Advent Sunday – Sermon 290
6.30pm Evening Prayer CW
2nd December 2018
Prayer to Start
May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ
Advent – the start of a new Church year – are we ready for it? a time of new beginnings – a time when we – look forward to the birth of Jesus – and the celebrations of Christmas Day. And as our Christmas trees – behind us – show us we don’t have too long to wait –
It’s also the time when we not only prepare for the first coming – but also – ‘watch’ for the second coming – or the future return of Jesus – and this is what our two readings focus on this evening – It will be a time of judgement – of the final conquest of evil – when Jesus will bring the fullness of His salvation to the world –
Point 1 Joel and the Day of the Lord
Our OT reading is a prophecy from Joel about ‘The Day of the Lord’ – given after a devastating plague of Locus had stripped Judah of its vegetation.
Everyone and everything had been affected – the farmers – the rich – the priests – the plant life – even the bark of the trees – which now looked like – white bones rattling in the wind –
The Plague also had a devastating effect on society – leaving the people and animals with no food to eat.
Locusts were one of the 10 plagues that God had sent to free the Israelites in Egypt – so Joel warned them – “you must be as bad as the Egyptians” –
In the first two chapters Joel calls the nation to repentance – The Day of the Lord is coming – he says – and like the Locus nothing will survive its passing –
The people have to change their ways – turn back to God – God is gracious and compassionate – and if we turn back to Him says Joel – we will be forgiven and restored – but it must be from the heart – going through the motions is not enough –
we must offer ourselves fully back to God
Then towards the end of chapter 2 and in chapter 3 in which we have our reading – we have a picture of God’s restoration – and judgement.
On ‘The Day of the Lord’ – all will experience his judgement he says – for some it will bring indescribable joy and blessings – for others judgement and terror.
God will wield the knife – for the harvest is ripe – tread the grapes for the winepress is full –
Joel warns of signs that will foretell the Lord’s coming – signs in the heavens and on earth – there will be portents in the sky – and on earth – blood and fire – columns of smoke – the sun turned to darkness and the moon to blood –
God will sit on His throne – and all nations will be gathered together – The Lord is a Lion, a thunderstorm, a refuge and a stronghold – under the old covenant – the Spirit was given to the select few – but the day is coming when all will receive His Spirit – with all the various gifts – and promises –and all who hinder his work – will receive His judgement –
But – He will continue to bless the nations through His people – and everyone who invokes the Lord’s name will be saved – For them – He will be a refuge – and on that day – the mountains will flow with a new wine – and the hills flow with milk – and a fountain will spring from the Lord’s house –
Point 2 Reaping the harvest
Pictures of the day of Judgement are also given in the Book of Revelation.
Our passage portrays Jesus – executing God’s wrath with His sickle – separating the false from the true – the wheat from the tares – which have grown together until the day of harvest.
Jesus returns in a white cloud – symbolizing purity of heaven – wearing a gold crown – He is coming to take His rightful place in the world.
In Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares – He tells of Satan sowing his seeds of among the wheat – and because in the early stages wheat and tares or darnel are so much alike and it’s hard to tell them apart – they were left to grow together.
But – now the black – ugly darnel stands in stark contrast to the golden grain of the wheat. The good seed and the bad are revealed by their fruits – and the time has come to separate the one from the other forever.
It’s time for Jesus to harvest those who belong to Him.
The angel cries out for judgment to begin. – for the believers to be taken out of the world and its ungodliness – and stored in the barn of God’s house – to be with Him forever –
The ungodly are said to be clustered like grapes hanging on the vine of the earth – these are cut down – gathered together – and cast into the winepress of God’s wrath – where they are deliberately trampled underfoot – and the juice which is substantial flows out –
Jesus was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem – and this great scene of judgment is also pictured outside the city – it will be a slaughter beyond anything the world has ever known –
The winepress is the last battle – in Hebrew – fought in the place called Armageddon – unleashing such agonies and plagues – as never seen before –
but Jesus – the sower of the good seed – is now the Reaper – of good and evil –
He brings – salvation for those who have been chosen to receive it – and condemnation for those who are not.
Point 3 What it means for us?
A farmer noticed a tragedy played out every Autumn in his cornfields.
All summer long families of field mice would make their homes among the growing plants. They ate and slept, they worked and played and raised their families. The mice imagined that those green fields belonged to them.
But then one day – at the end of the summer – the mouse community got an awful shock.
The farmer entered the fields with his harvesting machinery and – those comfortable summer homes and food pantries that the mice had enjoyed so much – came crashing down on their heads.
Do we see the similarity here – between mice and men?
Do we look upon this world as our home? – day after day – go off to work – earn our money – play or games – fall in love – get married – have children – imagine that this world is our home and will always be our home?
The mice in the field thought that – until harvest day arrived –
Do we ask ourselves – is this world mine? Or is it just a temporary place to stay…until harvest day is upon us?”
But knowing that a day of judgment is coming – is not the same as being ready for it.
We too need to listen to the gentle whisper of God’s call to repentance – through Joel – so that like the mice – we won’t be blown away by the roar of God’s justice on Judgment Day.
And – as our reading from Revelation shows – we need to keep taking refuge in Jesus so that when it does come – it will be a delight – and not a day to fear –
And while we the Church await that day – as Jesus – is constantly reminds us – in our Bibles and through the Holy Spirit –
there is a good harvest before us even now – and we must stay awake and look around –
Our business as Christians is to be witnesses to Jesus and His gospel – to encourage others to be ready to accept Him when He comes –
The world must hear Jesus’ message of salvation – so that God’s mercy is extended to all.
God can and will restore his people – He’s had a plan from the beginning –
the events that precede and follow Jesus return will be the most dramatic in human history and God’s wrath – will flow out on those that have turned away from Him.
But for those that give their heart to Jesus and follow His ways – He promises salvation and resurrection from the dead – a refuge in the house of God – for all time –
and in the final judgment He will set the oppressed free.
Are we ready for it?