As most of you know, my mother is in a nursing home up in Lewiston. She has a dementia that has been brought on by a series of strokes. I make an effort to visit with her every Friday. I go at noon so that I can feed her her lunch. Well – I go and I try to feed her her lunch. She almost always refuses – refuses – to eat anything – although the staff assures me that every morning she eats her breakfast. But that’s about it.
At the table where I try to feed my mother sits a woman with Alzheimer’s. I think most of you know – or at least have an idea – what a dreadful thing dementia of any kind is. This other woman was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was in her mid-60’s. Her husband George visits her every day – three times a day – to feed his wife. And unlike my mother – Elizabeth will eat everything on her plate. Everything.
It has been at least 5 years since Elizabeth was first diagnosed. And when George was no longer able to take care of her at home – he placed her first in an assisted living facility – interestingly enough the same one my mother started out in – and then finally to this nursing home.
George and I talk to each other because neither my mother nor his wife can carry on a conversation. So I’ve learned a lot about George, and he about me. When I told him I was a Lutheran pastor he said, “We’re Lutherans. But we haven’t been to church in years.” And he said, “Tell me Randy. How can there be a God who allows this to happen. It’s so unfair.” And I said, “I understand. Your hopes and your dreams for this time in your life was for travel and enjoying life as a retired couple. This is not what you had hoped for. This is not what you were expecting. I get that.”
Now, George had had the same conversation with my sister. And when George talked about how unfair this was, and how could there be a God who allows this to happen, do you know what my sister told him? She said, “This is not God’s fault. It is not anybody’s fault. But these things happen because we live in a sinful world where bad things happen.” I was so proud of her. And I told my sister, “That’s the same thing that I told George.”
Folks – I gotta tell ya – I gotta tell you something you already know. There are no guarantees in life. Some of you are going through – or have gone through – times of darkness – maybe even great darkness – in your life. Times when life just doesn’t seem fair. And if you haven’t – the chances are real good that someday you will.
Now – aren’t you glad you came to church today? Isn’t that exactly what you came here to hear? Hey! Let me also tell you something else. It is precisely because we live in a fallen world – precisely because life doesn’t always seem fair – when we go through those times of darkness – times that are totally beyond our control – at those times when we need God the most – those are the times that God comes to us.
Listen! I’m here to tell you today that God is on a mission. God’s got a plan. In fact – God’s whole purpose in coming to us and making Himself know to us in the person of His Son Jesus Christ – is to rescue us from those times – from those unexpected events – when life just doesn’t seem fair.
Now you know that Christmas is just a few weeks away. I hope you also know that what we celebrate at Christmas – the birth of the Christ-child – is a major event in God’s rescue plan. And any talk about Christmas ultimately leads to talk about getting ready.
So we’re in this season called Advent. It’s a time of getting ready. And for those of you who were here a few weeks ago – when my sermon focused on the parable of the five wise and the five foolish maidens – I finished that message by inviting you to get ready – to be ready – and to stay ready. If you didn’t write it down the first time – write it down now. There will be a test. As disciples of Jesus Christ – we need to get ready – to be ready – and to stay ready.
And that’s pretty much what this season of Advent is all about. That pretty much is what Jesus is telling us again today in our Gospel reading when he tells us to keep awake.
But just what in the world are we really getting ready for? Glad you asked.
• Advent is a celebration of what has been. Jesus Christ born into the world.
• Advent is a celebration of what is yet to come. Christ will come again.
• AND – Advent is a celebration of the Christ who comes to us right now.
Folks – Jesus comes to you right now. Right here. Right where you are. No matter what’s going on in your life right now. Maybe things for you couldn’t be better right now. Jesus comes to you right where you are. Maybe you’re thinking right now that life just doesn’t seem fair. Christ comes to you right where you are.
Now – our Gospel lesson today focuses on the second Advent – or the second coming – of Christ. And since we don’t know when that’s going to be – we wait. Let me repeat that. We wait – with hope and expectation. We wait for the Savior to return. And we get ready – to be ready – in order to stay ready – by living a life of repentance that leads to forgiveness.
We get ready and we stay ready by being the kind of people that God is calling us to be – living the kind of lives that God is calling us to live – lives that reflect the light of Christ in our hearts and our lives – making a difference in the lives of others for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Why? Because I know that you know – that we are in need of a Savior. Believers as well as non-believers. Believers are in need of a Savior because sometimes life is not fair. And we need Jesus to walk with us. And we need a Savior – because we are sometimes prone to wander. Sometimes we run away from God. Or we choose to stay away. SO we are always in need of a Savior. We are always in need of the Good News.
And non-believers are in need of the Gospel too. There is a whole world out there that needs to hear that there is a better way. There is a whole world out there that needs to hear that their wait for a Savior can be over.
Maybe you’re here [tonight] [this morning] and you’re skeptical about this church stuff. This God thing – this whole Jesus thing called Christmas. Maybe you don’t see the reason. Or the need. Maybe you’re thinking “How can there be a God when life is so unfair?” But let me tell you something. Nowhere in the Scriptures do we hear Jesus saying, “Come, follow me and be my disciple, and all of your problems will go away.” Has anybody here ever read anything like that in the Bible? No. Neither have I. But what does Jesus say? Just before he ascended into heaven – as he is saying goodbye to his disciples – what does he say? “Remember this. I am with you – some of the time.” No? “I am with you once in awhile.” No? He didn’t say that? So what did he say? Say it with me. “I am with you – always.” Yes. You know that.
Folks – let me tell you something. Life isn’t fair. And all those bad things that happen – especially those things over which we have no control – is because of the presence of sin and evil in the world. We live in a fallen world. That’s why bad things happen. And not necessarily because you’ve sinned and God’s getting back at you. No. I’m a firm believer that God’s not mad at you. Let me say it again. God’s not mad at you. But bad things – unfair things happen because there is evil in the world. And that’s the reason why God comes to us. And because bad things happen – God has a rescue plan. God is on a rescue mission.
Listen! Let me tell you the fascinating story of Marie Kreassman. Marie Kreassman was a Polish Jew who, during WWII, was rounded up along with thousands of others, and put to work on the German war machine, in forced labor. She was sent to the Volkswagen factory, that at that time was making Tiger Tanks. She was pregnant and soon gave birth to her baby boy. The child was immediately taken away and sent to the Volkswagen Children’s Home. She never knew what happened to him; she was never allowed to visit.
One night in desperation she snuck out of the camp and hiked the eight miles to the children’s home. If she were caught, it would have meant instant death. She found her child and she hardly recognized him. He was skin and bones. She kidnapped her own child and literally walked away from the home and never came back and, remarkably she was never caught. Of the 300 children who entered the Volkswagen Children’s Home, this one child survived. Over the years, the child Vladimir Kreassman and his mother Marie have been interviewed many times to tell their incredible story.
Folks – that was a rescue mission. In the midst of tremendous evil – that was a rescue mission. And something very much like that is what God is up to. It’s the whole reason why He sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world. It’s the whole reason why there is a Christmas and why we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child every year at this time. It’s part of God’s plan. God’s rescue plan. And let me tell you something. There is no other plan. There is no other Savior.
And that is precisely why God’s rescue plan – God’s rescue mission – is made possible. It is made possible through the birth – through the life, the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. God has come to save us – from our own sinfulness – from those times when things look dark – and when life just doesn’t seem fair. I am a firm believer that when Jesus promises to be with us – when life just doesn’t seem fair – he is there to walk with us – and if necessary to carry us – and to help us rise above those dark periods of our lives.
So as we prepare – as we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus some 2000 years ago – and as we prepare and get ready for that time when He will come again – may I alert you to the fact that Jesus comes to you. Right here. Right now. In this place.
In the darkness – into your darkness – there is a light that shines. The Savior of the world has come. His name is Jesus. Amen