The Bible says they were “eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” — the everydayness of everyday. This is the time of year for Christmas parties. Perhaps you have been at a Christmas party and heard a conversation similar to this: “How are you doing?” “Oh, I’m doing fine.” “What do you think about this weather? I heard it might snow.” “Yeah?” “I heard it might snow.” “Do you think it will snow?” “Well, Neal Pascal said that it might snow, and it’s cold enough to snow.” “I might have to change my plans if it does snow!”
“Do you recognize that couple over there?” “Well, I don’t know them personally, but I have heard about them. “He owns a small business near the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, and I have heard that at Christmas he takes money out of his own pocket, not out of the company till, and gives his employees a bonus, talks to them personally and tells them how he appreciates what they have done for him.”
“He teaches a Sunday School class at the Baptist church, and I understand that on Christmas Eve his Sunday School class goes to the downtown soup kitchen and serves dinner to the homeless.”
“I’ve heard about her. During the Christmas season she takes in foreign exchange students who don’t have a place to go during the holidays.”
“Wow, that’s extraordinary!”
“Yes, it is.”
“What are you going to do for Christmas this year?”
“Oh, we’ll probably get together like we always do and swap some gifts…if it doesn’t snow.”
“Yeah, if it doesn’t snow.”
They were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage — the everydayness of everyday.
A number of years ago David Storch checked out from the Brooklyn Public Library a script of Handel’s Messiah. Due to an error by a clerk, it was not recorded. When another came to check it out, they could not find it. A library-wide search ensued. They looked up one side and down the other in search of Handel’s Messiah, but no one could find it.
Several days later when David Storch returned it to the collection desk, the librarian looked at it and said, “Oh, the Messiah is back! The Messiah is here!” “The Messiah is here!” The exclamation went throughout the library. The workers began to exclaim to each other, “The Messiah is here! The Messiah is here!” The New York Times article said, “In a few minutes, they all went back to work.” They were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage — the every-dayness of every day.
Jesus said, “They missed it!” They missed it in Noah’s day. They were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? I mean, it is not as if life should have more or is it? With every plank that Noah put in that ark, he was preaching a sermon to his entire generation, “Get ready, God is coming!” “Get ready!” “Watch out!”
They missed it! It was happening right before them. Some workers, no doubt, worked on the boat, but when it set sail, they were treading water. Is it possible for something to be happening all around us, right under our noses, and we miss it entirely?
In our text today, Jesus said that the Son of Man is coming. Jesus is referring to the Second Coming of Christ. He is saying that He is coming at an uncertain time. It is certain that He is coming, but He is coming at an uncertain time. Jesus said, “I don’t even know, only the Father knows, but I’m coming back!” Jesus came two thousand years ago, He is coming back again, and He comes to us every day, even during the Christmas time of year. Is it possible that Christmas could happen all around us, right under our very nose, and we miss it? They were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage — the everydayness of everyday — in the same old rut, going through the same old routine.
How could something so significant happen and pass us by? I remember a statement I read by Cecil Osborne in his book How to Love Yourself. He quotes a fellow by the name of Ali Hazm, who lived a thousand years ago, and what he said then is now being verified by certain psychological thinkers. He said, “Everything we do is an effort to avoid anxiety.” Think about that. If that is true or even if it is only partially true, then very possibly we avoid certain things. When we do not pay attention to certain things, we develop blind spots.
Think with me this morning about your own life and the things that you are ignoring. Think about the areas of your life where you possibly could be developing blind spots. It works like this: We see a hungry child on a television screen, it upsets us and we don’t know what to do about it. So we just condition ourselves not to see it. We see homeless persons, but yet we condition ourselves not to see them because it upsets us. It makes us feel helpless.
Sickness makes us feel uncomfortable. So we learn to avoid the hospitals, the nursing homes and the funeral homes. We learn to ignore certain things because they are unpleasant to deal with. As a result, we sometimes develop blind spots as we look at our work and at ourselves.
Think of a grudge that you may be harboring. It’s unpleasant to deal with a grudge. If we deal with the unforgiveness in our life, we might have to go to someone and forgive them. That is very difficult to do. So we just ignore it and develop a blind spot about it. Perhaps, there is a habit within your life that you would like to get rid of but don’t because it is so unpleasant to face. So you ignore it and develop a blind spot about that particular habit.
We are a lot like the little girl who had a blouse that buttoned up the back. She was having trouble getting it buttoned, her hands and arms just couldn’t reach around to do so. She finally went to her mother and said, “Mother, can you help me with this? I am in front of myself.” Sometimes we get in front of ourselves, and we cannot see what is right before us.
Or perhaps we do see it and know that it is happening. But there will be time for it later. We have no time to worry about it today. Scarlett O’Hara said, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow.” It is as if there is going to be a two-minute warning. We act as if God is going to blow a whistle, giving us a two minute warning. The defense is going in a prevent defense, we’re going to bring in the great quarterback to save the day. Everything is going to be fine. We’re going to win the game because we took advantage of the two-minute warning. But does life really work that way? Sometimes the Bible even supports it.
The most famous story Jesus ever told is my favorite story. It is about a young man whogot tired of living at home, and said, “Daddy, I want what is mine.” He took what was his, went into a far country and wasted all that he had. After a time, he came to himself and in the pig pen said, “I’ll go back to my father.” Sure enough, the rather welcomed him back after all of those wasted years. There was a great party with great rejoicing. And that is true!
Jesus told another story about some workers who were hired by a man in a vineyard. Some worked twelve hours, some worked nine hours, some worked six hours, some worked three hours and some worked only one hour. They were hired at the very last minute and only worked one hour, but they were paid as much as those who worked twelve hours. Got in at the last minute, and made as much as those who worked all day long! “Ah ha, there will be another chance. I’ll slip in at the last minute.” The possibility for that is true.
Jesus also told a story about ten maidens who went to a wedding. When they arrived some were prepared and some were not. The bridegroom delayed his coming, and the ones who were prepared met the bridegroom. Those who were not prepared did not meet the bridegroom. The opportunity was lost.
Jesus said that if you knew what time the thief was coming to steal your possessions you would be awake. You would be prepared. But we don’t know. The man was asleep when the thief came, and he lost all of his possessions. They were eating, drinking and marrying and giving in marriage – the everydayness of everyday. They were going through the routine. It happened all around them, and they missed it. The boat sailed as they were treading water. What can we do if God is trying to make the spirit of Christmas alive right before us?
What can we do to prepare for His coming? Perhaps one thing we can do is live every day with a sensitivity and an openness to God’s activity. He’s coming! He’s coming, and we can approach every single day with a sense of openness, with a sense of receptivity and expectancy. Ann Lindberg calls this “poised in the present.”
It was February, 1809, in Hardin County, Ky., as a mail carrier was making his way through the small group of people always centered around the watering hole. “What’s happening around here?”
“Oh, nothing ever happens around here.”
“Oh, there is some talk of a national bank.”
“Some people said that there is trouble brewing between the United States and Britain.”
“Mister, nothing ever happens around here.”
“We did hear some news about Nancy Hanks and Tom Lincoln having a little boy last night. But nothing ever happens around here.”
We are to live every day with a sense of openness, expectancy and sensitivity to what God is trying to do all around us, because He does come. He does come.
One way that we might enact our sensitivity to that is to do something personally. We can do something to make ourselves more aware. Halford Luccock told of a man who for seventeen years was the stage doorman at one of the great theaters in New York City. For seventeen years he guarded that stage door and not one single time did he ever go in and watch a play. Do something! Do something personal! Do something particular! Christmas may happen to you through a blessing. Christmas may come to you through a burden, but Christmas will come to you if you only watch and do something about it.
We sometimes think that the holocaust concentration camps were snake pits where people connived and manipulated and looked out only for themselves. Many times just the opposite was true. A true story is told of two women in a concentration camp. Gerta Klein and her best friend, Ilsie, were together in a concentration camp amid all the suffering and horror. One day Gerta was on a work detail. The weather was terrible and in the midst of all the misery that was going on around her, there she saw it! She never dreamed she would see it. But there she saw it! Right there on the ground! She picked it up and put it in her hand, found a leaf and wrapped it up, and put it in the pocket of the ragged coat she was wearing. All day long she was careful not to let anything happen to it.
At the end of the day when she got back to the concentration camp, there she bore it from her pocket. There as a gift of love, as an expression of compassion, she gave to her best friend, Ilsie, that which she had found and treasured all day long. There she bore it in her hands wrapped in a common leaf. There it was, a beautiful ripe raspberry! Do something! It doesn’t have to be big. Do something. Do something personally.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon said that God happened to him this way: He was looking for God, but could not find him. He did not even know if God had a purpose for his life. He heard about a Methodist chapel. He went there and at the time for the service to begin, nothing happened. About ten or fifteen minutes later a layman got up and said, “Well, it looks like the circuit rider has been delayed. So we’ll just have a word of Scripture and then we’ll all go home.” Spurgeon sat there disappointed that God was not speaking to him and giving him direction for his life. God was not happening!
The layman read from the Scripture, “Look, unto me ye ends of the earth and you will be saved.” And Spurgeon said, “That’s it! Just look around you.” We don’t have to know when God is coming. We don’t have to anticipate or know the exact moment. God is coming. Just look around.
Christmas could be right under your very nose. Christmas could be happening all around you. Just look. I think I saw Christmas during our Hanging of the Green Service when Jerry and Susan Lee stood up front reading the Scripture, and little Amanda ran down the aisle and grabbed their hand.
I think I saw Christmas a few days ago when a friend that I care for very much hugged my neck.
I think I saw Christmas last Sunday morning when Frances Marinda could not speak a word because of laryngitis, but when it came time for her to sing, she sang like a nightingale.
I think I saw Christmas in my wife’s eyes as she told me about Saturday when she and her fellow workers bought and wrapped Christmas presents for 50 people, mostly children, who would not have had Christmas otherwise.
I saw Christmas yesterday as we journeyed to Huntsville, Alabama and saw Lee and Myrtle Kilborne, after fifty years of marriage, renew their vows and love for each other. They took the unit, candle, lit the two on the side and then passed the light down to their families seated on the front row.
I think I saw Christmas this past week as Eleanor Iler on Tuesday night called Una Courtney and said, “Una, I was just thinking about you. I just want to know if you’re all right, and I just want to tell you that I love you.” And with that, Evonne, the nurse, took the phone from her hand. As the nurse turned her head, Eleanor Iler went to be with Jesus. I think Eleanor Iler will know Christmas this year. I hope you will.
I am not going to tell you what or how it will happen. I might ruin the surprise. It’s happening all around you. I hope you don’t miss it!