Both Near and Far
Sunday Evening English Worship
December 2, 2018 - 5:00 pm
Messenger: Don Frank
Bible Passage: Mark 13:34
Introduction: Can you believe that the month of December has started already? And are we getting ready for Christmas here at church! And it's not just here. I was at the Sapporo Factory shopping mall a couple of days ago and they had Christmas music playing already and the Christmas decorations were really beautiful! Then just last week we had our first snow of this winter season! I've got my tires changed on my car and my snow shovels are set out and ready!
And as we begin December, the Advent season is here and it's not only time to prepare for snow, but time for us to begin preparing our hearts for the coming of our King, Jesus Christ. But as I looked at the book of Mark chapter 13 just recently, I began thinking that maybe it’s best to talk about both of the Advents of Jesus Christ this evening. And so, I’ve chosen for the title of my message this evening "Both Near and Far" because the 1st Advent is coming soon and the 2nd one will be coming sometime in the future. But we need to prepare our hearts for both of the comings of Jesus Christ. And that's what we'll explore tonight, thanks to the Word of God.
1. Near - the 1st Advent (Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14)
And so, let’s begin with the "Near" Advent, since that's the one that's only 3 weeks away. There are different Bible readings for this 1st Sunday of Advent. And they talk about the promises God made through 2 prophets of the Old Testament. Both of these prophets, Micah and Isaiah, lived at the same time in Israel, around 700 BC. And they might have actually known each other, though the Bible doesn't say anything about that. And through these 2 prophets, God is telling His people to prepare themselves for the coming of the Savior.
So, the first one of these promises that I'd like us to look at is Micah 5:2 (NLT) - But you, O Bethlehem Ephratah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. Here God is sharing with us the name of the town where Christ would be born, Bethlehem. And not only that, but that He would be from the distant past. He would come from eternity past right to the present and be born as a ruler into our world.
Then the prophet Isaiah goes on to say this in Isaiah 7:14 (NLT) - All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us'). The birth of Christ would be a miracle and that Mary's baby would be God Himself right here on earth with us!
So I would say that the takeaway point for this "Near" Advent is for us to think carefully and often that Christmas is such a special holiday. God promised and then delivered on His promise of sending His Son Jesus to be our Savior.
2. Far - the 2nd Advent (Mark 13:34-35)
And then the "Far" Advent that Jesus Himself talks about all the way through Mark 13 is something we need to prepare our hearts for as well. We don't have time this evening to read the whole chapter, but the story Jesus shares at the end of the chapter is very much worth looking at. It's found in Mark 13:34-35 (NLT) and it reads like this - 34 "The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his servants instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. 35 You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak."
To be honest with you, this 2nd Advent is not something that crosses my mind all that much. Yes, I know He will come again and I do indeed believe the promises in the Bible about His 2nd coming, but it's something that I can't see and have no idea when it's going to happen. I look at my calendar and I can't find it. And yet Jesus Himself said that He's coming again. I think that this story tells us two things that are important.
First is that when the master of the story left, He gave his servants work to do while he was gone. And that's what you and I need to be doing. We should ask God to show us the work to do and then ask God to give us the strength to do it.
And second, as the master was leaving, he told the gatekeeper to keep watch. Of course he didn't mean for the gatekeeper to do nothing else but watch. That servant had other things he needed to do day by day. But he also needed to be prepared for the master to come home at anytime, morning, noon or evening!
3. How - Prepare for Christ's Advent (Mark 13:36-37)
So then, the final idea to think about here this evening is a question you may have in your mind right now. I'm guessing that question is, "Well Don, how do I go about preparing for these 2 Advents of my Master." And that's where the final 2 verses of this story come in.
Jesus tells us in Mark 13:36-37, "36 Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. 37 I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!" Verse 37 says to us that we should Watch for Him. I would suggest that we spend more time in prayer, Bible reading, coming to church for fellowship and writing notes to remind ourselves that He is coming, both at Christmas and sometime again in the future.
And then verse 36 reminds us to not fall asleep. Now what does that mean to fall asleep spiritually? It might mean being involved in too many things that take your attention away from Jesus. Maybe it's spending too much time on social media or watching too much TV or NetFlicks. Maybe it means spending too much time on projects at work that could be done later. Maybe it's spending too much time on Christmas decorations or on buying presents. And here in Japan, it might be spending too much time on too many year-end parties! Christ wants us to keep ourselves spiritually fit for both His 1st and 2nd comings. Before we know it, Christmas has arrived and we wonder where the time went. We really got distracted and took our eyes off of spiritual matters.
Conclusion: So let's keep our eyes open for both of Christ's Advents, both the Near and the Far! And as we do that, we become more and more like the Messiah. We become more like Jesus in word and deed. And our hearts will rejoice even more this Christmas season!
Closing Prayer: Let's finish this evening by taking one of the well-known Christmas Bible passages and reading it together.
Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)
"All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us')."
Now let's look at our closing prayer and pray it together:
Dear Lord, thank you so very much that we can begin the Advent season together here at church. Thank you for coming to be our Immanuel. We are very happy that you are with us even here tonight in this place. May this Christmas be even more special than any other Christmas we can remember. Guide us every day throughout these next 3 weeks as we look forward to celebrating Your birthday together. We pray all these things now in Jesus' precious name, Amen.