Advent 2 – December 7th and 8th, 2019 – Luke 21:25-36
In the Name of Christ Jesus our Advent King +
In the Name of Christ Jesus our Advent King +
I tend to like a lot of heroic movies, the classics, stories where you have the damsel in distress trapped, hidden away by the evil villain, but then the hero comes and storms the castle and rescues her. Just fun types of stories – and there’s always a moment that stands out in each – where the villain is threatening the damsel in distress – but then they both hear noise. And at that moment, there is joy and wonderment upon the damsel – she knows the hero has come. The fear and terror melt away from her face, and she looks up with hope and gladness. This same set up is precisely what Christ Jesus our Lord is describing in our Gospel lesson today. We were captives, fast bound in Satan’s chains, we were spiritual damsels in distress, as it were. But what happens? Christ Jesus, our King, our hero comes, and He comes to rescue us. Just as He came to win us salvation with His first advent, so too He shall come again to bring us unto His own side for all eternity. Listen.
“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. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” The world should have known what was coming. Whenever Jesus does something awesome, the world is shaken. Consider Christ’s birth – what do we see? Signs in the stars – behold the Wise men have seen it. Distress of nations – you have Herod freaking out, and all Jerusalem terrified with him. Jesus is coming – the signs are clear. And then, when our Lord was crucified, what do you have? Signs in the heavens – the sun is blotted out and the day turns to darkness. You have fear and foreboding – the mighty Centurion falls to his knees and confesses “Surely this was the Son of God.” Christ once came, and He was crucified, He destroyed sin and death. And He shall come again. This season of Advent is not just a time looking forward to our celebrations of His first coming, but it is the time where we also focus on His second coming – “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Christ the Crucified, God become Man for us men and for our salvation, shall return. And what is our response? “Now, when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
We Christians just don’t act or think like the rest of the world. We see signs in the world, reminders that this is a fallen place, that it will not go on forever. Perplexities, violence, terror, weather run amuck – and while we sorrow and grieve for those impacted, we do not give into to utter terror and fear. Why? When you see the news, when you scroll through your feeds – straighten up and raise your head – it’s all just a reminder that your redemption is drawing near. It’s all just a reminder that while this world is a fallen, sinful place, Christ Jesus your Lord and King has promised to return and to rescue you.
And no, I’m not exaggerating, I’m not blowing things out of proportion. Listen. “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.’” It is obvious, as obvious as the coming of the summer. There are leaves on the trees again, I guess it is going to be getting warmer. There is still trouble and chaos in the world – I guess Christ Jesus will be coming. As Christians, everything we see in the world, all the tragedy, all the sorrow, all the pain – it all should be a reminder, it should all point us and drive us to remember that Christ Jesus, our Redeemer, shall come again. You see, this is how and why we rejoice in our suffering, as we are told over and over again in the New Testament. This is why those who mourn are called blessed. Not because suffering is fun, not because we like mourning – but because Christ Jesus has come to you, made you His own in Holy Baptism, given you life in Him – and all this trouble, all this sorrow, all this pain… it reminds you that this life isn’t all there is – that this world isn’t as good as it gets. You have more – not more now, not some secret bible code to double your income in 2020 – no, because of Christ you have life in the world to come where there is no sorrow, you have a resurrection that will undo all mourning. When you see the suffering and sorrow in your life, it is a reminder that Christ shall come and put an end to that suffering and sorrow and bring you to His side. When you hear of wars, that is a reminder that the Prince of Peace shall come and put an end to all strife. When you hear of the earth falling apart, that is a reminder that He shall come again and make a new heavens and a new earth. When you feel your own body falling apart, breaking down – that is a reminder that when He comes you will be raised and have a new and glorious Body that is like His. This is how we see the world.
Before we move on to the end of a passage, a brief note in passing. Jesus says, “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.” Sometimes this verse can cause some consternation – Jesus said that that generation would not pass – well they are gone and where is the second coming! Part of this is because our text jumps in the middle of the speech. Christ has talked about many things, about the destruction of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple – indeed, things that many there lived to see. But what it really boils down to is this – everything gets done and wrapped up when our Lord is Crucified. What does our Lord proclaim – IT IS FINISHED. It’s all accomplished, it all has taken place. The sin of the world is atoned for, death is swallowed up in death. Everything is done – now we are just waiting for the passing away of heaven and earth so that we can get the new one, the new one promised by His Words which do not pass away. It is all finished.
But Satan tries hard to make us forget this. Satan tries hard to rob us of the comfort we have in Christ. Instead of seeing all these things as signs and reminders of Christ Jesus and His promises to you, Satan will try to use this world to distract and terrorize you, to rob you of your comfort in Christ. Listen. “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with the dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you like a trap.” This actually is one of my favorite verses – it is just dense and drives to things. Satan will try to trip you up, he will try to mess you up, he will attack you in three ways. He will attack you with dissipation. Well great Pastor, if we knew what in tarnation “dissipation” was we would take the warning to heart. It is the running around after stuff, after things, after riches and spreading yourself thin and dissipating like a mist in the morning. It’s the frantic worrying of trying to do everything and trying to get everything just right and keep up with the Jones’s. So yes – this Advent season, do not be frantic trying to do everything, to make the gifts and dinners and such be just so perfect and wonderful. Why? They won’t be – we live in a fallen world, things will go wrong. And this isn’t me being a Bah Humbug Scrooge – no, simply this. Don’t dissipate, don’t run around so frantic worrying about everything and spread yourself so thin that you are robbed of joy and comfort. You are blessed, and when you see things get messed up, remember that in Christ you have more blessing to come – even if you burn the cookies or so and so doesn’t really like their gift. Life is more than this.
And then there is the warning against drunkenness – another temptation that we can face when confronted with the world. Instead of trying to perfect everything, we can just want to tune everything out – be it getting blottoed or be it what ever other forms of escapism that we might like – diving into work, into drugs, into hobbies or whatever. We can be tempted to flee from the trials of life. No, that’s not the way – because again, those trials remind us of what is to come, point us forward to Christ and His return – and we still have neighbors to love, that need us.
And then of course, the cares of this life – where we see trial and trouble and we get so focused on how they aren’t going to be fixed now that we despair. The simple, blunt, honest truth is that in this life, some things are never going to be fixed. Just the way it is. That sorrow – a piece of it will still hang with you, even as you get used to it. The body that’s failing – well, even medicine only goes so far. Heartache, pain, suffering – they are going to be around us always. Fears and troubles and tribulations – Satan will send those your way in spades, because you are a Christian, and he will attack you. He wants these to overwhelm you – do not let him, do not listen to the prince of lies – rather remember what Christ Jesus has promised you. He is with you, and you will endure in Him, even until He comes again. That is His promise to you – don’t let Satan lead you astray.
“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.” Again, one final bit of comfort. Pray that you may have strength to escape – let me ask you one thing? Where does your strength come from? Where does your escape come from? Is this a matter of you having to become spiritually buff and clawing your way out? Do you have to take the spoon of super-holy good works and dig your way to freedom? No, the Son of Man will come with… power and great glory. He is your strength, He is your hope, He is your escape. That’s why you pray – because it’s God’s strength that He gives to you. The simple fact is that one day, you will stand before the Son of Man – and how will you stand? Not on the merit or basis of what you are and have done – but you will stand as His own beloved whom He has come to rescue, whom He has sacrificed all for, whom He has come to give the new heavens and the new earth to. You will stand because He will raise you. Your King, your Champion is coming – keep your eyes open, be awake, do not worry about the rantings and the ravings of that villainous snake – do you hear the sounds of trouble and strife in this world, do you see the toil and fighting? Satan’s kingdom is crashing down around Him, and your Lord and Savior is coming to you, to pull you out of Satan’s kingdom unto His own. Straighten up, lift up your head – lift up your hearts – your redemption is drawing nigh. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +