Canon Roy Arnold
This is not the sermon I was going to write, but the postman arrived when I had just started writing that one, and what he delivered waylaid me. It was our latest Tesco club card statement which arrived and looking at it I realised (to quote George Orwell) that Big Brother had been truly watching me; because all the money-off coupons exactly matched our recent purchases, all entered into the Tesco computer. I suppose they even have my shoe size.
No surprise there I suppose. But then I got to thinking that if Tesco know so much about me, it is frightening to think what God or my recording angel must know about me. And about you. About our going out and our coming in; about when we sit down or get up, and what we are going to say even before we speak. Our good points, and our sins likewise. When we fail to do right, or when we are pleasing to God. And I thought about Jesus as our judge at the end of time with all this evidence to hand.
This is one of the major themes of this season of Advent – Jesus as our judge – so what will Jesus think about us? I believe he will search for our good points as well as the bad.
But what about our bad points? All the more reason why we should be totally grateful that Our Lord is letting us (and the rest of humanity) play extra time to get things right and on target before that dreadful day of judgement.
This patience of Jesus is a main theme of our epistle this morning. The early Christians thought the return of Jesus would be straight away, but 2000 years on we are still waiting. One disadvantage, however, of this extra time is that we can so easily forget to number our days and apply our hearts unto wisdom, but as John the Baptist taught in our gospel for today – it will be wise of us to prepare a way for the Lord. By telling God of our sorrow for our sins, and then trying not to make the same mistakes over and over again. Which is why we, as Christians must try to imitate Christ.
By all means let us remember and welcome the baby born on Christmas Day, but not forgetting it is what we do with the present and the future which really counts – the race which set before us.
The race that is set before us, unless, that is, like the Goons’ song, we are walking backwards to Christmas, which we can never actually do. Our journey carries us onwards, so…
not in that poor lowly stable with the oxen standing by we shall see Him,
but in heaven set at God’s right hand on high.
Where like stars his children crowned, all in white shall stand around.
1 Corinthians 1 3-9
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way – with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge – God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Mark 13 24-end
But in those days, following that distress,
‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
At that time people 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. Truly I tell you, 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.
But about that day or hour no one knows, 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 their 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 back – 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!’