An Advent sermon idea based on Mark 13:24-37.
Mark 13:24-37 NRSV
 But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,  and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.  Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.  “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.  Therefore, keep awake-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,  or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.  And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.
A Word About Advent
The word advent means the “coming” of Jesus. For twenty centuries, Christians have used this word to refer to the incarnation and birth of Jesus (his first coming) as well as the promised second coming of Jesus someday.
We get to celebrate the first coming of Christ, in which God took up residence among sinful, broken humanity to reconcile a lost world to God.
And we get to anticipate the second coming of Christ, in which Jesus will complete the work of saving and renewing all of redeemed creation.
A Word About the Olivet Discourse
Mark 13 is often considered a parallel passage with portions of Matthew 24 and Luke 21 and is the record of a message Jesus delivered from the Mount of Olives toward the very end of his ministry in which he spoke of the future.
There are varying interpretations of Jesus’ words, with some believing that most of what Jesus preached in this sermon referred to future events (future even for us) and others believing that at least some of Jesus’ words were intended as a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 ad (future for Jesus’ audience, but in the past for us).
Personally, I fall into the latter category, believing that Jesus was warning the Israelites about the soon-coming destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Roman Empire, but with this passage in particular (Mark 13:24-37), I believe Jesus was speaking to many generations of Christians to come.
Regardless of your interpretation of the rest of his sermon, this sermon idea is universally applicable.
The big point…
The signs of the world’s lostness and brokenness will only become more apparent as time goes on, but Jesus has promised to complete his work of saving that which is lost and establishing lasting, eternal peace for all who wish to be part of his Kingdom – his forever family.
Jesus taught, and I have personally found, that HOPE is essential to any kind of meaningful spiritual life on earth. Without it, we yield to the pessimism and cynicism of a humanity desperately in need of a redeemer.
REALITIES OF LIFE IN THE PRESENT AGE
1. Suffering is inevitable.
Whether the suffering we experience on earth increases or decreases over time isn’t the issue. Historians and sociologists are welcome to research and debate that question.
What we do know is that as long as we live under the conditions brought about by the sinfulness of humanity, suffering will be an unavoidable part of life.
Division, disease, inequality, injustice, racism, classism, hunger, and conflict are all going to persist because human beings keep giving into our natural tendency to seek power over one another.
2. Salvation is imminent.
In this passage, in particular, Jesus speaks about how the whole world will witness his power and glory upon his return. It’s definite. It’s set in stone. King Jesus is leading history toward a grand climax in which he repairs all that is broken.
The timing and nature of Jesus’ second coming are shrouded in mystery. The church has wrestled and debated for centuries about when and how Jesus will come to finish his ministry of reconciling the world to God, but the consistent witness of the church throughout the ages has been that we live in light of the hope of his return.
3. Stewardship is imperative.
That is to say that what we do with the time we have in the meantime matters greatly!
Jesus gave some clear challenges in light of his promise to return and complete his work of redemption, and they can all be summed up under a single phrase…
Spiritually, that is. Be alert to the activity of the Holy Spirit in and around you. Be aware of how Jesus is currently, actively working in your life, your community, and your world. Grow in your relationship with God and lead others to do the same.
But there is a big question for all of us today… have you been awakened?
The cover photo is freely available to use and was taken by Carina and shared via Unsplash.