First Sunday in Advent November 29, 2020
Text: Mark 13:32-37 CW 3 Year Series-B 20:2227
Theme: Another Year of Grace – Seize the Opportunity!
The story is told of a little girl coming home from Sunday school and telling her mother, “Mother, teacher told us today that God puts people into this world so that they can get ready for heaven.” As she busied herself around the kitchen, her mother replied almost without thinking: “Yes, dear, that’s right.” Wrinkling her forehead in a thoughtful frown, the little girl hesitated a moment and then asked in all seriousness: “Then why don’t we see anybody getting ready?”
A childlike question, yet, in a real sense, how true! If God puts people into this world so that they can get ready for heaven, then why don’t we see anybody getting ready?
In the hurry and hubbub of our busy world, people have become so preoccupied with the affairs of the day, with the problems of this world, and with staying alive that it seems like many have forgotten all about “getting ready” for the next world.
The psalmist writes (90:5f), “Lord, You sweep them away like a flood….They are like grass which changes quickly. In the morning it sprouts and grows. By evening it is cut down, and it withers.” Surely, we have every reason to continue with the psalmist and pray: “Teach us to number our days in such a way that we bring forth a heart of wisdom” (v.12).
In other words, “Teach us to get ready.” Teach us to regard this life as a period of preparation for a greater and much more wonderful life still to come. Teach us to seize every opportunity, so that all our days may stretch out in the sure direction of our heavenly home. For that to happen, Jesus calls us first to…
I. …be watching alertly.
Watching alertly is not something that we readily carry out on our own. Think of this past week. Did you alertly scan the heavens at any time to see if Christ was on His way back here? Did you prepare yourself in some way for the end? Did you pray for it to happen? We probably did not, other than think about it in a passing way. On the other hand, I bet your thoughts were sensitized to getting ready next month for Christmas. We alertly watch for that celebration and start getting everything ready for it, but our watchfulness for the end lags behind. Think of it. How much time do you spend getting ready for Christmas, and how much time do you spend in God’s Word? We so easily give way to inattentiveness in our faith.
In this lesson, Jesus compares it to a soldier falling asleep during his watch. What happens to a soldier who falls asleep at the guard post? He puts not only himself into danger, but he puts at risk the lives of his fellow soldiers. Likewise, falling asleep at our post as Christians places souls at risk. That is particularly true for all preachers and teachers and church leaders. “Watch! Be alert and pray!” Jesus commands, “Because you do not know when the time will come.”
We know when Christmas will be here this year. Do we know when the end will come? No one knows, except our heavenly Father. In His gracious wisdom He hides it from us lest our sinful nature would cause us to abuse and misuse that knowledge.
If I knew the exact day on which Jesus was coming back, I might think to myself, “Well, why bother getting up and going to church today? Is it really necessary right now, especially since He isn’t coming back for a while yet? There are too many health threats right now. I’ll still have plenty of time to get ready for Him later.” And with such reasoning I would horribly abuse and misuse the knowledge about His second coming – if He told us exactly when it would be. In Jesus’ words, I would fall asleep at the door during my watch.
Because of that, our heavenly Father has taken great care to hide the time of Jesus’ second coming from us. In its place He says, “Watch! Be alert and pray because you do not know when the time will come.”
He then compares Himself to the owner of a house who has gone away, leaving his servants in charge of everything and telling them to be responsible for whatever he gave them to do. And then he left, telling them to be about their tasks until he returns.
It’s not the duty of the owner to tell his servants exactly when he will return. But it is the duty of his servants, especially the doorkeeper, to be alertly watching. Seize the opportunity and watch alertly in the time that is given to you, Jesus says. So how do you do that?
You sit at His feet like Mary did, and listen to His Word, not letting other distractions lull you into complacency. You worship Him eagerly, like the psalmist who said, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” You pray like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Father’s will be carried out in your life for the spiritual welfare of others. You seize whatever opportunity He gives you to alertly be about Your heavenly Father’s business.
Today we enter another Church Year. It’s another year in which the whole story of God’s grace will unfold to us once more. How will you make use of it? How will you daily get ready for eternity? How will you keep watch?
II. Keep working faithfully.
Go back to that little parable Jesus used of the man who left home on a long trip. Before leaving he gathered everyone in the household together for their final instructions. Each had a job to do while he was gone, and he encouraged them to be about their tasks.
Perhaps this one was to clean; that one was to cook; another to take care of the stables; and so on and so on with all the tasks that needed to be done to keep the household going. Each had a job to carry out that the owner left to them.
Now, what’s the temptation that comes to people when the one in charge leaves? Often the temptation comes to goof off. We even have a saying about it: “When the cats away, the mice will play.” But we’re not talking cats and mice here. We’re talking about the people of God and their relationship to Him.
Isaiah compared it to the relationship that exists between a potter and the vessel he forms out of clay (Is.64:8). God is like the potter; we are the clay. We are the work of His hands, not our own. He formed us. Even more He redeemed us through the blood of His Son to be His people. “We are His workmanship,” Paul reminds us, “created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared for us in advance so that we would walk in them” (Ep.2:10). But a pot is only useful so long as it does what it is made to do.
So the Lord encourages us to seize the opportunities He places before us. It could be leadership in the congregation; it could be teaching His Word to children; it could be cleaning and caring for His House; it could be the task of parents raising their children in the Lord; and for us all we are to be His witnesses in the world. Seize the opportunity. Keep working faithfully in whatever He places before you to do – wherever, whenever, and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves for soon He is coming back “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.”
It’s a new church year – another year of grace. People around us seem to be approaching the immediate future with fear and trepidation. Christians are different. With our eyes on the Savior, so many opportunities to serve Him in our world lie ahead – until He comes back. God grant that we watch alertly and work faithfully for He put us into this world to get ready for heaven; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Zion Lutheran Church of Springfield
(A member congregation of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod)
4717 S Farm Rd 135 (Golden Avenue)
Church phone: 417.887.0886 Pastor’s cell phone: 417.693.3244
The First Sunday in Advent November 29, 2020
“No one knows about that day or hour….Watch! Be alert and pray!” Mark 13:32-33
F o r O u r V i s i t o r s
The family of Zion welcomes you as we worship the Lord today. We encourage children to worship with us. However, if you need to leave with your child, there is a nursery room to the right as you exit the sanctuary. The rest rooms are located in the hallway between the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. Visitors, please sign our guest book to the right, just outside the sanctuary. We’re glad that you are here and pray that through our worship the Lord grants you peace.
U p o n E n t e r i n g G o d’ s H o u s e
“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is this King of Glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. He is the King of Glory” (Psalm 24).
W h a t T h i s S u n d a y i s A b o u t
Christ Is Coming Soon. Prepare to Meet Him: The Advent Season with its four Sundays before Christmas is a time of anticipation. It prepares us for the birth of the Lord Jesus. It also reminds us of His Second Coming when the temporal things of life in the present will cease and eternal life shall begin. But it is more than just a reminder; it is a call to action in the life of a Christian.
We have another year of grace laid out before us. What shall we do with it before the end comes? Shall we just sit and do little in our lives of faith? Or shall we actively watch, work, and redeem the time because the days are evil and people will be caught unprepared to meet Christ in His return? Jesus admonishes in the Gospel Lesson today: “Watch! Be alert and pray, because you do not know when the time will come.”
To that end we pray: Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come. Protect us by Your strength and save us from the threatening dangers of our sins; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen
– T h e W o r d o f G o d f o r T o d a y –
Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1-8
The Prophet Isaiah appeals to the Lord as Israel’s Father. He calls on the Lord to come to His wayward people and do great things for them as He did in the past. Although they had sinned against Him, Isaiah prays that the Lord will reshape them as a potter’s hands lovingly shapes clay.
Epistle Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Paul thanks God for His faithfulness to His people. He has enriched them in every way with every spiritual blessing. They lack nothing needed as they await Jesus’ coming. How faithful He is to His people.
Today’s Gospel Lesson: Mark 13:32-37
Jesus urges His followers to “watch, be alert, and pray” as they prepare in the present for His coming. No one knows when He will return. Till then He has left us in charge of the Gospel and commands us to faithfully and responsibly carry out our tasks within His kingdom here on earth.
Today’s Organist: Jane Rips Today’s Preacher: Pastor Edwin Lehmann
Point to Ponder: “Within a few weeks we will celebrate Jesus’ coming in the flesh, His human birth. It is altogether fitting and proper that we use these weeks to prepare our hearts to rejoice over the miracle of Christmas. In it lies our highest hope…forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. We receive that miracle as our very own when the Savior comes into our hearts through Word and Sacrament, and we believe in Him. May the door of our hearts always be open that the King of Glory may come in. Then we will have no fear of His final advent at the end of time. May ours be a blessed Advent Season as we look forward to our Redeemer-King who has come, is coming, and will come again soon.”
— Herman Gockel on Advent – Our Lord Is Coming
“No one is better prepared for our Lord’s coming than the person who longs to be without sin.” — Martin Luther on The Best Preparation for the End
Outline of Our Worship
Opening Hymn: #1
Order of Worship: The Common Service: page 15
The Ministry of the Word
Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1-8
Psalm of the Day: #24 Hymnal pg.73
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Hymn Response: #8
Gospel Responses: pg,18
Apostles’ Creed: pg.19
Sermon Hymn: insert #71
Sermon: Mark 13:32-37 Another Year of Grace – Seize the Opportunity
Our Response to the Word
The Offertory: Hymnal pg.20
Prayers & The Lord’s Prayer
The Lord Blesses Us
Closing Prayer: Hymnal pg.25
The Closing Hymn: #9
C a l e n d a r & A n n o u n c e m e n t s f o r Z i o n L u t h e r a n C h u r c h
Divine Worship Service
on line – Facebook
Fellowship & Brief Bible Study
Midweek Bible Class
Divine Worship Service
with Holy Communion
on line – Facebook
Fellowship & Brief Bible Study Afterwards Church Decorating for Christmas
A Brief Bible Study on God’s Word for Today
Advent reminds us: Jesus is coming soon. The world will end soon. If we seriously look at our sins, we have plenty cause for fear and worry. But our lessons focus on the faithfulness of God, who calls Himself our Father and who takes care of all the details. Instead of feeling down about the end drawing near, by God’s grace we see the richness we have in Christ and the gifts we have to serve Him in these last days.
The Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1-8 (answers are found on the back side)
- What comfort is there in knowing God as “Father?”
- Why does Isaiah want God to do awesome things?
- What makes God’s grace and love even more spectacular when we look at our own lives?
Those We Remember In Our Prayers: Dea Windsor; Clyde & Sharon Johnson; Dave Ballou; Greg Miller; Casey Milam & family; Felicia Nichols’ family; Bill Buchanan; Norine Richardson; Barbara Long; Jodi Milam; Jodi’s sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and other family hospitalized and at home with COVID 19; Judy Bertoldie, member at Peace, Marshfield following a fall and diagnosed with COVID 19; Lois Wiese.
Copies of the Daily Devotions written by pastor will be found in the narthex.
Special Devotions for the Advent Season have been written by our pastors and professors who teach young people preparing for the public ministry at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN. The devotions begin with December 1 and end with Christmas Day. This year’s theme is The Jesse Tree. Look for the specially printed booklets in the narthex.
Health Ordinance With Springfield and the Greene County Health Dept. extending the mask requirements until January, we will continue wearing masks in the worship service. You will find masks, disposable gloves, and sanitizer in the narthex and the fellowship hall for your use. Please, continue to watch your physical distancing, side to side and front to back. We are not passing the offering plate during the service at this time, but it will be found at the door upon leaving the sanctuary.
The Week in Review
Last Sunday’s Worship Attendance: 16; Thanksgiving Potluck: 13; Thanksgiving Day Worship: 20.
Next Sunday’s Lessons:
2nd Sunday in Advent (Series B): Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8
Answers to Today’s Old Testament Lesson Brief Study:
- Isaiah talks about the tenderness and compassion of God. He knows us. The saints in glory do not know or influence the affairs of people on earth. Only God can rescue us. Like a potter with clay, He fashions our lives according to His good pleasure. So we address God as “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer.
- He knows that the world does not recognize the true God who is behind the scenes. Often God reveals Himself in unexpected, miraculous happenings that draw us to see that He comes to help those who depend on Him.
- Even the things we think are good are unclean in God’s sight because they still carry sin’s stain. The penitential heart sees it; troubled lives evidence it. Yet the God of grace forgives our sins enabling us to live in true joy of the Lord.
This week I am praying for . . . . .
Lighting Candles at Advent
Quite often the candles in the church’s Advent wreath are lit with no particular acknowledgment of their presence or meaning. What is the meaning of the wreath, and what do the candles signify?
The evergreen in the wreath represents life. In the gloom of winter, the evergreen is about the only thing that shows signs of life. It represents our Savior and the life that is in Him, for in the winter of our sin His coming brings the hope of salvation and everlasting life to all who believe in Him.
The four colored candles in the wreath represent the four Sundays in Advent. Three of them are violet in color, symbolizing a time of repentance and preparation, since it was our sin that made it necessary for Christ to enter our world. The candle for the third Sunday is rose, a color of rejoicing, to remind us that in the midst of our time of repentance there is cause for joy because our Lord has come to take away our sins. At the celebration of Jesus’ birth, a white candle is placed in the middle.
Except for the third candle, which is sometimes called Gaudete (Latin – Rejoice), no specific names or concepts have been assigned to each candle in the wreath. But over the years several different designations have arisen. Some name them the candles Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherds, and Angel. Others refer to them as the candles of Love, Peace, Joy, and Hope since these are the fruits of the Spirit which God gives to each believer by way of faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 5:22). This year we shall follow the first designation for the candles in our wreath.
- The Prophets’ Candle
As the first candle on the wreath, my light is the first to pierce the darkness. I represent the light of the holy prophets who spoke in times past with news of a coming Savior. Theirs was the first ray of hope to all men lost in the darkness of their sins.