Preparing the Way
By Ed Young
December 13, 2015
Christmas is a time of celebration and preparation. But it’s also a time of anticipation. Just as people during the first Christmas anticipated the birth of Jesus and his introduction into the world, this is a time of year when we anticipate all that God is going to continue to do in the world. And as we prepare to celebrate what has been done in the past, Pastor Ed Young helps us discover how God is preparing the way for something even greater in the future!
Yep, we’re having a wedding in several weeks. One of our daughters is getting married and we’ve been preparing for this wedding. Weddings, I’m telling you, weddings are an ordeal. I love weddings. The wedding itself will be absolutely amazing but the planning process has been pretty, pretty crazy. No wonder women watch these shows like Say Yes to the Dress. No wonder Bridezilla is so popular! It’s so fascinating, weddings. And I’m thinking to myself, one of our daughters is getting married. Just to wrap my brain around that, I’m having a hard time with that. We have been in the throes, though, of planning for this wedding. Really, though, it’s Lisa. I’ve not really planned that much. I’ve just kinda – yeah, yeah, let’s do that.
The other day I heard a conversation. You won’t believe this. They were debating on the weight of napkins and tablecloths that we’re supposed to rent for this little dinner following the wedding. The weight, guys. I’m talking about the weight of a napkin and a tablecloth! So our daughter had a choice, and of course she chose the most expensive. I didn’t realize this but the heavier a tablecloth weighs, the more a napkin weighs, the more expensive it is. I’ve got 3 daughters. I can’t write enough books. Weddings.
Ninety percent of us will get married at least once in our lifetime and we will have a wedding. I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of weddings in my life. When I worked at the church my father pastors in Houston I did wedding after wedding after wedding. I have some great wedding stories. One day I would love to write a book about the crazy things that happened in the ministry and some of those things have happened during weddings. Because when you talk about weddings you have emotion and you’ve got family and you’ve got all sorts of theatrics just on display. It’s really raw, it’s real, it’s sentimental, a wedding. In fact I’m going to do a wedding in a couple of days. I don’t do very many weddings but I’m on my way to do one.
This is kind of funny. I’ve always loved fashion my entire life, I just have. Even when I was a little kid like two years old I’d watch sports and back in the day in the 60’s you couldn’t even buy little pants with stripes down the sides, like football players wore. My mother, she’s very creative, she would sew stripes down my pants and run. Whoa, look at that stripe! I remember that at two years old. And you could but shirts back in the day with numbers and she would make me these shirts and paint the numbers on them, and wow. The reason I’m telling you that is I’ve never bought a tux in my life until a couple of days ago. I bought a tux. I have to wear a tux for this wedding. And that was fun. I was standing there in the mirror going, man, I look pretty good in a tux!
You know, a little bit of trivia, the first job I ever had was in a tuxedo shop when I was 15 years old. I know you don’t care about that but it has to do with weddings.
Well today as we kick off this series on advent, advent, I’m going to talk about weddings. Huh? Now when I say advent, because we’re calling this Advent-ageous, the Advent advantage. When I say advent what do you think about? A lot of churches celebrate the advent. The advent is basically the four Sundays before Christmas Eve. So we’re launching this series Advent, not at the exact time. I guess historically we should have but we are launching it.
What does it mean when I say advent? An advent is a coming or an arrival. That’s an advent. A coming or an arrival. There’s a difference, though. We need to understand the difference between an event and an advent. An advent is not just an event, nor is an event an advent. An event is pedestrian. An advent would be powerful. An event is flippant whereas and advent is faithful. An event is casual, and an advent would be more cosmic. An event is trite, it’s something that just kind of happens, whereas an advent is treasure. An advent is something that we should be involved in and when we involve ourselves in this there will be an advantage in our lives. It’s very advantageous for us if we understand the depth of the advent.
So here’s my definition of the advent. An advent is the preparation for the celebration of the incarnation of Jesus. That’s the advent. That’s the first part of the definition. It’s the participation of the celebration of the incarnation. What’s the incarnation? When God walked down the staircase of Heaven with a baby in his arms. The incarnation. Jesus became flesh. That’s the incarnation. That happened 2,000 years ago. We’re preparing for that. Churches around the world are preparing for that, to celebrate the coming. Jesus was born in a manger. But it doesn’t stop there. Any time you think about the manger the manger is overshadowed by the cross. Jesus lived, he died, he rose again. Then after he appeared to a number of people, 500 people one time at the same time, he was taken away to the heavenlies. And from now until he comes again we’re involved in the church age.
So work with me now. The advent has a dual focus. It’s the preparation of the celebration of the incarnation, that’s the first aspect of it. The second aspect of it is it’s the anticipation of the coronation of our salvation. It’s looking forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ. So those of us who are believers – and if you’re not, that’s cool. Take notes. Don’t count ceiling tiles. Think about this. But for those of us who are believers, wow. That should bring in great Godfidence, great hope, great security. Because I don’t know if you think this way. I do. When I see what’s going on in our world today, just this past week, acts of terrorism. When you see the mayhem and the racism and the ridiculous decision making by so many leaders who are supposed to be educated, who are supposed to be so smart and full of sense, yet common sense is unique, isn’t it? It’s not common, it’s highly uncommon. But when I see some of these things… and a close friend of mine’s brother, as I told you just a couple of weeks ago, was murdered in cold blood. And we’ve been having these conversations and these texts going back and forth. When I see these things I say to myself, and I know you do, too, somebody’s got to pay! I mean, don’t you think that? I do. I mean, somebody’s got to pay for this. Somebody’s got to pay for this. Somebody’s got to pay for this.
And if you think back in the book of Genesis you have a man and woman created in the image of God. They were sinless. They had this great relationship with God, yet they had freedom of choice. Man chose to sin. Then they discovered their sin had sequestered them from God. God killed an innocent animal, spilled the blood of an innocent animal, took the covering, took the skin of the innocent animal and Adam and Eve used it to cover their nakedness. A foreshadowing of what would take place in the sacrificial system in the Old Testament, an innocent third party shedding its blood to atone for the sins of man. Then the ultimate sin sacrifice, Jesus, being born. Jesus, dying. Jesus shedding his blood for your sins and mine on the cross, and innocent third party, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus, who conquered death by rising again, then he went up to be with the Father in Heaven. Yet throughout the pages of Scripture we see it. We see it. It’s going to culminate with Jesus coming back. He’s going to settle the score. He is going to deal with sin and the devil and the demons, they will spend eternity in the lake of fire.
And let me say again, God does not hurl anyone to Hell. Hell was not designed for human beings. So for someone to go to Hell, they will have to go against the grain, against the will of God. So when you hear about the advent, yeah, it’s a celebration. It’s like, wow! Yay, God! Because he sent Jesus. Jesus became flesh but we have to remember, too, what Jesus did. The work on the cross, his resurrection, and now we wait and wait for the second coming of Jesus.
Now in every generation you have a group of people, usually whackos, who say, “Oh yeah, I know the time when Jesus will return.” Well if you ever meet someone who knows the time Jesus will return, you know he ain’t coming back then. Because the Bible says no one knows except God himself when the Lord will return.
So I could go on and on about the history of the advent. I could teach you some things maybe you’ve never heard about the advent, but I’ve given you what you need to know about the advent. It is a dual focus. We think about the birth, the manger, and obviously we think about the cross. But we look forward to Jesus coming again. The imminent second return, second coming of Jesus Christ. So the first advent is the birth, the second advent will be the second coming of Jesus.
But I’m a so-what person. So what? So what? So what? Let’s go back to a wedding. Let’s just go back to a wedding because Jesus talked a lot about weddings. And if you think about the advent, if you think about the gospel, you know the gospel is sort of a come and go type situation. Have you thought about that? You know, during the holidays – before I get into weddings, I just thought about this. During the holidays, you know a lot of people have come and go parties. Drop-ins. Have you heard of a drop-in before? Anybody? A drop-in? A drop-in is basically you have a party and let’s say it lasts from 3:00pm until 6:00pm and people just drop in. They’re supposed to drop in and leave. That’s what they’re supposed to do, they are. It’s kind of funny. In my neighborhood last year we had a drop-in at our house and we had pretty much the whole neighborhood show up.
It’s funny how we love to see where people live. What is that about human beings? Dogs don’t really care about the way other dogs live, or ants don’t or fish don’t really care, but human beings, we are enthralled. Whoa! I get to come over to your house! And especially to a pastor’s house. Any time we ever have a party at our house pretty much 100% of the people we invite show up. It’s funny. They look around… whoa! You mean you have a bathroom? You use a bathroom? You have a kitchen? Really? Yes, it’s funny.
So we had this party, a drop-in at the neighborhood, and it was a drop-in that lasted like 3 hours. Well, most people got it. They dropped in, they dropped out. But you always have these crazy people, you know these crazy neighbors. And some of the neighbors stayed and stayed and they did some crazy stuff, man. It was crazy! So I told Lisa, this is our first and last drop-in we will ever have.
But the gospel is about dropping in. It’s about coming and going, isn’t it? Jesus is going to where we’re coming, and we’re coming to where he’s going. That’s the gospel, that’s the advent. It’s about come and go. Jesus came and he will come again. He did the work on the cross to render our salvation, thus as believers we need to work out what he has worked in.
Now let’s talk about the wedding. One day Jesus talked about this wedding. It’s a parable, it’s a story. And weddings, even back in Biblical times, were full of emotion. He talked about 10 virgins, 10 bridesmaids. And guys, you think it’s expensive today, fathers, to pay for a wedding? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Here’s how these weddings would go down back in Biblical times.
The bridegroom would go to the bride’s house and they would have the ceremony. Then they would have this parade following the ceremony to the bride’s house, and at the bride’s house this par-tay would last sometimes for a week. Now can you imagine paying for that, dads? I can’t. I break out in a cold sweat thinking about it. Well there was this parade route. Ten bridesmaids were there. It was at nighttime. And Jesus when he told the story in Matthew 25 said that the bridesmaids had these little lanterns, these little lamps. And they were like boats filled with oil and a cotton wick would float on the oil and if you were smart you would have reserve oil and you could keep the lamps illuminated. You could keep the lamps lit. So five of the bridesmaids, ladies who had their up-dos. I even know what an up-do is now. An up-do, guys. You might be going, what are you talking about? Ask your wife. They had their up-dos going and five of these girls, they were pretty smart, pretty savvy. They had the little lanterns and oil. They had even extra oil. I don’t know where they put it, in their purse or maybe a pocket or whatever back in the day. Yet they were ready to pull an all-nighter because they didn’t know when the ceremony would end at one home and finish at the other. So they were waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting.
Well the other five (five brought extra oil), the other five had just enough oil in their lanterns. I mean, not very much oil at all. They were kinda airheads. They were so thinking about their nails and their up-dos and their dresses that they did not bring any reserve oil. Well, the wedding party moved from one house to the next house. The five who were wise, man they had enough oil to light up their lives and to show the bride and groom the parade route. The five airheads, the unwise bridesmaids, they were like, “Oh girl! We’ve run out of oil! Can I borrow some oil from you? Can I have some oil from you?” And they were like, <hissing sound> “Get your own oil!”
So they were like, “Aaaah!!” So then went to 7-11, got some oil. Then they came back. The parade was done. The party had started in the other house. And this is kind of a scary, scary parable that Jesus told. Let’s pick it up in verse 10 in Matthew 25. “But while they were on their way to buy the oil (to the 7-11) the bridegroom arrived. The virgins (the bridesmaids) who were ready went in with him…” who were ready. Who were ready… “went in with him to the wedding banquet and the door was shut. Later the others also came. <knocking sound effect> ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’ but he replied, ‘Truly I tell you I don’t know you.’ Therefore, keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour.”
Well, that’s telling me and it’s telling you, as a believer. Because all of these girls were believers because they all had oil, oil being a reference of the Holy Spirit of God throughout Scripture. Oil, being a reference to the Word of God. They had oil. All of them did, yet some understood how to use it, how to steward it, how to take that cotton wick and keep cutting it for the flame to stay lit while the others didn’t. Scary. Responsibility. I can’t steal oil from your relationship. You can’t steal oil from my relationship. We have a personal responsibility from the Lord, himself, to have that fresh oil in our lives, in our lanterns, don’t we? That fresh oil of walking with Jesus, of talking with Jesus. That fresh oil of coming to his church and having people pour oil into our lives. Yet we always have those people, those unwise people, who have just enough God to be dangerous. Do you know what I’m saying to you? And there’s gonna be a time of accountability. Jesus will come back. He will settle the score, and we’ll be held accountable regarding what we did with the gifts and abilities he bestowed into our lives.
Because if you keep reading in Matthew 25 – I don’t have the time to do it – the next story Jesus told was the story of talents. He said, man, these guys, these servants of this very wealthy person had these talents that the wealthy person gave them. He gave one-5, one-2, and one-1. Two of them parlayed their talent. One of them just sat on it. And Jesus was driving at responsibility and accountability. You have gifts I don’t have. I have gifts that you don’t have. There’s an accountability and responsibility, a responsibility and accountability because we don’t know when he’s coming back. And rarely is this talked about very much anymore because everybody talks about grace. And God’s a God of love and God’s a God of unmerited favor, and he is. But also, God is a God who has made us personally responsible and we have to live under this sense of accountability.
Well let me move even to another wedding story. I mean, Jesus talked a lot about weddings. He did. In Luke 12:35-38, and this is sort of the app session of where I’m going. When you think about the advent, when you think about the dual focus of remembering the birth and looking forward to the second coming, which should bring about responsibility and accountability, here is the app session.
The first thing I want to tell you is dress up. Say it with me. Dress up. That’s right, dress up. It’s interesting because a lot of cities like Dallas and Miami are known for their fashion. People dress up. Whenever I tell people I’m from Dallas, “Oh, Dallas! People love fashion there. People dress up in Dallas.” Or I’m in Miami, oh yeah, people dress up in Miami. There’s a certain style that people have who live in Dallas, who live in Miami. It’s very interesting. People just dress up.
The Bible says the moment we become a believer we’re clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, so we’re dressed up. Also, the Bible says, that each and every day we need to dress up and put on the armor of God. Well, this guy had been out at another wedding and his servants had no idea when he was coming back. Again, I think you can see the foreshadowing here. Be dressed and ready for service. So I serve, I think about others. I’ve got the oil, I’ve got my gifts and abilities, and I’m using them for the glory of God, which means I’m others-driven. So be dressed, ready for service, and keep your lamps burning.
<singing> This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine…
Have you ever heard that song before? I love it, great song. Maybe from this verse, I don’t know. But keep your lamps burning. We’ve got to continue, right? To put oil. We’ve got to continue to allow the Lord to cut and to allow things to occur in our lives and allow him to prune us, to cut some things back so we can bloom, so we can keep the candle going. Because yeah, you’ve got to dress up but also you’ve got to light up.
I’m not talking about lighting up a cigar or a cigarette or something else. No, no. I’m talking about allowing our light to shine. Because Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world.” And then we have the opportunity to receive the light and we should allow the light to illuminate everything we’re about.
Have you ever tried to dress in the dark? Invariably you’re going to make a fashion move that is funky and freaky. We get dressed in the light. We see that things match, hopefully. Well these servants who were waiting, they didn’t know when the master was coming back. They were dressed up and they were lighting up. “Keep your lamps burning like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It’ll be good for those servants whose master finds them watching.”
Any time in Scripture you read about the second coming of Jesus, any time you hear someone teach on the second coming of Christ, usually it’s accompanied by purity and urgency. So these servants, don’t you know they were keeping their house clean, man! They didn’t know when the homeowner was coming back! Are you pure? I’m not talking about a legalistic trip, I’m talking about because of a relationship. Because we know the owner. We know the one who has built the house.
We should live pure lives. Why? Because we’re clothed in righteousness. Is there any conversation, any event, any place, anything that would embarrass you or freak you out if Christ came back and you were doing that very thing? Again, that’s accountability, that’s responsibility, that’s purity.
Also, there should be an urgency. We don’t know when Christ is coming back. So many signs are pointing to it, the mayhem in our world. Our world ain’t getting better. It’s not. And the only thing, the only, only thing that’s gonna do it is when Jesus comes back. So I should have an urgency. Fellowship Church, we should be urgent to serve, to sow our resources, and to share with others who so desperately need it. Because it is a heart transformation. So dress up, light up, and wait up. Man, these cats were waiting up! They didn’t know when the master was gonna show up. And here’s Jesus, he’s talking now past his death and burial, all the way to his second coming, a little prophesy here. He says, “It’ll be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.”
So this last thing you could say is wait up. Yeah, we dress up, light up, and wait up. “Truly I tell you he will dress himself to serve who will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.” They were ready and we should be ready as we live this life.
Well, that’s a little bit about the advent. The advent is a preparation for the celebration of the incarnation, and it’s about the anticipation of the coronation of our salvation, the second coming. It’s that dual focus, you know? It’s that dual focus.
We’re planning for a wedding, as I said when I opened up this talk. But in reality all of us are planning for another wedding. That wedding that will occur when the bridegroom, Jesus, splits the eastern skies and comes back for his bride! The church! We don’t know when he’s coming but we know he’s coming. He’s coming and we’re going. We’re going to where he’s coming and he’s coming to where we’re going. And that’s something to celebrate! That’s something to anticipate! Are you ready for the advent? Because it’s the true advantage.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]