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On Watch


 “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”  (Mark 13:37)

“Place your order today to receive it by December 24.” Modern shipping services are pretty remarkable. Most orders we place online arrive on our doorstep three days later. If we’re in a real pinch, we can pay extra and receive that package by the very next day. Using our smart phone or computers, we can even track those Christmas gifts we ordered and learn the day of their arrival. The more important the package, the more we want to be aware of when it will arrive.

Each Sunday, the church keeps tracking another, more important arrival—an arrival that will change everything forever! “He shall come again to judge the quick [the living] and the dead” we confess to one another in the Apostles’ Creed.

Our Savior, Who came once as a lowly Servant, Who lay in a manger to live for us, Who was later nailed to a cross to die for us, is coming again. This second coming, however, will be in glory, on His kingly throne, and surrounded by angels. At that moment, a trumpet will sound, all the dead will be raised, the believers will be separated from the unbelievers, and “we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

While Holy Scripture is abundantly clear about the impending return of Jesus, there is no “app” for our phones to track the important arrival of that Day. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32) Many false prophets have tried to convince us that they have “an app for that” and are able to track the day and hour of Jesus’ return, despite the simple, clear words of our Savior.

Because we cannot track the precise arrival of that Day, nor the day of our death (“My times are in Your hand” Psalm 31:15), the Lord wants His people always to be spiritually alert and watchful. “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. . . . But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-6)

How then can we stay alert and watchful? Just as the Lord used His Word and sacrament to call you to faith in Him, He uses His Word and sacrament to keep you alert for His return. He’s doing it right now through the Word you are reading. He does it as He speaks His Word to you at church or in your home devotions. We stay watchful through prayer, as we speak to Him. “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” (Mark 13:33)

Our Lord also uses His sacrament of Holy Communion, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) As we receive the body and blood of our Savior, we are reminded of His sacrifice to save us from our sins.

The Lord also uses our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us stay watchful for His return. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

When I know an important package is being shipped to me, I keep a close eye on my phone for any alerts of its arrival. We know that He who came once on that first Christmas to save us is coming again to take us to be with Him forever. Therefore our Savior says, “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” Amen.

Nathan Pfeiffer is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Spokane, Washington.