Advent 2 – December 5th, 2010 – Luke 21:25-36
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
Do you, O Christian, see and understand what is happening in the world around you? Do you understand? And here I’m not speaking to understanding politics or monetary policy or even how College Football’s BCS system works. Simply this. Do you understand what it is that you see when you look in the Newspaper and see dire headlines, when you see the Breaking News on TV, when you see the troubles and chaos in your own life. Do you understand what it is that you are seeing? Our Lord, Christ Jesus, instructs us today to watch, to keep an eye on this world, to understand why the world is so messed up like it is, in order that we might be prepared for His coming – in our text today specifically His second coming.
“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 sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” It’s actually sort of neat to get this text year in and year out, because there is always something new, some new worry or fear that we have in the world. Oh, there have been worries about the economy in recent Decembers, and tidal waves before that, and Katrina clean up, and before that more fears about terrorist attacks in the wake of 9-11. Now Ireland’s economy is collapsing, will it take all of Europe with it, and who knows what will happen with taxes here, and will a Republican House be able to work at all President Obama, so on and so forth. If our Lord tarries in His return and we are here next year, there will be new and different fears for us to face on that 2nd Sunday in Advent. All this stuff, all this junk – do you see what our Lord calls it? He calls them “signs”. Do you see them as signs, oh Christian – do you see the troubles in the world, even the troubles and difficulties in your life as spiritual, as theological signs? They are, and they point to something very simple, very wondrous.
“And then 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.” All this chaos and trouble and pain that we see, that we experience in this world – these are all signs pointing us to one simple fact. Christ Jesus shall return, and He shall come with glory to judge as righteous and innocent those who by faith are living, are alive in Him, and to judge as condemned those who cling without repentance or faith unto the dead works of sin. The world gives us ample evidence that we are still in a fallen, torn, wicked place. We shouldn’t be surprised that the world is wicked – we have the Word of God, we know how vile sin is, how vile our own sin is. It shouldn’t surprise us when we see this chaos and horror out there – we see it for the sin that it is. If anything, it is more amazing, a more mighty display of God’s goodness and mercy that there remains any joy, any comfort, any delight in our lives here. We see the world, and know that Christ must come to fix it.
“And 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 the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the Kingdom of God is near.” And it should be obvious to us that the world is broken and full of sin, as plain as the leaves on a tree. It should be obvious that sooner or later the world is going to have to pass away because if it weren’t for God’s mercy and preservation, we surely would have done ourselves all in a long time ago. So as we see the world – we know what is coming – we know Who is coming, Christ Jesus our Lord. And here He makes a promise to you – “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” This is a promise to you. No, it’s not a promise that Jesus will return in your lifetime – He may, He may not, that’s up to Him and I’m not going to worry about that. Rather this – what does our Lord mean when He says, “this generation”? He means the Church – because, when you think about it in terms of Baptism, in terms of the fact that you have been washed by Water and the Spirit, that you have been made a Child of God – every single Christian, every single believer in Christ from every age is part of the same generation – we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ. And we will not pass away – the world will not destroy the Church, even with all the Ugliness and vileness and sin that it can throw at us – the Church will remain, and you who are in the Church, you will remain until the Last Day when you will see Your Lord and Savior return, whether it’s by looking up from whatever you were doing, or whether it’s by striding forth from your Tomb and seeing your Savior with your own eyes – you will be there. That is the promise Christ makes to you – and you can be sure that it is a good promise. Why? Heaven and Earth will pass away, this world, with all it’s chaos, this Universe as we know it – it will pass away, it is bound for the scrap heap – but Christ’s Jesus’ Words, His promises to you made at your Baptism, His forgiveness, His love, His mercy – even though Heaven and Earth pass away, these never will.
Therefore, Oh Christian, pay attention to the Word of your Lord Christ Jesus, the Word that endures. Hear what Your Lord says to you – “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.” As you see the world, see its wickedness, you are to watch yourself, oh Christian, to see that the world doesn’t weigh you down. We get a few choice words describing how the world can wear you down. First, we have dissipation. Not a word we use often – frankly, I think I use it this Sunday of the Church year and that is about it. But it means to spread thin and float away – like the morning mist dissipates as the Sun rises. The world will try to spread you thin – where you keep going after the latest and the greatest, the newest and the best, where you drive yourself to distraction trying to keep up with it all. You can try to keep up with the world, but really you can’t do it, and trying to match its lifestyle is ultimately empty. Second, we have drunkenness – where the reaction to the world is to bury your head in the sand, get blottoed, just try to ignore everything, by hook or by crook, by booze or chemical substance of your choice. Whatever it takes to ignore reality – and then the world has you in its clutches, wrapping its grip around you while you huddle with your eyes closed. And finally, our Lord mentions the cares of this life – where we get so focused on fixing the immediate problems that we forget the life of the world to come, forget that this place will pass away, that there is more than just this life. With all these things, the danger is this. The world will try to distract, frighten, or worry you away from Christ – and these all only end up putting a horrible burden upon you, a horrible weight, and if left unchecked, it will crush you.
Our Lord does not wish that for you. Instead, He urges 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 to stand before the Son of Man.” Instead of focusing upon the world, instead of becoming fixated on this world – look at the world, see its pomp and splendor and troubles and vice and horridness and glitter and filth, and be directed back to Christ Jesus. This verse is describing life in the Church, is describing a life hearing the Word of Christ proclaimed, a life receiving the Lord’s Supper. What does our Lord say? “Stay Awake”. This is more than just quit falling asleep while Pastor Brown is preaching – this is be paying attention, be focused to the Word of God. Why? Where is your strength? By what strength do you hope to stand before the Son of Man when He comes? It isn’t your own, for you are a sinful human being. You hope to stand before Christ with Christ’s own Strength and love which He always faithfully pours out upon our in His Church, in His Word, in His Supper. It’s no accident that in a few moments we will pray to God for mercy, and then, a few moments after that – Now may this True Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… strengthen and preserve you unto Life Everlasting. This all goes together, this all fits, all ties in.
And so the Advent call goes out once again – Repent – for indeed, the true preparations we need for Christmas and everything is really repentance. Turn away from the dissapations and drunkenness and cares of this life, turn away from all the ways in which sin tries to get its hooks into you. See them as empty and false. Repent, confess your sin, know your own weakness, and look to Christ Jesus for strength. Christ Jesus, who was crucified and has been raised gives forgiveness and strength to all who believe, so that in His Name His coming will never be a day of dread, but a time when in faith you might raise up your head, and with eagerness look forward to the Glory He in His love will share with you. This is your victory which He came at Christmas to win for you, and the victory He will give you when He comes again. Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Amen