Advent 1 – St. Mark 13:24-37
Jesus words at the end of our Gospel text to stay awake are probably very familiar to you, for you have no doubt implored yourself to stay awake on more than one occasion.
Stay awake, so that you can drive just a few more miles and be that much closer to your destination.
Stay awake, so that you can see the end of the game, or the end of the movie.
Stay awake, for if you fall asleep now, you just might miss something big that is going to happen.
How often those words ring in our ears, imploring us to cheat sleep and stay awake just a little bit longer. Stay awake today, for you can get all of the sleep you want later.
Of course, to take the words of Jesus in our text quite literally, one would never sleep; ever. After all, what does Jesus warn against: You do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning – lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.
The point of this text must therefore be: never sleep. For Jesus can come at any time, at any hour. And if you are asleep, you will miss it. Therefore Jesus demands that you stay awake.
But of course you know that is silly, the body needs sleep. And if you do not take regular breaks to refresh yourself, your body will do it for you. And Jesus knows this better than you yourself know it, for He has given us the Third Commandment as a constant reminder that we are to rest when our work is complete.
So you do sleep, don’t you? You nap in the afternoon when nothing is going on; you sleep in the summer when the schedule is a little slower; you doze off every now and then, and then come back fully charged.
And what has happened while you slept?
Nothing; everything stayed the same.
And so you sleep a little longer, and again you miss nothing. And so you decide to sleep even longer still, and you still miss nothing. And finally, you never wake up, and what all have you missed? Again, you seem to have missed nothing at all, for everything has in fact stayed the same.
And so we take that same logic and apply it to faith. You sleep in and skip a devotion or a prayer, and what happens? Nothing. The world has not come to a screeching halt; the sky has not fallen; the Lord has not zapped you.
So you try the same thing with worship, you skip a Sunday; stay home and sleep in. And what happens? Again nothing. Seemingly, no one even knows that you are gone.
And so you decide, consciously or not, to take a break from church; maybe you check out during the summer or on holidays and come back when the weather permits; maybe you skip out during the college years with the promise that you will come back when you are married with kids.
And then another break when the kids are grown, just to catch up on all those missed opportunities of sleeping in.
And what happens?
Again, it would appear that nothing happens.
After all, what are you missing?
Today is the First Sunday in Advent, what is different from a year ago, or 5 years ago, or 25 years ago? The altar is blue, the first candle is lit, the hymns are sung.
Even the message is the same: prepare for the coming of Jesus: 2000 years ago in the manger in Bethlehem, today in the bread and the wine, one day soon in glory everlasting.
Jesus words today are to stay awake; and yet what happens when you fall asleep? Nothing at all. So what is the big deal?
Satan aim is to lure you into that slumber. He aims to discourage you with talk that you can slip away for a Sunday or two, or even a decade or three, and nothing changes. Satan aims to convince you that there will be plenty of warning, plenty of time to prepare for the return of Christ; so do whatever you want today and tomorrow and every day after that.
After all, what has happened in terms of the last days in the past 2000 years? That’s right: nothing. The Church still prays Come Lord Jesus, just as it has for 2000 years. Surely you can slip away, and not miss anything.
Satan is right about one thing however; there will be plenty of warning about the return of Christ. That warning is issued again today, just as it has been issued many times before and will continue to be issued until Christ returns in glory. That message is quite simply: stay awake, for Jesus is coming soon.
But for those who lie in the deep slumber of sin, it largely will not matter. Satan will have achieved his goal: ears will have grown deaf to the cries of warning. For after having been salted with the sins of the world and of the flesh, the cries to awaken will be ignored.
And so the words of Jesus to stay awake are offered once more to you, and to all those who lie in slumber.
Not a literal interpretation that one must never give the body needed rest, but rather that one must stay alert, be ready for the return of Christ. Stay awake in the faith, for Christ is coming very soon.
The message is delivered once more to all people: soon and very soon, Christ is coming in glory to judge the living and the dead.
To those who hear the Word of the Lord regularly, who look with longing eyes to the heavens, for any sign of angels and archangels descending in power and glory: stay alert a little while longer, for the Lord is coming quickly, just as He has promised.
To those whose eyes are heavy and are tempted by Satan and his foes: wash that sleep from your eyes with the waters of baptism and be strengthened by the Lord’s Supper, for the Lord is coming quickly.
To those who lie in deep slumber, having been lured away by Satan and his evil ways: repent, hear the Word of the Lord, and stay alert, for the Lord is coming quickly.
Stay alert; hear the Word of the Lord preached in your midst; confess your sins and hear the words of the absolution; remind yourself daily of your Baptism; receive the body and blood of Jesus. Do not fall away, for the hour of redemption is nearer than when you first believed.
That is the message that comes to us today: the Church calendar flips over and it looks and feels the same as always, but the words of Jesus are spoken loudly and clearly no matter the day or the season: Stay awake.
Stay awake, for the days may be long and the nights may be longer, but the Lord is coming to judge the living and the dead.
Stay awake, for the last days are most certainly upon us, and the day is coming when the Lord will separate the sheep from the goats.
Stay awake, for you do not want to be found sleeping when the Lord comes in glory.
Stay awake, for the day and the hour of the Lord’s return is not known by anyone on earth.
Stay awake, for in faith you know that you will be found righteous on the day of the Lord’s return. A day that is quickly coming. An hour that is nearer than when you first believed.
Stay awake. The Lord is coming soon. He has promised it. He will surely do it.