advent Season. Thank you to everyone who helped. But there is still more work to be done. Today, we read in the Gospel of Mark of the need to prepare not just our homes and our churches but our very hearts for the coming of the Lord.
Of all the Gospel writers, Mark is a writer in a hurry. He is an evangelist who wants you and me to get with the program and get with it NOW! Not one to wade through long genealogies. Not one to go through a lengthy birth narrative. Not one to dwell on mangers and shepherds and wise men and donkeys and camels. Mark leaves those items to other Matthew, Luke and others. Instead, he focuses on the immediate need of you and I to prepare the way for the Lord, to make straight paths for Him.
His message is clear, ďReady or not! Jesus is Coming!Ē
Not so much the Baby in the Manger, but the full-blown King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One who is mightier than all. The one of whom John the Baptizer says, ďHey! Iím not even fit to untie his sandals.Ē Heís coming!
It reminds me of the bumper sticker---but not one I would put on my car. It reads: ďJesus is Coming---look busy!Ē Thatís like some workers do when their boss walks by----look busy. I hope we donít just look busy around the church. Because I hope Jesus, knowing our hearts and motivations, sees us truly engaged in preparing a way for Him, not only in our homes, but more importantly in our hearts.
This Christmas, are you preparing the way for the Lord? Are you preparing for Him not to just have a night in December when you light a candle and sing Silent Night? Are you preparing for Him not to just have a corner of your heart in between all the gift-buying, light-stringing and Christmas-partying? But are you preparing for Him to rule on the throne of your life? To have your whole heart, mind, soul and strength?
Because if you areÖ.then I would say you are truly ready for Christmas.
The trees, the lights, the shopping, the cooking, the partying, the family time. Thatís all nice. But I donít see where John the Baptizer was calling you to do all that-----much less to get all stressed out over it! What John the Baptizer is doing is calling you to make straight the pathway for the Lord to rule in your Heart!
And when He does, you truly can sing the first verse of hymn #89 Joyful! Joyful! We Adore Thee!
Sing with me the first verse now:
Joyful! Joyful! We adore Thee, God of Glory, Lord of Love.
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