– December 8th, 2013 – Luke 21:25-35
In the Name of Christ Jesus our Advent King +
I was going to start this sermon by saying that it ought to be hard to think of Christ’s first coming without thinking of His second – but in reality, we do so all the time. We know, we are sure, that Christmas is coming, but do we even give pause and think that Christ’s second coming might happen first? Do we even consider the possibility? You see, we are creatures of habit – and we all have seen Christmas roll around – for most of us many times – and we know what to expect with Christmas. But ultimately, which is more important – which is the bigger day – when we celebrate Christ’s first coming, when we remember that first Christmas – or when we celebrate and participate in, when we are part of Christ’s second coming? But thankfully for us, the two are related – in fact, we know and understand and prepare for Christ’s second coming in light of His first. That is why we have our Gospel text this morning that points to the second coming. So that is what we will do this morning – we will compare what we know, what we understand about Christ’s first coming at Christmas with what Christ tells us about His second, and so we will better understand.
At His first coming we know that Christ came humbly to save. I’m sure all of you could recount to me the ways in which it was humble. In a little stable. No room in the Inn. Born of a virgin, meek and mild. There was no great earthly celebration, no parades down the streets of Jerusalem. Even the Angelic Choir which we all love – heard simply by a few lowly shepherds – folks doing a job that no one really wanted. And all of this, all this humility Christ takes up in order to save us. This is His humility, that Christ Jesus, God Himself – would let Himself lay in straw, in animal feed – that He would let Himself suffer, that He would let Himself go to the Cross and be put to death – and all of this to win salvation. That is the first coming – He comes in humility to save.
Christ’s second coming – slightly different. 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 draws near. Christ’s second coming will be for the exact same reason – to save His people. Your redemption draws near. When He comes again, Christ will bring in His train salvation for His people – if we are dead on that day, we shall be raised and stride forth from our tombs in joy – if we are alive, our bodies will be changed and we will shed, we will slough off all our sin, like an old, dirty piece of clothing. Christ still comes to save – but His second coming will be different. On the day of His second coming, all of us, whether it is tomorrow or in a thousand years, all of us, living and dead will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Christ’s second coming will not be humble – He will not come as a defenseless little child, but as the Lord of Glory. He will come as the conqueror, the Resurrected One who stands victorious over death and the grave, the One who is our victory over death and the grave – and what Job prophesies will be true – For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me. That shall be the difference – Christ shall not come in humility as He did the first time, but He shall come as Christ the Crucified, He who has conquered by His death, He who has been raised and indeed, He who raises all to life.
There is another point to ponder. At His first coming, Christ came to a world wrecked by sin. Cold, poverty, the wealthy feasting lavishly while the poor on their doorstep die. Selfishness – that no one would give up their room for a woman 9 months pregnant. Right after Christ’s birth we see Wicked Herod work his slaughter of the innocents of Bethlehem, we throughout the Gospels see corrupt leaders, both in the civil world and even in the Church, plotting and conspiring. Christ comes to a world wrecked by sin – a world that had been a paradise, but which was thrown into chaos and confusion by sin. And in this world, Christ endures, He suffers, He takes up all the pain and consequences of sin – even death, so that He might bear up our punishment in our place.
Now ponder Christ’s second coming. 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 all these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” There are always signs of what is coming. When the trees start to leaf out again, you know it is getting warmer. When turkeys go on sale, thanksgiving is coming. When red and green lights go up and sales start happening, the Christmas shopping season is coming. While driving, you see a stop sign, and you know an intersection is coming. Signs let us know what is coming. So also, when you see all these things – distress of nations, roaring in the seas, signs in the sky – then you know that Christ is coming. Let me ask a question. When are the nations not in distress? How many times have sons of this congregation gone off to wars, been sent overseas? How many conflicts are there that our country stays out of in addition to this? And when is the weather, the sea, not rising up? There’s always something going on somewhere. And all of this – simple effect of sin. When we look at the world, and we see sin – we know what is coming. We know that Christ is coming – but this time, when He comes, Christ shall come to wreck sin in the world. After that day, no more of these signs. No more distress among the nations, for He shall wipe every tear from their eye. The waves of the earth shall not rise, and the heavens will show forth no more signs – for He shall make a new heaven and new earth for us. This is the reason why He came at the first – to defeat sin, so that it could and would be finally done away with on the Last Day.
There is one more thought that our text leads us to this morning. When Christ first came – it was quiet, it was witnessed by just a few. We will sing “Silent Night” – for it was a quiet night. When we sing “Angels We Have Heard on High” – we forget that this is the report of just a few, a few lowly shepherds. Christ’s first coming – was silent, was quiet – went largely unnoticed. No one in Jerusalem heard it – hadn’t taken any notice until the Wise Men say something. How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.
Not so with Christ’s second coming. 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 earth. It won’t be a quiet event, it won’t be one that goes unnoticed. As Christ was born in the stable of an inn – there were probably those at that very inn who were feasting and drinking without a second thought. Won’t be that way at the second coming – Christ’s return will not go unnoticed, it will not be overlooked, it won’t be something that will be able to be shuffled off onto your things to do tomorrow list. When He comes, He comes – and that is it. And so we are to be ready – 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. How are we as Christians supposed to live? Are we to be beaten down by the cares of this life? No – that isn’t what God wants for us. Rather – in the midst of this chaotic, wild life, we pause and pray – we gather together and hear God’s Word, we receive His Blessed Supper that we might be strengthened, that we might be prepared for His coming – that we might not live as though He weren’t coming again. We rest – and by rest I don’t necessarily mean kick our feet up on the couch, but we pause and hear and receive from God His strength. Because of what He has done, because Christ has conquered and won us the victory, we can easily and gladly be prepared for His second coming.
And so dear friends – just as we anticipate and celebrate Christ’s first coming at Christmas, just as our preparations are going strong for it – we ought to anticipate Christ’s second coming – not fearing what it will be like, not looking with trepidation towards the end of the world – but rather simply looking forward to the Resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. In preparing for one, we prepare for the second as well – because in all things our focus is upon Christ and what He has done for us – whether it is what He has done for us in coming humbly to the manger, or what He will do when He comes again in glory. Look forward to the Last Day in the same way and with the same confidence with which you prepare for the next Christmas Day – for you are God’s own child, and the coming of Christ your Brother should never cause us distress, for it is your rescue and deliverance. Thus we are right to pray, come quickly Lord Jesus, come quickly. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +