Advent 2 – December 3rd and 4th, 2016 – Luke 21:25-36
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
While s lot of folks love going to a good home sporting event, hearing the roar of the crowd as they cheer along with you, I'd say the best moment for a fan is when you're at an away game, surrounded by fans of the other team – and then suddenly that groan ripples through the stadium. When you hear that, you know that your team has pulled it off, won the upset. Now, you do realize, my dear Christian friends, that as a Christian, in this world you are fans of the away team, right? You're but a stranger, a visitor here – your home is with Christ in Heaven, right? This is what Christ is pointing out in our Gospel lesson - “There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” Whenever you look around, look at the world, listen to the news, you're going to see worry and fear and troubles and pain. But here's the thing, O Christian, you know what is going on.
You see, the world has deluded itself into thinking that it's a pretty swell place with everything in order. Maybe there's a little brush up work to be done, but with the right leader, the right law, the right program, everything will be fixed. We'll have a steady stream of improvement and growth and we'll keep evolving as a culture and we'll finally make everything right and good. Progress and advancement! And it never quite turns out that way – and hopes get dashed and plans fall apart. And while all around you folks lose their minds over things, you know what this is. We're sinners in a sinful world, and even with the best plans and policies and hopes, we're going to remain sinners in a sinful world. It's always going to be a long, hard struggle in this life, and we're always going to have fix things again and again, things that never should have been broken in the first place. And we know that we are called by God to keep showing love, to keep striving after doing what is good and right, even when things don't work out. When we see this, we are called away from despair by God, for we know what is happening.
“And they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now, when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Your redemption. The thing that separates a Christian from a non-believer isn't necessarily morality – there are plenty of very nice pagans out there, and there are plenty of Christians who end up being jerks way more often then they should be. What separates Christians from non-believers isn't earthly success or ease of life – both can have it easy or hard. No, what separates us is this – you, O Christian, know that you need to be redeemed. You know your own sin, you know that this world is messed up and that you need something better, something better you can't make for yourself. You know that Christ Jesus has come, that He has suffered and died and risen, so that you are forgiven and that you will have perfection and joy and never-ending contentedness in the life of the world to come. You know your redemption. You know Christ. And as such, you see the world differently. Whenever there is hardship or shock or fear – it is not merely defeat, it is not merely tragedy. It is also a reminder of your redemption. Troubles and hardship do not mean that God hates you, rather they remind you that Christ Jesus Himself came and endured troubles like these for you. And so, even until the day we look up and see Christ in the clouds returning to bring an end to all these strange things, whenever they happen – straighten up, lift up your heads, because they remind you of Christ, they remind you that He will come again. The world sees defeat; but you know victory in Christ.
Okay, alright Pastor, you say that nice and comfortable up in that pulpit, but what about all the junk that is going on in my life, with my parents, with my kids, with my co-workers, with school? Why in the world should I be all happy for the future given the junk that I see? Well, for that, let's look at our Lord's short little parable, shall we? “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” The imagery is simple. You don't need the weather channel to know what when the trees start to leaf out, it's going to get warmer. The change, the movement, it's nothing to worry about, because you know what will happen – and even if it looks like winter may be rough, you know that spring will come and then the summer, and you even know how to look for it. In Christ Jesus, you know what is going on, you know what this world means.
But Pastor, how do we know that He will come? After all, Jesus said, “this generation will not pass away until all has taken place,” and I'm pretty sure that everyone in that generation is long dead and gone. Well, you're partially right – everyone to whom Jesus first spoke these words has died. But again, listen to Jesus, “look at the fig tree, and all the trees.” That generation saw a tree, a very special tree. And on that tree was a very special fruit – the fruit of a Virgin's womb, the fruit of life itself. That generation saw everything take place there upon the tree of the Cross as Christ was crucified. Because everything Christ spoke to happened at the Crucifixion. Signs in the Sun and Moon? A few chapters later Luke records, “It was about the sixth hour [that is, high noon], and there darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed.” Eh? Or roaring or shaking? “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” Fainting with fear? “When the Centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, 'Truly this was the Son of God!'” They saw the Son of Man lifted up and glorified – they saw His power of redemption play out.
You see, once Christ is crucified, it is the end of time. The Last Days aren't something distant, we're smack dab in the middle of them. As Hebrews says, “In these last days, [God] has spoken to us by His Son.” And what does the Son say? Jesus declared on the Cross “It is finished,” and it is. The game is won, Christ has the victory – and now it's just letting the clock of this world run down to its final zeros. Because we are children of the New Testament, because we are born and raised in the last days, we don't understand just how unique this is. We know what Abraham and David and Isaiah only had fleeting glimpses of. We know what “Behold a Virgin shall conceive” looks like and how it plays out. We know the righteous branch of David, we know the Seed of Abraham in whom all nations are blessed, even Christ Jesus our Lord. And while the world still spins along in chaos, we know Christ's Victory.
And so we watch. Advent is the season of watching. We think back to the watching of those in the past, of our faithful brothers and sisters who lived in the former times, in the Old Testament days. We rejoice in what Christ has done. We prepare for His final return, when we get to storm the field, run out kicking like calves from the stall, and finally tear down the goal posts of this world. But until that day, we too are charged to watch. “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” Dissipation. That is, tending after the hum-drum things of life, and ignoring the things of God. Don't have your head buried in your iPhone checking the news feed and miss the final out! Or drunkenness. Don't pass out in the stands and miss out when the celebration's going to be on the field. Or the cares of this life. Don't be too cool for school and worried about this or that – cheer, you nervous Nelly – Christ our Lord took out Satan and there's a party to be had. The end is a good thing, provided you're ready for it. So pray, pray for strength. Of course, you realize what praying for strength implies, what it teaches us and reminds us of? This strength to stand before the Son of Man – it's not our strength. It's not on the basis of how good or bad we are – nope, we're poor miserable sinners, just like the rest. But you know Christ, and Christ Jesus is your strength, and He bids you to stand, He bids you to rise forgiven and perfect and holy in Him. His Victory is for you, and He intends to celebrate it with you for all eternity. Indeed, when we storm that court with Christ, we'll be storming it with all the saints of all the ages, for even the Dead will be given Christ's strength to live and celebrate again. And it will be good.
So know what's going on. Yeah, the world is a messed up, strange place. And it will remain so, even until Christ comes again. But you, you are ready for all that. Hear the Word and anticipate, watch, see what is happening. Take and eat, take and drink, so you've got plenty of strength for the party to come. Because it is coming – a great and joyous celebration – and if the unbelievers around you are freaking out in terror and fear – well, tell them of Christ and His victory and His redemption – how He has done it for them too. Everyone's welcome on the bandwagon. There's always room for more to celebrate Christ's victory – because that is what we are preparing to see. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +