Sunday, December 4, 2011

Advent 2

Advent 2 – Luke 21:25-36 – December 4th, 2011

In the Name of Christ Jesus our Advent King +
When God does something, people take note. When God acts, it’s obvious that God is acting. When Jesus heals someone, everyone hears about it and knows that something is going on. In fact, people have to lie to themselves in order to pretend that it’s not God at work. When God shows up, it’s obvious. Our Lord teaches us today that we will always see, always know when He comes. When Jesus comes, it will not be an ordinary thing – it’ll be something wondrous. It shall stand out, it is loud and bold. God’s action booms forth throughout the world. Jesus teaches us about His coming today.

“And there will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars.” Up there on our Advent banner, we have a giant star. At His first advent, at His first coming at Christmas, there were signs in the sun and the moon and the stars. The wise men in the East could see them, and they traveled a far. The shepherds who were keeping their watch by night – the Angels choirs they beheld weren’t typical, weren’t normal everyday things. The star, the Angels, these announced that the Lord had come. Christ’s coming is proclaimed – behold your Savior, oh people, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. People should have seen what was coming. Even King Herod was all in a fuss about it, even from far away the wise men saw. And yet, so many still unprepared, so many not ready for salvation to be at hand, or even fighting against it.

“And there will be signs in the sun and the 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. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Signs accompanied the climax of Christ’s first coming as well - Christ indeed came with power and might, although not as the world thinks of power and might. When Christ Jesus our Lord was lifted upon the Cross, the powers of the heavens were shaken – the sky darkened at midday. When our Lord cried it is finished the Earth shook, the temple curtain was torn in two, the dead rose from their tombs. Even the strong and mighty soldier at the foot of the Cross knelt and said, Truly this was the Son of God. Again, Christ comes, He comes to the Cross to tangle with Satan, to defeat sin and death – and the world is shook – creation itself trembles at the epic contest. And our Lord told them this was coming. “Truly, truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all this has taken place.” That generation saw it, Jesus speaks these words just after Palm Sunday, and yet, so soon, things go back to normal. For so many, life went on as it was before – simply put up a new curtain in the temple, simply go on living our lives. So many who were there to see God’s redemption played out turned a blind eye.

Dear friends, we know that Christ shall come again for the final judgment. This is our hope, and this is what our Lord tells us to look for today. The same signs that were present for the first coming will remind us and prepare us for the second. Are the nations of the earth distressed? Yes. Have the seas been wild and roaring? Yes. The earth shaking? Yes, we’ve even gotten that one here in Oklahoma. All these things remind us, point us forward to the fact that Christ Jesus shall come again, that the day is drawing ever nearer.

So, do we start a count down? Do we try to fix the date and get mocked when we are wrong? No, ours is not to try to out-guess God, but simply to be prepared. “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.” Can you see it all around you? Looking around the world we see death and sin all over. It’s a bleak winter world that we live in, full of sin and despair. We ourselves, we who know God, who love Him, we ourselves struggle against our base desires, against our anger, our hatred. But look and see, look and do not be afraid when you hear of wars and rumors of war, when you see destruction and chaos and terror. When the trees bloom again outside, we will know that summer is near. When the earth is filled with violence, when Satan though defeated gasps out his last petty struggles against our God and King, we know that Christ’s return is near – that this winter of sin shall pass away and forth will spring the eternal summer under the light of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Be ready for it, for it comes quickly. “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” So many things can bog us down. Dissipation and drunkenness – a love of the things of this life. An attitude where our primary focus is on stuff, things to enjoy, life to be lived – where we work simply to have money to buy the latest toy, the newest car, the best gadget, the new clothes, where we judge our lives by whether we got good deals on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. An attitude where we ignore the things that are to come, and rather simply live in the day, like an ostrich with its head in the sand, ignoring the sin around us. So many things can bog us down. The cares of this life. The times we feel guilt and pretend it’s duty that motivates us. The times we feel lust and pretend it’s love. The times we feel fear and sit and cower, when we look around with apprehension and are frozen solid, refusing to do the good we ought. Sin so easily creeps up upon us, twists our focus off of where it is to be. We are to be loving God, we are to be loving our neighbor – but the false joys, the fears of this life strive to pull us away. All these say, “Pay no attention to the signs.”

That’s not what our Lord says. “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.” Stay awake – don’t pull the wool over your eyes. Don’t become foolish, don’t turn a blind eye to world, don’t forget the log in your own eye. Jesus isn’t warning against sleeping and snoring here – but rather He warns against not paying attention to what is going on in your life. Dear friends, it’s not easy to be a Christian. Satan is always at work, temptations abound aplenty – it’s always easy to walk away from God’s House. Each of you knows that every day will bring a new excuse to walk out those doors and never look back. That’s easy. Sin unchecked, unrepented destroys faith. We all know the stories about how the little white lie grows and grows until it is huge and black. That’s the way it is with sin – our little sin that we slough off if unchecked grows and grows until it blots out faith. This is why God says that you are to pray – to pray for strength. Your God knows that your life here in the sinful world will be a struggle. He knows that your life is hard, that temptations abound. That’s why He came in the first place – to win you Salvation from your sin. That’s why He shall come again, to take you home to heaven.

But here we are – in the meantime, in the time between our Lord’s First coming and His Second. But know that your Lord doesn’t leave you alone. Rather, your Lord comes to you again and again through His Word, through His sacraments, to give you strength to stand in the trials of your life. Christ gives you two things here in His Church. First, “strength to escape all these things that are going to take place.” Sin takes place – that’s what goes on in the world – and God comes to you – you hear His Word and from it you draw strength. He provides you faith, He provides you trust in Him, which is the opposite of sin, which lets you stand. This is the purpose of preaching, this is the purpose of His Supper. Now may this true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you in the one true faith until life ever lasting. We can’t stand alone – we of ourselves aren’t going to make it through this life – but God comes to us through His Word, through His Supper and gives us His own strength. Jesus comes to you now, here, in this place, at this time, to prepare you for your life. It is not you who live but Christ who lives in you. We are constantly told this in His Word – we are taught to rely on Him and His strength, and this is how we prevail.
Christ gives us a second thing here in His Church – “strength to stand before the Son of Man.” How do we stand before the Son of Man? How could we sinful men go and stand before God Almighty? Not by virtue of what we have done, for everything we do is tainted and tinged with sin, all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags. No, we can stand before Christ because we are forgiven. Because Christ Jesus Himself was born in a stable, because He was lifted up upon the Cross, because His suffering and death won for us pardon and peace from our sins. Because in His Church Christ Jesus takes what He won almost 2000 years ago on the cross and brings it to us here today. You hear the Word spoken, and Christ’s Crucifixion comes to you today and you are forgiven. You take and eat the Body that was crucified, Jesus comes to you today. All your sins have been forgiven by Christ the Crucified, depart in His Peace. This is what we are about here, this is why God has called each and every one of you to this place – that you might feed on His Word and Sacraments and be strengthened by faith for this life, and forgiven for the next.

Christ is coming dear friends – the world groans in travail, the world shakes in pain. The King sees His creation suffering, and He will not let that long stand. But we need not fear any news we hear, we need not tremble no matter what the morrow brings – all of it, just another reminder that our Lord shall return, and we who know Christ Jesus to be our King of mercy and forgiveness know that this is a good thing, and indeed, we look with expectation for His second coming. But until then, He still comes to us in His Church and brings us salvation through His Word. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, Come quickly. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King + Amen.

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