Advent 2 – Luke 21:25-38 – December 9th and 10th, 2017
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
If you are going to be a Christian, you simply have to accept the fact that you will be strange. You will be weird. You will be different. If one is a Christian, then one will have a fundamentally different way of approaching everything in life as compared to the rest of the world. And that is the background, the underlying truth that will let us understand what our Lord is talking about in our Gospel lesson. Today we hear our Lord in the Temple during Holy Week, warning of the end times. Warning the folks then, warning the world, warning us here today. However, my friends, I would have you remember that you hear this warning, this preaching of Jesus not as the world does, but you hear it as the Baptized. You hear it as those who are joined to Christ Jesus, as those who are forgiven. As such, since you are in Christ, what you hear today is different from what the world hears. Listen.
There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the seas and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming upon the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Here Christ Jesus describes the world as the end approaches, and He describes a mess. Things will just go utterly sideways. There will be natural disasters and the nations will be freaked out. It will seem as though the earth itself is trying to destroy us. And the leaders, the powers that be, will be helpless and bumbling and threatening each other. Everything will be all caddywampus, nothing will be working right at all. Sounds scary, right? Actually, if we are honest, it sounds typical. We are approaching the end of the year 2017, and so of course there will be all sorts of “year in review” shows that come on. So, what do you think? In those year in review shows will we see stories recounting distress and chaos in the the world this past year, with roaring waves and all sorts of troubles and inept rulers and all that sort of stuff? Of course, just like we did in 2007 or 1997 or pick any year. Because this is the thing – Jesus is not describing anything too bizarre – He is describing situation normal for the fallen world. And while the world will wring its hands and come up with desperate plans or utterly foolhardy denials – you know this for what this is. It is simply sin messing with world.
As a Christian, you know this to be true. You know sin and its impacts for what they are. You know it, you see it in the world. You know it and you see it in yourself. Let us be honest about this, shall we? How often when we see sin and its impacts come crashing down upon our lives do we not let our sinful flesh run a bit wild and panicked? How often can we make stupid plans all full of bragadoccio and ignore reality, how often can we retreat to la-la land in denial, ignoring the decay, the shame, the guilt right in front of us. That is how the world and your sinful flesh think to handle sin and its consequences – to panic, to fear, to try to pretend it away.
But you are not just a sinner. You are not like those in the world left to their own devices, left to try to sort all this out on your own. You are different. You are baptized into Christ Jesus. So, you do know your sin for what it is, but even more wondrously you know Christ Jesus for who He is. And this is what He promises you – that even as the world rages in fear and panic, and even as they mock you, O Christian, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” You know something that the world doesn't. Jesus will return, and He will put an end to sin. And therefore, your reaction, O Christian, in view of Christ, your reaction as a baptized child of God is radically different than the rest of the world. “Now, when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Do you see? Do you see how wondrously different you life is because of Christ Jesus? When the world sees wretchedness and a cause to panic, you straighten up, shoulders out, broad and bold and ready to go, because you know what? It's just sin, and Christ Jesus your Lord came once into this world already to deal with sin and death. He dealt with it by going to the cross and crucifying it down. And He will come again and when He does redemption – your redemption, your being set free from sin and its impact – be it sin in this fallen world where nature is a disaster and countries are crazy and people are wicked... or be it your own sin, the stupid and vain and wicked desires of your flesh that keep popping up, the age and decay that are creeping up. When you see these things, straighten up O Baptized. Christ Jesus is coming to rescue you. That's what all this really means – it means that Christ your Lord and Savior is coming to rescue you.
Patriotic Americans should understand this straightening up, this attitude of defiance, more than anyone – it's part of our national anthem. Consider: Generally speaking, if I said, “hey, we're under attack and they are shooting at us,” we'd think that would be bad. But how does our national anthem go? “And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” Bring it on Brits – as long as you keep shooting that's just proof that we're not done yet and are going to win. Bring it on, Satan – you and the world and my flesh keep hounding all you want – I am baptized in to Christ Jesus and He has won the victory already, so tthhhpppt. In Christ Jesus you live defiantly – defying Satan, defying the world, even defying your own flesh – because you belong to Christ Jesus your Redeemer, and you stand tall and safe in Him.
So Christian, you're different than the world. You see beyond just the surface, beyond just the here and now. 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 yourself 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. Oh look, it's spring! Well, actually, the summer's about here, it's coming. Not just the surface, but the implications – that's what we see. And so when we see tragedy and trial and hardship and sin, you know what that reminds us of? That the kingdom of God is... did you hear what Jesus did? He didn't say “coming” - he said near. When you look at the world, when you see all this stuff, it's not just that one day, someday down the road, Jesus will return and things will be good then, but until that point... maybe we ought to panic. Nope. Even as you look and see sin in the world, sin in your flesh – you know, O Christian, that the kingdom of God is near – near, right here, right now. That Christ Jesus is not distant, He is not absent from you until the Last Day, but that He is present. He is here in His Word. He is truly and bodily present for you in His Supper to forgive you your sins and to give you life and salvation even over and against sin and death and your flesh. 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. Everything around you can go to pot – doesn't change the fact that Christ Jesus has died and risen for you. Doesn't change the truth of His Word of forgiveness. Doesn't change the fact that He has claimed you as His own in Baptism. The world can do nothing to you at all. You, when you see all this junk – that's when you repent, confess your own sin, and receive Christ's love and mercy and forgiveness, that is when the Kingdom is near, again and again.
Note that – repent and confess and receive Christ's love again. There is a danger that we should be wary of – not the dangers of earthquakes or super-volcanoes or political strife and war or any of that. That's not fun, but that all ought to drive us to Jesus. Listen to Jesus' warning – But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkeness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. Remember, O Christian, your Baptism! Remember that you are in Christ and therefore different from the world. How does the world handle seeing sin and its impacts? Well – they can dissipate: spread themselves so thin trying to get their best life now that they are too busy for anything. OR they can get blottoed. Or they can spend all their time in fretting and worry. And these are the ways our flesh attacks us – how our flesh tells us to handle our sin – but that is not who you are in Christ. No – as for 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. No, as Christians we pray. We pray even as the world mocks prayer. We pray for strength to escape, we pray “deliver us from evil”. You realize that the strength by which you live, by which you will stand before Christ isn't your own strength, but rather it is a strength that is given to you, it is Christ's own strength that is spoken into you in His Forgiveness, that is poured upon you in Baptism. It is the strength that comes from His Supper as He Himself gives you Himself so that you may rise from this rail and go in peace about your life out in the world, not matter how weird or scary Tuesday will end up being. Because you are in Christ.
Do you see? As a child of God you prepare for the end by coming to where Christ Jesus comes near to prepare you, to come to where Jesus Himself has promised to come near to you with forgiveness and mercy and redemption. Jesus came to win you salvation, and He comes here to bring that salvation to you now, to strengthen you and keep you in it all of your days, so that in Him you will endure well beyond anything this world or your flesh throws at you. You're in Christ. And He comes to you today in His word, in His Supper so that you would never forget that He is your Lord and Savior, that you would never be distracted or scared away from this truth. So straighten up, raise up your heads, and rise for prayer – come quickly, Lord Jesus, Amen.