Advent 2 – Luke 21 – December 5th and 6th, 2015
In the Name of Christ Jesus our Advent King +
In the Name of Christ Jesus our Advent King +
Advent means “coming” - and so in Advent, in this time of year where the days grow shorter and shorter, we remember not only our Lord's first coming, but we do look ahead to our Lord's second coming, His return. The same Christ Jesus who came down from heaven to win salvation will come again in glory. So, how to prepare for this? That's the theme of this week – see the 2nd Candle on the banner – prepare. Now, while this Luke text is similar to what we heard just a few weeks ago in Mark, we are going to go through it with especial focus on the idea of being prepared for Christ's coming. So, let's dive in.
And 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 seas and waves, people fainting with fear and with forebooding of what is coming on the world. So, what is the sign, what is the reminder to us that Christ Jesus shall come again? Not to put too fine a point on it, but basically life in the world. The evening news. Now, I will often complain about modern journalism, and I'd say rightfully so, but what happens every night on the news, what do we see? Nations all perplexed. Seas and waves and storms. Typhoons and hurricanes and earthquakes. Literally the earth is shaking itself apart, and the people who live on the earth are acting like fools and causing chaos and trouble. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. This is a subtle twist, a little nuance that we can miss. Even as we sit and watch things fall apart – nature falling apart, kingdoms and nations falling apart – or even closer to home – families falling apart, friendships breaking, our bodies failing – even as it all goes to pot, there is One who isn't shaken or weakened in the slightest. That is Christ Jesus our Lord. You see, what Jesus had described here as the signs – these are all just impacts of sin. This is all just the fall playing out – it is creation continuing its steady fall, falling apart. Yet Christ Jesus has come, and He has triumphed over sin and death with His holy, perfect life, with His suffering and death, with His resurrection. Sin ain't got nothing on Him – and even as sin brings its wrack and ruin on the world – Christ Jesus shall come – and how? With power and glory. Is the power of the earth shattering, is its glory fading, is the bloom coming off the rose of this life – so be it. It's got nothing on Christ – and He will come back in full power and glory.
Therefore: “Now, when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” It's the great advent hymn which we will sing to end this service – lift up your heads, ye mighty gates! Think on that for a moment – think on how defiant we are as Christians, how confident we are in Christ. Okay, when the end of the world comes – straighten up. Stand up. Lift up your heads, chin up, be bright, be happy. Why? Your redemption is here. Christ Jesus is coming, and then we will be done with all this junk we face in a sinful world, and we will be redeemed and raised and perfected, we will inherit eternal life, and it will be better, vastly better than what we see now, so much better we can't even wrap our minds around it. I for one can't imagine what it will be like to be without sin, without those nagging stupid desires, without those creeping alterior motives, without the times I flat out do something utterly dumb and foolish. But we will be raised and will be without sin, and it will be good – so stand up straight – because you will be better then than you've ever been.
Next we get the passage about the fig tree – just to reiterate very briefly. When we see the trees starting to leaf out, it means the summer is coming. It means this lousy, stinking cold winter is done, the time of the fall and death is gone, and new life is coming. It's a good thing, a happy sign. And Luke gives us a nice little nuance here that I'd like to expand upon. Jesus says, “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the Kingdom of God is near.” I want to talk briefly about kingdoms. We tend not to think about Kingdoms – we're Americans, we fought a war to get ourselves out of a kingdom, thank you very much. But the Scriptures do deal with Kingdoms, especially God's Kingdom – so, let's ponder it. Too often, when we think of a Kingdom we can think of lines on a map – a place, some boundries. That's not what a Kingdom is in the Scriptures. A Kingdom is where the King is, it's where the King's power resides, where we are under His rule. And God's Kingdom is near. Yes, near, right now. Where is the place where God's power, His power for redemption and forgiveness resides? For one – this place, this time, this service. I forgive you all your sins, take and eat, take and drink, all your sins have been forgiven by Christ the Crucified. Whenever Christ and His Word is proclaimed in this place, there the Kingdom of God reigns! But even more than that – you are baptized into Christ, you yourselves are temples of the Holy Spirit. And what happens during the week? You too speak God's Word to your friends, your neighbors, your family. You forgive people, you tell them what Christ has done... and whenever you do that, you bring the Kingdom of God to those people, so that they are prepared for when Christ comes again. It's an awesome, cool thing. In the midst of this fallen world, God's Kingdom comes to us and through us.
Although our Lord does leave us with a warning. He warns us of the ways in which we can learn to ignore and avoid His kingdom – how the world and our own sinful flesh will try to distract us. He says, “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.” Three dangers, three avenues of attack our Lord mentions here. Three ways our hearts can be weighed down. First – dissipation. Alright, I'm guessing that none of you used the word dissipation in your general conversation this past week – I wouldn't have if not for the fact that I was talking to other pastors about this text. So, what is dissipation? Dissipation refers to just the normal, hum-drum stuff of life. The chores you have to do, the running around, the daily grind. You know what that can do? It can wear you down. In fact, that is what it is trying to do – to slowly grind you down and numb you so that you go through this life without thinking, without keeping your eyes open and remembering your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who comes to you in His Word and brings you forgiveness and His Kingdom. Don't let the hum-drum lull you to sleep so that you forget the mind-boggling awesomeness of God's Love.
And then the second danger that Jesus mentions is drunkenness. Now, I am not going to go off on some diatribe about the evils of demon rum or some such tea-totaler rubbish. That misses the point. Christ here is speaking to a reaction to hardships and troubles in the world. And what's one option when we see hardship in the world? To party it up; to strive after any or every pleasure that we can find – in drink, in drugs, in sex, in food, in money, in tons of things. This is more than just a warning against booze – it's a warning against living your life where you give into vices as a means of denying the harshness of the world, as a means of pretending it isn't bad. Why is this to be avoided? It's a false deliverance. Life **is** rough, and even if I get hammered out of my mind tonight – it will still be rough tomorrow, except I'll just wake up with a hangover. Same with all the other forms of escapism – they don't really provide a way of true escape – so if we turn them into idols, if we over-indulge, if we try to live for them, we don't make anything better. Instead we drastically mess up our own lives, and on top of that we blind and deafen ourselves to our Savior. Straighten up, lift up your heads, look to Christ and remember Him... not dive into the gutter. And I say this not with condescenion, not with a holier-than-thou, “I'd never do that” attitude. There are times life stinks on ice, and sometimes the gutter looks appealing. Jesus just reminds us here that this appeal is a lie, and not good for you.
And the final thing to be wary of – the cares of this life. The idea here isn't the everyday stuff – but the big things that pop up, the drama, as it were. And what's the temptation when drama comes? To make a scene, to carry on, to form massive grudges, to fight, to bicker, to be angry. What does any of that have to do with Christ Jesus and forgiveness? What does any of that have to do with mercy and love? It doesn't – and that's the temptation. With the cares of this life, we can change how we view the world, how we view ourselves. Rather than seeing ourselves as poor, miserable sinners in a sinful world, we start thinking of ourselves as victims, thinking of how everyone is against us, thinking how we have to fight against those bad people. And that's a miserable way to live. And more than that, living like that tries to blind us to Christ and His love, His love for us, His love shown through us to our neighbor. Be on guard against this.
Having warned us of these three dangers, Christ encourages 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. Now, let's think about this. Is there a place where we gather to pray, and not only that, but a place where we come into the presence of God, into Christ's presence – indeed where we will stand (or kneel as the case may be) right before the Son of Man, and receive from Him strength? Now may this true Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ... strength and keep you in the one true faith until the life everlasting – that is until that day when He comes again. Do you see the connection? Do you realize that gathering together in God's House is preparation for the End Days? What happens here? We step away from the dissipations of life, we crawl away from the gutter, we put aside the cares of life and the stupid grudges we make – and here in this place, all together, we see, we are awake. We were awake to the realities of life when we confessed our sins together. We were awakened to Christ's love and forgiveness when we heard His Absolution, when we heard the Word proclaimed, when we sang it together in hymns and back and forth at each other in our Liturgy. Even now in the sermon, we are being awakened (so don't fall asleep in the sermon!) - and then there's the Supper, where we are given Christ's own Body and Blood to strengthen us. Christ comes to us, brings His Kingdom to us so that we are ready for His second coming.
And so dear friends, this advent day, we are prepared – not by our own efforts, but Christ comes to us and makes us ready and prepared to meet Him – be that in our death or in His return. He meets us here in His Church, and we are thus prepared for whatever the future holds, for we are His forgiven children, declared righteous because of His death and resurrection, and Christ's victory is ours. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus! In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King. Amen.