March 2018  
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Pastor: Harry M. Krolus

                                                        ARE YOU PREPARED
                                                               MARK 1:1-3

As we are in the season of Advent, the season of the church year that is to prepare us for the celebration of Christmas, most of us are well into our Christmas preparations. Now, in the midst of all that is going on; the shopping, the wrapping, the baking, and the planning, how many of you will have out of town visitors? If you are going to have people in from out of town, you know very well that it adds to the excitement, and chaos of the season.
Now, whether we are going to have out of town visitors or not, I would like all of us to imagine that we are. And the guests that will be coming are not the regulars either; you know, the ones that you can count on coming by at least a couple times a year. The visitors that will be coming this year are folks you haven’t seen in quite a while, and they will be traveling many miles in order to make this visit happen.  As the time of their arrival approaches, I would like us to think about all that we would do in order to prepare for such a visit. I want us to think about all that this visit would entail.
As the date approaches, I would think we would prepare a room for them in which to stay. We would make sure that clean sheets are on the bed; that there are clean towels and wash cloths; and we want to make sure that there is shampoo in the shower as well as a new bar of soap.
In addition to these kind of comfort items, we would also be thinking about preparing a menu. We would want to provide special meals that our guests are really going to enjoy, right? We definitely want to avoid things they don’t like or are allergic to. And, finally, we also might want to plan some activities. Depending upon their interests and abilities we might want to go hiking, skiing, or biking. We also might want to do some sight seeing. We could take them to see the inner harbor or Fort McHenry. We could take them to Ocean City, Washington, or Annapolis. Or, if they like Civil War history, we could take them to Gettysburg (the battlefield not the outlets), or Antietam. There’s lots to do around here.
Let’s see, have we forgotten anything? We’ve thought about accommodations, meals, and activities. What else is there? We’ve forgotten about the most important thing. We forgot about the importance of just spending time together to just talk and catch up.
This kind of thing happens more often than we would like, doesn’t it? How many times has someone come to visit, someone we haven’t seen for a while, and then when it is time for them to go back home, we lament that because we have been so busy doing this, that, and the other thing; that we didn’t take the time to really re-connect.
This is definitely something that we don’t want to happen during the advent season. We all know that there are many things to do and that there is a lot to get done, but we don’t want the reason for our celebration to get lost in the mix. And so, this morning I would like for us to remember three key focus points during the days leading up to Christmas. The first is to remember the coming of God’s Son to the earth in human form as the holy child of Bethlehem. The second is to affirm Jesus coming into our hearts, as we confess him to be our Lord and Savior. And third, we want to bear in mind that our Lord will come again, not as a baby, but as king who will judge the living and the dead.
Remembering that Christmas is the celebration of the coming of God’s Son to the earth in human form as the holy child of Bethlehem, might at first seem obvious. But, as we look around us; as we look at many of the displays in our neighborhoods, as we look at many of the Christmas cards that are for sale, as we look at all the decorations and displays at our favorite stores, we could legitimately ask the question, where is the holy Child of Bethlehem in all of this?
Something that may have once seemed obvious is not so obvious anymore. This means that we have to work harder at keeping Jesus at the center of our Christmas celebration than ever before. One of the ways to do this is remembering why he came in the first place. Here, the words of Paul, as recorded in Galatians 4:4 are helpful. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Jesus came into this world to redeem us through his sacrificel death on Good Friday. Because he did this, and because of his glorious resurrection on Easter, we have reason to celebrate on Christmas. This is the whole purpose of the season of Advent, which some of us learned this past Wednesday. Despite distraction, things like advent wreaths, candles, and calendars are not just pretty decorations; but in their own unique ways help us to keep our focus. They remind us what the celebration of Christmas is really all about.
Knowing that Christmas is about Jesus coming into the world is one thing, but it is also about his coming into our hearts as well. Remember Philip’s encounter with the eunuch from Ethiopia? When the eunuch heard the Good News about Jesus, he didn’t respond by saying, “O, that’s nice.” He responded by desiring baptism! The Good News of Jesus is personal.
Listen to the second verse of “What Child Is this.”
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and donkeys are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spears shall pierce him through,
the cross he bore for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.
Jesus came to save the world from sin. Jesus came to save you. Jesus came to save me. That’s why we celebrate.
The third focal point for the days leading up to Christmas is remembering our Lord’s promise to come again. In Acts 1:11 the angels asked those who watched Jesus ascend into heaven, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” Then they told them, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
As we celebrate Jesus’ first coming to this earth as a baby, we also affirm during this advent season that he will come again just as surely as he came the first time. But when he comes again, he will not come as a baby. He will come at a time appointed by the Father to bring all things to completion. He will come, as we said last week, to separate the sheep from the goats.
As we prepare for the celebration of Christmas during these days of advent, remember the example of Mary and Martha. As important as our various preparations are, it is far better to prepare the heart than the house.