Mark 13:32-37

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake–for 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– 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Theme: “Advent – Stay Awake!”

            I. Do Not Fall into Spiritual Stupor (32-33, 36)

            II. Maintain Spiritual Focus (34-35, 37)

            Dear fellow Redeemed, waiting for the Savior,

            Today we begin a new church year. Today is the first Sunday in Advent – the first season of the church year. Our liturgical color for Advent is blue. Blue is the color of hope and expectancy. This is a fitting color because Advent means “coming.” It is a time when we focus with hope and expectation on the advents or “comings” of Christ. He came in time – the Second Person of the Trinity took on human flesh and was born of the virgin Mary. He comes to us – He is born in our hearts through faith. He will come again – His return will mark the end of this world. In these four Sundays of Advent we will focus on these three advents of Christ. The overarching theme of Advent is one of repentance. We are led by the Lord to repent that we may be prepared for Christ’s return! Advent is here – prepare by staying awake!!

            Jesus said, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows.” Therefore, we are urged to avoid spiritual stupor. The day of Jesus’ coming again is not something we can determine. Many have tried. One of the more recent attempts to gain much discussion in Christianity was made back in 2011 by a man named Herold Camping. He predicted two dates for Jesus’ return. Both came and went. Such people encourage mocking of Christians by the world and they lead into despair those who believed their predictions. Do not be led astray by such; no one knows the day!

            Jesus even said in our text, that “not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” knows the time of the return. How could Jesus say that He did not know? God is one and God is all knowing. Jesus is God, so how could He say this? During His time on earth Jesus did not always fully use all of His divine attributes according to His human nature. So, for example, Jesus had times of hunger even though as God He would not hunger. So too here Jesus did not make full use of His all-knowing attribute according to His human nature. We refer to this as Jesus’ state of humiliation. Jesus did this that He might live under the law as one of us and win our salvation.

            Therefore, if the angels do not know, and Christ according to His human nature in His humiliation did not know, it is delusional for us to think that we can know the date of His return. Thus Christ calls us to avoid spiritual stupor by staying awake. “Be on guard. Keep awake.” In this chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus says “be on guard” three different times!

            “You do not know when the time will come.” It is for our benefit that we do not know the time of Jesus’ return, His third advent. If we knew, there would be a great temptation to ignore the things of God, possibly even to live in our particular favorite sins, until the time was near. But, no one knows when his own death may come. And no one knows when Christ will come again. And no one can destroy his faith and turn it on again; the Spirit must restore him. It is foolish to gamble with our eternal salvation by thinking we can ignore God until later.

            “Lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.” The Master in this text is clearly Jesus. Jesus had been teaching about His death, departure, and final return. This parable illustrates His return. Woe to those who are asleep when He comes. The picture of “sleep” in this text is one of not being spiritually awake. In other words, it describes those who are not awake in faith but instead are asleep lacking faith. They are completely in a spiritual stupor.

            Do you ever find yourself nodding off toward spiritual stupor? The disciples literally fell asleep in the garden when Jesus asked them to watch and pray. Do you ever lose the battle against the temptation to put off spiritual things? Do you ever play the “I’ll start tomorrow” game? “I’ll get into a regular prayer routine tomorrow.” “I’ll get into a regular devotion routine starting next week.” “I’ll start regularly reading the Bible as a New Year’s resolution.” “I’ll start giving a generous offering when I think I can afford to.”

            We have all had times of “nodding off” where we just couldn’t remain focused on what was happening before us and we started heading for physical sleep. Does that ever happen spiritually? Ask yourself, “How is my focus?”

            Our sinful nature is full of spiritual stupor. It does not want us to spend time in focused study of God’s Word and prayer. Spiritual stupor damages our faith. Unchecked spiritual stupor leads to spiritual sleep, unbelief. Unbelief leads to hell. That’s why our Lord calls us to repentance: to confess our sins and look to Him for salvation.

            For, dear friends, here is Christ who awakened us to life and who keeps us awake. He keeps us awake in spiritual focus! The Christ Child born in Bethlehem is the perfect Savior. All throughout that Child’s life He had no spiritual stupor. There was no sinful nature in Jesus for He was conceived apart from a human father by the working of the Holy Spirit. Even as a baby in the manger, the holy Child was living a holy life to be applied to our account. This is why so many Christmas songs refer to the baby of Bethlehem as the “holy child.” “Holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace.”

            That Holy Child grew up and then went to His death so that we might be awakened. Jesus’ holy life which was full of spiritual alertness is yours through faith. Forgiveness of unholiness and spiritual stupor is yours through faith because the Christ Child shed His blood to remove your guilt and punishment. From the manger to the cross, Jesus Christ lived for you!

            Our Triune God moves us from unbelief to belief, and He keeps us awake in faith, in spiritual life.  Ephesians 5:14 states, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Christ awakens us through His Word – that Word of salvation which brings the Christ Child into our hearts, His “second advent.” It is that same Word that keeps us awake. We prepare for Christ’s comings by His Word which keeps us awake in faith, focused on Him.

            Thus we prepare with alertness to celebrate Christ’s birth, and we prepare for His return, His third Advent. In the parable of our text Jesus compares His ascension into heaven, the removal of His visible presence on earth, to a man who goes on a journey and “commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.” We are to be the one at the door.

            Jesus ascended into heaven visibly and He will also return visibly (Acts 1). This third advent of Christ will be seen by all. Scripture tells us that Jesus’ return will be like lightning which lights up the whole sky (Matthew 24:27); everyone will see it. There will be a loud trumpet blast for all to hear (I Thessalonians 4:16). What joy those things will bring to the hearts of those who have faith in the Christ Child.

            Another aspect to Christ’s return is that it will be an unexpected return. “Therefore stay awake–for 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.” All these times are watches of the night. They range from 6pm to 6am. Just think about how dark it is at 6pm and 6am this time of year. A doorman would not expect the master to come while it was dark. So too, Christ’s return will come at an unexpected time.

            In light of all this, how should we live? We strive for spiritual focus and godly living. In I Thessalonians chapter 5 St. Paul wrote about this return of Jesus and said, “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” We are children of the light. We are awake in faith. We strive to live as such.

            As we eagerly wait for Jesus’ return we go about the work He sets before us. After Jesus ascended into heaven the angels reminded the disciples to not just stand there watching for Him to come back. They were to go about their work – the work of proclaiming salvation is found in the Christ Child. Use this time we have, not to become caught up trying to determine things we cannot know, such as the day of Christ’s return, but to proclaim exactly what we do know! That salvation and rescue from God’s wrath is only found in the Christ Child!

            We keep watch just as Jesus says in the final verse, “Stay awake.” In repentance we prepare to celebrate Christ’s comings, in the manger, in our hearts, and at the end of the world. Our God leads us to see our need for Christ and so we are led to joyfully await His advents. Through God working in us by His Word and by His Sacraments we are kept awake. Christians need not be worried about salvation because Christ has accomplished it. Christians need not be worried about the end of the world. Rather, through reception of the Word and prayer we focus on the things of God.

            Dear friends,anticipate Christ’s coming! As we prepare to celebrate the joys of Christmas, remember to live in expectancy of Christ’s return. Let true spiritual focus replace spiritual stupor. Prepare with alertness for the inexpressible joy of the fullness of peace between God and man. His final advent will bring the completeness of our Advent and Christmas joy. The peace we have with God through Christ will then reach its consummation. The joy and feelings of happiness we may experience with loved ones at this time pales in comparison to the perfect joy of seeing the One who took on human flesh to restore what had been lost.  Amen.