Advent 2 – Luke 21:25-36, December 6th, 2009
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
Ah yes, Christmas time approaches, when we all go out and decorate and put up little electric lights all over the place. And there will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars. Ah yes, this joyous season where we all dream of a gentle snow to give us a nice, white Christmas. And on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves. Ah yes, a season where we all just are determined to get along and talk about pretty ideas, like peace on earth. People fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. Ah yes, a time of the year where we just sing happy songs whose meaning we have forgotten. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. This second Sunday in Advent, this reading of this Gospel lesson, always seems so. . . opposed to what we see running around in the world. December is the time of year where we put on our happy faces, get into the Spirit, get into the Christmas Cheer! That’s what we are supposed to do according to all the TV shows – go out and spend more and more, eat, drink, and be merry. And yet, here in God’s House, we hear Christ’s words of reality. So often our society will treat Christmas as a time to ignore reality, to try to forget what is going on. We will try to sweep our problems and sorrows under the rug. Money’s been tight? Who cares – look at all the wonderful deals, and we have financing! Relationships been rough? Who cares – put on a sweater and smile, we have guests coming over! Yes, we’ll talk about peace on earth, though we’ve had troops out in tents in the desert for years and years. The world makes pretend at Christmastime.
Our Lord, though, doesn’t call us to pretend-time. Our Lord deals with reality. And quite often, the reality of this world is harsh, it’s unpleasant – and while we might try to forget troubles for a while, to put them out of sight and out of mind, they will still be there tomorrow. Storms and wars and rumors of war, distress, violence, chaos breaking out. All these things still happen, even in December, when we try to forget them. But our Lord says, “No, don’t try to forget them, don’t try to numb your mind to them. Rather this. “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Don’t ignore the troubles of the world – but rather in the midst of them, take heart, stand up straight and tall and proud, for your redemption draws near.
Advent is the season where we focus on the coming of Christ – what it means that Christ is coming. And our Lord here reminds us that the coming, the approach of our Lord, is always companied in this sinful world with things that cause the sinful world distress. Consider our Lord’s first coming at Christmas. There were signs in the sky – you had the Star of Bethlehem. Rulers of the world were perplexed – Herod was driven to the point of killing children, Mary and Joseph had to take infant Jesus and flee for their lives. When Christ first came, the world was chaotic and messy. Or consider when Christ won our redemption – because this is what He was directly speaking to in this Gospel. When the Son of Man was lifted up upon the Cross – what happened? The sky became black, and then, when He died, the earth quaked, and even the Roman Solider, the sign of the height of earthly power, falls to His knees and says, “Surely, this was the Son of God.”
Likewise, dear friends, this season of Advent, where we focus on preparing to celebrate our Lord’s first coming, we are also directed to prepare for His second coming. The same signs are still here, we still see all the reminders of chaos and wonder in the world. And our Lord warns us not to miss them. And then He told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.’ Christ our Lord teaches us to be watchful – and as Christians we see things differently than the rest of the world does, we see all things through Christ and His Word. The world sees tough times which we would do well to forget for a while, that we should drown in holiday cheer. Our Lord says, “No, see the tough times, and let them be a reminder to you to stand up tall and joyous, because they let you know that I shall come again.” We don’t rejoice to forget, we rejoice because we see! To be a Christian, to see things through Christ is to be filled with all boldness, to be given a confidence that the world cannot know. For we who have been baptized and washed in the blood of the Lamb know that no matter what comes, what we see our days – Christ Jesus our Lord has won us salvation, and He shall come again, and Heaven and life everlasting is ours. And we are to rejoice in this always, not just for a few dark weeks in December.
But know this. The world seeks to shake this boldness that you have in Christ. The world seeks to beat down your faith, to twist your eyes off of Christ, to exchange His true Hope and wonder, for baubles and fleeting pleasures. Our Lord warns us of this. 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. The world wants you not to be bold in Christ, but to be weighed down – to where you no longer focus on Christ. Now, our Lord tells us three ways that the world will do this. First, the world wants to dissipate us. What does that mean? To dissipate means to shatter and spread out, to dispel – the frost on the grass dissipates as the day grows warm, a storm dissipates as it runs out of steam. This is what the world wants to do – to spread you thin, to evaporate you, where you are so busy and so into this and that, running to and fro that you have no focus and so that you’ll fall apart. The world wants you to be scattered, where you can’t focus on anything, and so you’ll fail to focus upon Christ. That’s one way the world attacks Christians. The second way is that the world wants you to be drunken fools. You’ve got problems, things to do that you want need to do – just get blottoed. Or. . . do whatever you have to do to forget about them. We shouldn’t think this is just a warning against strong drink – but it’s a warning against any type of behavior that we end up using to escape from reality, whether it’s drugs and alcohol, or spending money wildly, spending all your time doing this or that just so that you don’t have to face reality. When we ignore reality, of course we will ignore Christ Jesus – the Highest reality. We’ll be hungover, either from booze or our own busy-ness, and we will ignore Him. And finally, the world will attack you through the cares of life themselves. The world will try to make it where your problems, your struggles seemingly overwhelm you, where they are all that you end up thinking about, where you’ll focus just upon them and not upon Christ.
The world wants you to forget about Christ, period. But what does your Lord instruct you? But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and so stand before the Son of Man. Pray. Focus not upon the things of life, but be focused upon God in prayer. Stand up straight, look to God, be focused upon Christ Jesus, so that you might not dismiss the troubles of life, but with all Christian boldness stand in the midst of them, stand until Christ returns.
This is what our Lord trains you to do – when you face trial or sorrow, when you are overwhelmed with abundance or stretching to make ends meet – whatever situation you are in, you are to look to Christ, to be focused upon His Word. Heaven and earth will pass away, all the things that trouble and vex you so, they too will go away, but the Word of Christ Jesus will endure forever, because the Word of Christ is about Christ, and He endures forever. Our Lord, in this Gospel text, is doing nothing else than teaching us to be focused upon Him, at all times and in all situations to wait with humility upon Him and His deliverance, a humility that makes us bolder than the most brash person in the world – for we rest upon Christ, we lift up our heads because we know our King of Glory is coming. At all times, Christians are to look to Christ.
And Christ gives Himself to you, Christ our Lord comes to you. Indeed, on the last day He shall come again, but until that day, lift up your heads here in His House, for here indeed He comes to you. His Word, focusing you upon His love still rings out here and will continue to do so. His Supper will be given to you who are in need of forgiveness and strengthened faith until He comes again. Here we will be gathered in prayer, so that together we all might encourage one another with His Word, so that you remember that you are not alone but that we are together in Christ. His House is a House of Forgiveness and prayer. And we together see here things the way they really are, the way that our Lord tells us they are in His world – here we understand the world and why it works the way it does. And we see it, and with joy and hope we stand up and raise our heads, for we know that Christ our King is coming, as assuredly as He came that first Christmas, to be our Savior and to win us salvation and to give us heaven.
Remember this during this coming week, after you’ve walked out those doors and you end up facing all those things in this world that can be scary and intimidating. When you see them, lift up your heads, for they are nothing but reminders that your Lord Christ Jesus has defeated this world and your sin, that He has won you salvation, and that He shall come again to bring you to heaven for all eternity. Lift up your head and celebrate, and let your celebrations be true celebrations because of what Jesus has won for you. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +