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“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:5-6

Are you ready for the coming of the LORD? The Scriptures assure us that His coming is at hand and could be at any time (cf. Matthew 24-25; Revelation 22:20). Will it be a joyful day for you, or a day of sorrow and sadness? How can you be ready for that day?

The Old Testament Prophet Malachi prophesied that the LORD would send Elijah the prophet before the great and dreadful day of the LORD, and that he would “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”

We see the fulfillment of this prophecy in the New Testament, in the birth and ministry of John the Baptist (cf. Luke 1 & 3 Matthew 11). How did John prepare the people for the coming of the LORD? He preached “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4) and called upon all, both young and old, to turn from their sins to the Lord for forgiveness and life in the Messiah, Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (cf. Luke 3 & John 1).

Are you ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus to judge the living and the dead? The way to be prepared is no different than in the days of John the Baptist. The way to be ready is to repent of your sinful ways and turn to the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and life for the sake of His holy life and innocent sufferings and death in your stead. Or, as Peter said on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). In all your preparations to celebrate Christ’s first coming, don’t neglect to prepare for His return!

O dearest Jesus, You came into this world and gave Your life on the cross to bear the full punishment for my sins, and You rose again and ascended into heaven that I might turn to You for forgiveness and life and then follow after You and live for You until Your glorious advent to judge the living and the dead and take all who have placed their hope in You to reign with You in Your glorious heavenly kingdom. I know that I have sinned against You and have gone my own way. Graciously forgive my sins and create in me a new heart that trusts in You, loves You, and seeks to honor and glorify Your name by living for You. Make me ready for that day when You appear in the clouds of glory with all Your holy angels, and grant me a place in Your eternal kingdom. I ask this for the sake of Your blood, shed for me upon the cross. Amen.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. Romans 13:11

Today is the beginning of a new church year, and we begin with the Advent Season in which we focus on preparation and readiness for the coming of the Christ — not only for His first coming but also and especially for His second coming as King of kings and Lord of lords when He will judge all the peoples and nations of this world and establish His eternal kingdom of glory (Rev. 19:11ff.; 20:12ff.).

John the Baptist was sent ahead of Messiah Jesus at His first coming to prepare the people to meet Him. John called upon all to repent of their sins and to look in faith to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; Matt. 3:1-6; Mark 1:4).

Jesus, too, called upon all to repent and look to Him and His cross in faith that they might receive God’s pardon and forgiveness (cf. John 3:14-18; Mark 1:14-15). And before his ascension into heaven, Jesus commissioned His apostles, saying, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48).

Though Jesus warned of the coming judgment and the consequences of not believing in Him (John 8:24) and even wept over Jerusalem and the judgments which would come upon the people there for their unbelief (Matt. 23:37-39; Luke 19:41ff.), Jesus did not immediately judge the world. He has been “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

But, the next verses in 2 Peter 3 say: “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (v. 10-12).

We also heard in our epistle lesson for today the words of Romans 13:11-14: “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”

And last Sunday, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, we learned the importance of continuing in the Word of God and the Sacraments that our lamps not go out but that our faith be strengthened and preserved through the gracious working of God’s Spirit through the Means of Grace.

And why is this so important? When Jesus returns on the Last Day in judgment, the time of the Lord’s grace will have run out. There will be no more opportunity for repentance and faith.

It is as it says in Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” Cf. Matt. 24:29ff.

And why will the nations weep and mourn? Because it will be too late and the time of their judgment will have come. Those who remained impenitent and unbelieving will be condemned to the eternal fires of hell because they continued on in their sinful and rebellious ways and did not turn from their sins to faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross! Cf. Heb. 10:26ff.; 2 Thess. 1:6ff.

What about you? Are you ready for His coming? We don’t know the day or the hour, but it is nearer than when we first believed.

Don’t think that you can be ready for that day by your own works or in your own righteousness! And, don’t think that you can continue on in your sinful ways and still be ready! Those who continue on in their sinful ways and fulfill the desires of the flesh will weep and mourn on that day for they will not be ready to meet the Lord Jesus! They reject His words, and they will be condemned forever to the fires of hell! Cf. John 12:48.

The prophet Joel warned the visible Old Testament church: “The day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (Joel 2:11-13).

Isaiah likewise wrote (Isa. 1:16-20): “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”

Peter preached: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts. 3:19).

Jesus is coming! The day of His coming is sooner than when we first believed. On that day, all will confess: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39; cf. Phil. 2:11). And, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! We praise You, Christ Jesus our Savior, and pray that You would come and establish Your everlasting kingdom and reign over us as our God and King. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” Psalm 100

It is sad how few truly know and recognize the truth expressed by this ancient psalm.

In spite of what we may think, the LORD (Jehovah) is God. He always has been and always will be.

He made us; we did not make ourselves, nor are we the product of some chance evolutionary process. Not only did the Almighty God create the first man and woman (Genesis 1-2), He caused each of us to be conceived in our mother’s womb, and He created and formed us there (cf. Psalm 139:13-16). We are, indeed, “His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

We have every reason to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise” — every reason to “be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.” Why? Because “The LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.”

Think about it! Are we deserving of His care and blessing? Does He owe it to us to give us our families, our jobs, our food and our health?

When we consider how we have rebelled against Him and so often set aside His commandments, we truly deserve only His wrath and eternal punishment. Yet, He is merciful to us and continues to give us all that we need in life.

In His mercy, God also gave His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to obey His commandments in our place, to suffer and die for our sins and then to rise again from the dead that we might be spared in God’s judgment. For Jesus’ sake, the LORD God deals with us in mercy, graciously calling us to repent and turn to Him for the forgiveness of our sins and life everlasting instead of the judgment and eternal punishment we deserve.

And we can be thankful, too, that “His truth endureth to all generations.” His Word, the Bible, has not been lost or corrupted through the ages as some assume. He has preserved it as a witness to all people of all time of His goodness and mercy toward us in creating and redeeming us.

His Word continues, even yet today, to teach us to know the LORD God who made us and sent His Son to die for us and redeem us. Through the Bible, we learn who the true God is. We learn His holy will and see our sinfulness. But we also learn of His love and forgiveness toward us for the sake of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead (cf. 2 Tim. 3:14-17).

This Thanksgiving and every day, let us do as the psalm enjoins:
“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

We thank You, dear heavenly Father for Your goodness and mercy toward us for Jesus’ sake. We praise and bless Your holy name. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” Matthew 25:1-13

Are you ready for Jesus Christ to return on the Last Day? Jesus told this parable to admonish us to be watchful and ready at all times for His return.

Jesus here compares the kingdom of heaven to ten virgins who “took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” The wise virgins took extra oil for their lamps so that they would be ready even if the “bridegroom tarried.” The foolish took only the oil in their lamps and did not consider the possibility that their lamps would go out before the bridegroom arrived. As a result, these foolish virgins were not prepared and ready when the bridegroom came; and they did not enter with the bridegroom into the marriage feast.

With this parable, Jesus warns us against being foolishly unprepared for His return on the Last Day. It is foolish for us who believe in Christ today to fall asleep and not be watching for His return. It is foolish not to have our faith continually nourished and kept burning through the regular use of the Word of God and the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). AC V; FC, SD, XI, Par. 14-22; John 6:63; 8:31-32; Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; Phil. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:23-25; 2:2-3.

If we do not make such provision through the continued use of the Word of God in our homes and Word and Sacraments in our church, we may find our lamps empty and gone out (our faith dead) at Jesus’ coming.

Those who have no living, saving faith in Jesus Christ when He returns in Judgment will be shut out of heaven, for it will be too late to rekindle faith at that time! But those who have wisely provided oil for their lamps — those who continue to nourish their faith by remembering their Baptism, using the Word of God, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ given and shed for the remission of sins, that the Holy Ghost may through these means keep their faith burning and give and assure to them the forgiveness of all their sins and of life everlasting for Jesus’ sake — will enter into heaven with Jesus and enjoy its blessings forever (cf. 2 Thess. 1:4-12; Psalm 16:11; 17:15; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:1ff.).

With my lamp well trimmed and burning, swift to hear and slow to roam, watching for Thy glad returning to restore me to my home. Come, my Savior, Come, my Savior, O my Savior, quickly come. Amen. (John S.B. Monsell, 1863, The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #606, Verse 4)

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Romans 13:11-14

It is a sad fact that the Day of the Lord – that Day on which our Lord Jesus Christ returns to judge the living and the dead – will come upon many unaware and asleep. Instead of being found awake and trusting in Christ Jesus, they will be found sleeping spiritually and continuing in unbelief and sin. That day will be for them a day of weeping and sorrow (Rev. 1:7; Mt. 25:1ff).

With that Day drawing ever closer, the Apostle Paul warns against living in sin and unbelief as though the Day of Judgment is far off. Should we continue in impenitence and sin – living after the desires of our old sinful flesh – God’s Word warns us: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

Indeed, God’s Word tells us all that “it is high time to awake out of sleep … The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” We cannot honestly claim to be believers in the Lord Jesus if we neglect and reject His Word to us, refuse to repent of our evil ways and do not turn to Him in faith for the forgiveness of our sins and for acceptance into God’s eternal kingdom.

And if we, as Christians, sow to our sinful flesh, we will “of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6:8). Instead of being preserved and growing in the faith, we will suffer the loss of faith and forfeit the blessings Christ won for us by His atoning sacrifice.

That’s why God’s Word calls upon us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for our flesh to fulfill its evil desires. We are urged to sow to the Spirit, that the Spirit might strengthen and preserve our faith and keep us in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting (Gal. 6:8).

God desires that we wake up from spiritual sleep and darkness and receive His gift. And, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

“Wake, awake for night is flying,” the watchmen on the heights are crying; “Awake, Jerusalem, arise!” Midnight hears the welcome voices and at the thrilling cry rejoices: “O where are ye, ye virgins wise? The Bridegroom comes, awake! Your lamps with gladness take! Hallelujah! With bridal care, yourselves prepare to meet the Bridegroom, who is near.” Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, No. 609)

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]


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