Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advent 2 – December 7th, 2008 – Luke 21:25-36

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
This morning we continue our preparations for the ancient Christian celebration of Christmas, the celebration of our Lord's incarnation, the day we celebrate the fact that God becomes Man for our sake. And today, in our preparations, we are directed to the Gospel of Luke. Here our Lord Jesus speaks not of His birth, but of His second coming. Well, why is that? If we are getting ready for Christmas, why are looking forward to the Last Day? The reason is this – whenever God comes, His coming isn't understood by the World. Whenever God comes to you – you as a Christian will have a fundamentally different reaction than the rest of the world will. And we have to remember that. We as Christians are in the world – but we are not of the world, and we must be careful lest the wanton ways of the world shape us more than Christ and His Word shapes us. So let us look at our Gospel lesson, and see how we are prepared.

And there will be signs in 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 and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. A simple look at the world should let you know that God is coming, that God is going to act. We all know the famous example of signs in the stars that let people know that Christ came at Christmas – the Wise Men follow the Star. Or think back on the Old Testament. What did the children of Israel see in Egypt when God came to rescue them and deliver them from bondage? The Nile turned to blood, the sky blackened, the very nation of Egypt, the most powerful in the world, shaken to its knees with the death of its firstborn. Or before that? When God came to rescue and deliver Noah, there was most definitely the roaring of the seas and the waves. And what Christ points to with this is a simple truth – when God comes, things happen in the world. In fact, when we just look at the world - when we see things not working right, when we see nations in distress, when we see horrid weather, when we see people being fearful of what will come, hear people watch the stock market or listen to Christmas sale numbers with baited breath or say the dreaded word, “recession” – all of this should serve to remind us that this world isn't working right, and that it will not endure as it is.

But how do we react to this? When we see the world is rough and harsh, when the weather is wretched, when the economy tanks, when illness and sickness come – how do we respond? Now the world will go into denial. The world will shout out - “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” The way of this world is to be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life – the world will dissipate – that is to just live wildly trying to ignore the writing on the wall, or the world will try to forget its troubles through drugs and alcohol, or the world will get so bogged down in the hub-bub of this life that people become overwhelmed and despondent. That's the way the world reacts when it sees strife. And are not these the ways in which we are tempted? How are you tempted to react to stress? Do you end up stress eating or shopping, or even have a bottle start to look nice and good? Do you throw yourself into your work so you don't have to worry about other things? Do you live vicariously through your kids, focusing on them so you don't have to deal with your own problems? Are you determined to have just the perfect celebration, the perfect holiday season, and woe to anyone who keeps it from being picture perfect! Do you sit and fret and worry, weighed down with anxiety? Are you overwhelmed, and simply think about how you can't do anything? None of this is new – this is all the stuff that Christ warns us about, the things that Christ tells us that Satan and the World will try to drag us down with.

Christ tells us to avoid these things, to fight against them, to struggle against them. In fact, when we see the trials and struggles and terrors of life, when we as Christians see the things that cause perplexity among the nations and the things that cause distress to everyone else – what does Christ tell us we are to do? Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Straighten up and raise your heads. When you see the trials and struggles of life, do not be cowered, do not bury yourself in denial. Rather, O Christian, lift up your heads – because all of this reminds you of one simple thing. Your redemption is drawing near. If the world is messed up, if things aren't right, if things are falling apart – you as a Christian know one simple truth. God will fix it. God will come and He will act and He will win for you salvation and forgiveness and deliverance. When we see these terrors we are to know that God is drawing near to us, that God is coming closer to us to be God for us and for our benefit.

This, dear friends, is the truth that shapes our approach to Christmas as well. There's a lot of fear around now. Think on the news that we see around Christmastime. Are the stores gonna make enough money to turn around our economy? Will holiday travel plans work out? Will I get all the things done that I need to get done done, or will all my plans come crashing down? And then there is all the false hope associated with Christmas. Think on the Christmas specials – how many of them are just about how Christmas is just that wonderful time where even broken families all come together – and then we look at what's going on in our families, and the fights and the ugliness and nastiness are still there. We love the heartwarming, touching stories about how at Christmastime things just work on out wonderfully – and then we wake up on the 26th, and our problems are still there – and hurriedly the decorations get pulled down. See this for what it is. This all revolves around the focus of the world – on ignoring problems or just trying to live a fun life – all of that.

But what is Christmas actually about? What is the point? “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." When we pause as Christians, when we look at Christmas, what are we seeing? Not just a holiday season, not just a time of escapism from the troubles of life. What do we see? We see our redemption. We see God Almighty having mercy and pity upon us and coming to us to save us. Christmas isn't about what we do to celebrate, Christmas is about God doing the most astounding thing in History – God Almighty becoming Man, being born in a stable, and all to bring to you redemption. That is what our focus is on as Christians – and with our focus on Christ, with our ears attuned to His Word, with our eyes trained upon the Cross – what is the result for us? But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." Christ sees all the things that are taking place in this fallen world, and on Christmas day He strides forth into it, ready to take on Satan, ready to take on the world, ready to take on sin – ready to bring your redemption. And when we see this, when our focus is upon Christ's redemption, when we are not lulled to sleep by the world or bashed into drunkenness by the world – this is what we see, we are Christians who are awake and behold Christ and what He has done for us and we stand – on Christ the solid rock we stand – and because of Christ we have strength to escape, to endure, to live and thrive in spite of all the things we see in this fallen world.

That is what we see when we see the Christ child in the manager. We see our hope – and not hope as the world thinks of it – not hopes of more cash or hopes of a few days more – but hope of redemption, hope of heaven, hope of life everlasting. This advent, as we prepare for our Lord's coming, we not only ponder our Lord's humility, but we ponder the fact that our Lord brings with Him true hope – but the thing is, we will only see our Lord's hope when we turn away from the vain and false hopes of the world. His hope not the hope to simply exist, or to have a better time now, but the hope of heaven, the hope of perfection, the hope of being more than any of us is now, a hope that goes beyond having a better house or success here – a hope that proclaims that because of Christ's redemption, one day, you will be without sin, one day your body will have no aches and pains, for it will be perfected, a hope that one day when Christ returns you will be beyond all pain and suffering, all because Christ Jesus comes to us, born as a Child in a manager, comes to win us heaven and salvation. That is our hope, dear friends.

This is the hope that we are focused on by our Lord whenever we gather around His Word. This is the hope that His Gospel continually points us to. This is the hope that is ours whenever we receive our Lord's Body and Blood in His Supper – given for the forgiveness of sins and also the strengthening of your faith. What God does for you is continually prepare you through His Word, through His Supper – so that in spite of the trials of this life, in spite of how this world seeks to wear you down – especially during the Christmas season, in spite of this, God gives you hope – hope in Christ. Keep your eyes upon Christ and His hope, so that by God's strength you are prepared for all things, until Christ our Lord comes again. Amen.

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