Are you a bit concerned about another terrorist attack here in America?  We should be.  All it takes is a husband and wife with an assault rifle like in San Bernardino two years ago, or two brothers with a pressure cooker like at the Boston marathon.  Or worse, what if ISIS is someday able to sneak a nuclear weapon into our country?  We don’t even want to think about it. Thank God, law enforcement is constantly thinking about this. In fact, we’ll probably never even know how many terrorist attacks they’ve already stopped. Terrorists, on the other hand, only have to get everything right once.  

Jesus said: You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. – Matthew 24:6   We don’t need to be afraid, because our authorities aren’t the only ones fighting terrorists.  God is fighting them too.  He causes their plans to fall apart, or He makes them do stupid things so they get caught.  God also brings us into this fight by commanding us to pray for nation’s leaders, so that everything they do works together to keep us safe.

But now, if the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, what is the price of remaining in faith until we enjoy eternal freedom in heaven?  Jesus answers that in our text.  He said: What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Keep Watch”! 

  1. Keep watch on what’s truly important in life. 
  2. Keep watch on our personal calling in life. 
  3. Keep watch through the power of God’s Word.

 1.  Keep watch on what’s truly important in life.  

Our text reads: No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Watch! Be alert and pray, because you do not know when the time will come. – Mark 13:32-33 

  We need to keep watch on our priorities, because it’s possible for us to gradually let our faith slip away through wrong priorities.  For example, it’s good to save for your child’s college education.  It’s good to save for your retirement, because we can’t assume Jesus will come again before we turn 65.  But perhaps some of you are thinking, “I can’t deal with my future needs right now. I got all I can do just to get ready for Christmas. I haven’t bought a single present yet.  I have 16 people coming over for Christmas dinner.  So, here’s what I’ll do.  I’ll make it my New Year’s resolution that as soon I get Christmas paid for, I’ll come up with a savings plan and next year, I’ll really, truly stick with it.” Sound familiar?

Sadly, the way we prioritize our money management is often the way we prioritize our time management.  Christ is coming!  And just as the Father ripped open the heavens at Christ’s baptism and said, “This my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased”, so on the last day Christ will rip open the heavens again and we will see Him seated in glory and surrounded by all His holy angels.  There is only one way we are able to stand before Him on that day.  We must be as holy as the angels are and as He is, and there is only one way we, sinners, can be that holy.  We must possess His forgiveness and His righteousness through faith.  And God Himself gives us faith and keeps us in faith through His Word.  

Therefore, our number one priority has to be the hearing and reading of God’s Word.  Also, if Jesus warned His 12 apostles not to get side-tracked from His Word, where does that leave us?  Is our faith stronger than that of the apostles, so that we don’t need His word as much as they did?  On the other hand, am I saying we should be spending so much time in God’s Word that we don’t have time to do anything else?  Not at all!  Jesus said, we should do the one without leaving the other undone.  And so, for the sake of our own faith, we need to keep watch so that His Word remains our number one priority in life.  But then at the same time our faith will also lead us to keep a watch on our personal calling in life.

2.  Keep watch on our personal calling in life.

We read on in our text: It is like a man going away on a journey. When he left his home, he put his servants in charge and assigned what each one was to do.  – Mark 13:35a   The man going away on a journey represents Jesus ascending into heaven.  Before He left, He gave all of us this command.  He said, “As you go into all the world, make disciples of all nations by baptizing and by teaching them everything I have commanded you.”  Now, not everyone baptizes and not everyone teaches.  Rather, God gives each believer different responsibilities and different gifts, and often a person’s responsibilities and gifts vary throughout the different stages of his life. So, how can we know what our personal calling is at this point in our life?   And, how do we stay on track?

We can know our personal calling in life, by where we find ourselves.  Whether we’re a husband or wife, a father or mother, a son or daughter, a child or senior citizen, an executive or blue color worker, a teacher or student, our personal calling in life is that we live as God’s dear children according to His commandments, and then share the Gospel every opportunity God gives us, with all, who are not yet ready in faith for Jesus’ return, or whose faith may be at risk, because their priorities are messed up. Is this calling in life too hard for us?  It isn’t, because God is in control, and because God is fighting sin and unbelief and through us, just like He’s fighting terrorism through our government.  But what if a Christian no longer able to do as much as he used to, or would like to?  That doesn’t change a thing.  God is still in control.  And God is still working through us, even if it’s just being an example to others of patience and humble dependence on Him, and not being afraid, but rather joyful in hope.  Still, why us?  Why does God call us to the things He calls us to do?

Our text answers that: He also commanded the doorkeeper to keep watch. – Mark 13:35b   In Bible times the door keep’s job wasn’t just to let the master of the house in, whenever he might come back.  The door keeper’s job was also to keep everyone else on track in their assignments.  That way when the master did return, no would be caught off guard, and everyone would be ready for him with a clear conscience.  To apply this to ourselves, all of us are doorkeepers to some degree.  For the past 20 years, God made me the door keeper for New Hope.  Our teachers are the doorkeepers for their students.  Parents are doorkeepers for their children.  Members are doorkeepers for each other, because we are our brother’s keeper.  Now if encouraging each other in the word and in prayer and in doing everything else God has given each to do, seems like too much for us to do, who else will serve as doorkeepers, if not us?  Certainly, unbelievers won’t!  Nevertheless, how can we, doorkeepers, keep on going, if we’re already feeling guilty for the things we’re not getting done?  Here’s the answer:

3.  Keep watch through the power of God’s Word

Our text reads: Therefore keep watch, because you do not know when the owner of the house is coming: whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or early in the morning. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Keep watch!” If we think we can keep watch by our own strength, we’re not keeping watch at all.  We’re not seeing, then, the weaknesses and unworthiness that’s in each one of us.  On the other hand, when we do see that, what a blessing!  For then we will hold on to God’s Word and sacrament like our soul depends on it.  And then not only will our faith be confirmed, but whenever we see others, who need encourage and redirection, the Holy Spirit will give us the words and the power to help them also keep watch.  For example, in our second lesson Paul wrote: He will also keep you strong until the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. – I Corinthians 1:8-9   Do you realize when God did this for you personally?  At your baptism!  Through your baptism God guaranteed His faithfulness to you for the sake of Christ’s merits, and the only way you can deny these blessings for yourselves is refuse to believe it.  So, believe it.  On Judgment Day God will still be faithful to you and receive you into heaven for Jesus’ sake, so believe it also, that when He gives you a job to do here on earth, He will be with you to do it.  

This is a great frame of mind to be in, isn’t it.  Except how can stay in that frame of mind through all the daily pressures of life?  Well, again through the power of the Word, which brings us back to where we started.  To keep God’s Word as our number one priority in life, we need encouragement.  We also need opportunities to re-examine our lives and recommit ourselves to what’s really important.  The Season of Advent is good time for doing this.  

If you’re on our email list, this morning you will have received the first of our daily Advent devotions and prayers, along with an activity for families with children.  If you aren’t on our email list, but would like to be, please write your email address on a card in the pews and put in the offering plate or contact us through our website.  If you don’t have email, we also have printed copies of these Advent devotions in the entryway.  

So, here’s what I’m suggesting.  Use these devotions.  Get into the habit and encourage others to get into the habit.  By the power of the Word, we will grow in our faith, which will give us true joy in celebrating Christmas, which will fill us with hope at the very thought of seeing Jesus in glory.  And finally, as we keep watch to keep these as our top priority, our faithful God will guide us and bless us so that we keep everything else in our life in proper perspective.  And then we WILL be ready, for Christmas, and for living each day as His children, for living with Jesus forever. God grant it for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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