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Dec 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 13, 2020

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here on stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray.” Mark 13: 1-5

Intro: We are in the third week of the season of Advent

We’ve been preparing ourselves to welcome Jesus on Christmas morning
– it’s not that he hasn’t been with us, but we need reminders rituals
• they allow us to participate in events that transcends history
– we began by focusing attention on Jesus then on opening to mystery
• there is a mystery behind all reality – even yourself, myself, our pets, etc.
◦ the mystery must be encountered, because it’s so wonderful
• if you’ve been looking for mystery this past week,
◦ but each day turned out the same old thing, like the day before,
◦ then we need to have a talk about waking up

This “discourse” is ground zero for biblical prophecy enthusiasts
(see also Matthew 24 and Luke 21:5-38)

I am referring to Christians who interpret “the signs” of Jesus’ return, look for their fulfillment in current events, and then predict the day and the hour in which it will occur
– I think most of them miss Jesus’ opening statement,
See that no one leads you astray
Ben Witherington III, “The early church earnestly expected Christ to return, but that expectation was not trivialized into calculation. . . . they knew that God has revealed enough of the future to give us hope, but not so much that we do not need to live by faith. . . . Indeed, to predict the timing of Christ’s return with accuracy would make unnecessary the very sort of trust in God and assurance about the future hope that . . . we should embrace . . . . [Prognostications of the future] is just human beings getting an itchy trigger finger and not being able to leave matters in God’s hands.”
– there are several other verses I want to emphasize:
verse 9, but be on your guard
verse 23, But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand
verse 33, Be on guard, keep awake
verse 35, Therefore stay awake, for you do not know when the master of the house will come
verse 36, And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake
Be on your guard, be on guard, be on guard
Keep awake, stay awake, stay awake
• I find it ironic, and sad, that Jesus gave these explicit warnings
◦ then soon after, when Jesus was struggling in garden
◦ and danger was close at hand, his disciples could not stay awake
• it’s a reminder, that being up-to-date on end times data,
◦ does not necessarily result in appropriate devotion and behavior
– anyway, I take comfort in the fact that the disciples still belonged to Jesus
• Jesus did not give up on them — and he doesn’t give up on us
• if only they had known what was coming
◦ but that is the point, exactly!
◦ we do not know when the next crisis will come crashing down on us

Setting biblical predictions to one side, when I was reading this chapter in Mark’s gospel last Tuesday, it occurred to me,
• if I had been trained by Secret Service for presidential detail
◦ I would always be alert to any potential threat
◦ hiding places, access and egress, dangerous objects, etc.
◦ is janitor really a janitor? Reporter really a reporter?
• since I do not have that training, I live in unawareness most of the time
◦ but can I train myself–to be aware of my surroundings?
◦ aware of others? aware of goodness? truth? beauty?
– I believe I can–that we can–train ourselves to be more mindful
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Tim. 4:7-8)

My own awareness is threatened by three obsessions

I have to correct these issues to be more awake and aware

Automatic pilot – habit is a wonderful gift
– we do not have to concentrate on every little detail of daily activities
• when I tie my shoes, I never think, “Now I’m tying my shoes”
◦ my mind is free to think about other things
◦ where I’m going, what I’ll be doing, Will I be on time?
• but habit can interfere with awareness
◦ because it allows us to sleep through most of our waking hours
– I don’t think we realize how many moments we lose in this haze

Electronic addictions – email, social media, television, video games
– I know better than to open my email before reading my Bible
• if I did, either I’d never get to Bible
◦ or else the mode of thinking formed by responding to my email,
◦ would dull my reading
– Neil Postman’s warning is as valid today as in 1985,
• his book: Amusing Ourselves to Death
• 24-hour entertainment is America’s most abused narcotic

Dark moods – I’ll return to these in a moment
– for now, when I’m in a dark mood I become self-absorbed
• I lose perspective – fail to notice everything beautiful, the good, the true
• I lose my awareness of others and their needs

It might be useful to give ourselves wake-up calls

The goal of a wake-up call, is to bring us back to awareness
– to open remind us to look and to listen
• and to move from ideas to encounter, from concepts to experience
• what can we do?

Read and listen mindfully to God in the Scriptures
– relax, take slow, deep breaths –focus attention, take your time
• make this an exercise in noticing
• read with both the head and the heart
◦ meditating and contemplating
– respond as you listen – pray, sing, bow your head, sign the cross
• allow yourself to be surprised – surprise is always good for waking us up

Return to nature – as often as possible
– try to see it through eyes of a child
• don’t ignore or squelch the excitement you feel when you see a butterfly
◦ pay attention to sunrise and sunset – respond with praise
– escape the world of artificial “things” and counterfeit values
• escape the noise, the confusion, and the anxiety it creates
• the natural world has a different effect on us

Cultivate reverence – the attitude one has in God’s presence
– worship is inspired by wonder and awe
– look for mystery and say, “I don’t know”
• this is a statement of liberation – the opposite of trying to take control
◦ I don’t know what God will do next, but I want to be there
◦ I don’t know about this evening, but I’m here now
• when coming home, check to see if you’ve been mindful
◦ “I went to the grocery store, but was I there?”
• look for the image of God in other people

Stay with special moments of grace
– I hope you know what I mean
• linger in those moments of realization
The Lord is in this place!

We can make confessing our sins a meaningful act
– we’re all broken – admitting it deepens our humility
– we prefer to hide our sins and ourselves, like Adam Eve
• to deal with our bad stuff on our own
• we miss the help Jesus gives and the love we could receive
◦ returning to God enhances mindfulness
In his story of the prodigal son, Jesus said that it was when he came to his senses that he realized what he needed was in the home of his father and that is when he decided to return

When any change occurs, pay attention
– does not matter if it is a desired or undesirable change
• change wakes us up
• if we’re cold and go stand by the fire, we notice the feeling of warmth
◦ notice how you are changed through transition
◦ how it helps you to see and think differently

Do one thing every day in which you are fully present
– purpose of contemplative prayer: practice being fully present
– ask, “What is being given to me in this moment,” then notice

Count your blessings – I know this sounds cliché and overused,
– but Henri Nouwen reinvigorated this practice for me
• in his book, Life of the Beloved, he has a chapter entitle, “Blessed”
Nouwen tells his friend, “The feeling of being blessed is not, it seems to me the feeling that we generally have about ourselves,” that they have more often felt cursed than blessed.” But the curses “are lies” and we have to make a choice.
Nouwen lists some of life’s daily blessings and says, “These many blessings do not have to be invented. They are there, surrounding us on all sides. But we have to be present to them and receive them. They don’t force themselves on us.”
– people who are blessed become a blessing
• for instance, Abraham, blessed by God became a blessing (Ge. 12:12)

Conclusion: Can these wake-up calls work during lockdown?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, in another context, says, “Literally having nowhere to go makes it easier to be where you are.”

Why do we want to be awake for Christmas?
Well, if the star is shining over Bethlehem,
and angels serenading shepherds,
and the Word is becoming flesh to live among us,
what’s the point if we miss the whole thing because we slept through it?
Or if rather than being awake to the miracle,
we are bothered distracted by the “many things”
of celebrating Christmas in the year 2020?
Heaven is coming close to earth again
Don’t you want to be awake for that?

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