1st Sunday in Advent – C LSB #’s 332:1-3, 5-7, 341, 349
Text – Luke 21:25-28
And there will be signs in sun & moon & stars, & on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea & the waves, people fainting with fear & with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power & great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up & raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
LIFT UP YOUR HEADS
On your mark, get set, go! None of you moved! Weren’t you ready? You still a bit sleepy? Okay, I’ll give you another chance. On your mark, get set, go! You know, those words usually have some effect on people, but you’re just sitting there. What’s up with that?
Don’t you understand what those words mean? Or is it simply that you don’t know where to run? Oh, I know, as Lutherans you’re not supposed to run in church. PAUSE
So how did that introduction make you feel? A bit uneasy? Were you concerned that you didn’t know what was going on? Did the thought occur to you that you might have missed something? And some of you probably thought I was getting ridiculous!
The point is, whatever your reasons were, you were not prepared to respond. I’m assuming that all of you have encountered some sort of real life situation like that. A time where you’ve heard words like these, “Oh, didn’t anyone tell you! You were supposed to… do whatever.” And, since no one told you, you weren’t prepared.
That can be an uncomfortable feeling. As the new pastor arriving in North Dakota, I was overwhelmed by all that I had to learn. My 1st three months were spent with that feeling of anxiety; the feeling that I was supposed to be doing something but I’d forgotten, or hadn’t even been told about yet. It was an almost constant feeling of being unprepared.
The Bible tells us that the 2nd coming of Christ will be like an event that no one told you about. It will be like no one told you about it, because no one knows when that day will be. In the gospel lesson for last week Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) As a result, many people will be unprepared for Christ’s return.
As Christians, we have a problem. We have an appointment to keep, but don’t know when that appointment is. We are to be prepared for the Day of Judgment, yet, we don’t know when that will be; & the Day of Judgment is no small potatoes.
It’s not like being unaware you’re supposed to start out this sermon by running up to the altar. You all missed that, but there were no consequences. Yet, if you are not prepared for the last day, you won’t get a 2nd chance. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said in one of his movies, “Hasta la vista, baby.” On that last day, the time for preparation will be over.
So how do we prepare for something, when we don’t know what time to be prepared? We are a very time oriented culture. Our lives are quite filled with schedules & deadlines. Almost everything we do is dictated somehow by the when of it. When do I have to be here, when do I have to be there, & when can I fit this into my schedule.
We are lost without a time target to shoot for. Since we don’t know when Christ will return we must be patient & persevering in our preparation. Those are skills our culture & society do not teach well. The Advent season of the church is designed to help us with that problem. During Advent you & I are to practice preparing for Christ’s return.
We use His 1st coming, His birth in Bethlehem, as the stand in. Yet the coming that we are actually preparing for is His second. The gospel of Mark says of this coming, “Make sure that, having come suddenly, He does not find you asleep.” In other words, “Be prepared.”
The words of the gospel lesson were prompted by a question directed to Jesus: “Teacher, when will these things be, & what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” (Luke 21:7 ESV) Our Lord used the opportunity to tell them something of the approaching Day of Judgment. The sermon text picks up with Jesus’ answer: “There will be miraculous signs in sun & moon & stars...” One of the old theologians of our church explained it like this:
“These signs will not be of the regular kind, like eclipses & other phenomena, which are governed by the fixed laws of nature. For these fixed laws will be repealed by the Creator, & the bonds which hold the entire universe together will dissolve. That universe will then crumble into utter chaos.”
If you’ve seen TV news coverage of a hurricane, you’ve seen how incomprehensible God’s might is to us puny human beings. Can you imagine what it’ll be like if the forces holding the earth in orbit, let go? Or if the forces holding the moon in place release? Verse 25 describes what the effects upon the seas will be as they roar while being tossed about.
It’s no surprise then that entire nations will be in anguish at the roaring & tossing of the seas. In the following verse Jesus says that men will faint from terror at the shaking of the heavenly bodies. Some commentators suggest that even fainting is too weak a word. They think that men will actually die from the terror caused by this collapsing of the universe.
Sounds like an important time to be prepared for. Are you on the mark? Are you ready? Or have you been spending all your time preparing for the celebration of the 1st coming of Christ? I’m not suggesting that Christmas is a waste of time, but it has already happened. It is no longer the focal point of our hopes or faith.
We now look to the 2nd coming of Christ for our final liberation from, as St. Paul put it, “This body of death.” Throughout the OT, from the 1st gospel promise in Genesis 3:15, to the Book of Malachi, God was giving us a shadow of the act of our salvation, the death of Christ upon the cross. That time has passed. Messiah Himself said from the cross, “It is finished.” Now, we look forward to His triumphant return. We look forward to seeing the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power & great glory. For us, who believe in Him as Lord & Savior, it will be a time of joy & relief. The struggles of faith will be over. No longer will we contend with sinful doubts or with the deceptions of Lucifer. A whole new & perfect world will arise.
To those who’ve refused to believe, it will be a time of great fear & bitter hatred. For them, as bad as life may have been here in time, it’ll be far worse in eternity. The collapse of our current universe will be a picnic, compared to the realities of hell & its eternal judgment.
As you prepare for Christmas this season of Advent, as you shop for gifts & plan for celebrations, think of the gifts God has given, & has prepared for us. Think of the eternal celebration He has made ready for you, & all of our brothers & sisters in Christ. Then, focus yourselves on what God can do to prepare you for that final day.
Through our baptism God daily drowns the old sinful nature in us. Daily He brings gifts of forgiveness, life & salvation. Through the sacrament of Holy Communion He strengthens our body & our soul, our faith & our trust in Him. He heals our diseases of mind, body & spirit. He draws us closer to Him, giving that peace that surpasses all human understanding.
Through our study & hearing of God’s word, He’ll guide & guard & protect us. He’ll give us the gifts of wisdom & courage even in the uncertain times of the end days. With planets & stars thundering through the heavens, when human reason & wisdom tell us to be terrified & flee, our God given wisdom & experience will tell us to trust Him & rejoice instead.
These gifts from God will never wear out or become old news, like the Christmas presents we give & receive. The gifts from our Savior were guaranteed by His own blood, shed upon that cross. These gifts have the same power over Satan that Christ showed by His glorious resurrection on that Sunday morning. That morning the women in their human wisdom, were concerned with practical things, like who would roll away the stone, but God, He was concerned with impractical things, like the salvation of a group of fearful & failing disciples.
Since you don’t know when it will be, does it still seem impractical for you to prepare your heart for the Last Day? Do you really have more important things to do? Or do you think you’re too weak to fend off Satan’s temptations? Then listen to Jesus: “Heaven & earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” And what do His words say?
They tell you He loves you enough to have died for you. On the Day of Judgment, when the sky truly is falling, His words tell you to stand up & lift up your heads – your redemption is drawing near. His words tell you NOT to let your hearts be troubled & NOT to be afraid. His words tell you that no one, not even Satan, can snatch you out of His protective hand.
The Son of God says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” It’s that very peace which will enable believers, on the final day, to look up at the universe collapsing all around & NOT be afraid. Behold, at that time you will see the Son of Man, coming in a cloud with power & great glory. And with Him, He will bring your eternal life in paradise. Amen.
The righteous King is bringing peace; He comes the pris’ners to release. His royal crown, self-sacrifice, its jewel, mercy without price. He brings our sorrows to an end. Shout out your joy to God, our friend. Our highest praise we bring, our God Redeemer King. Amen.
 John 14:27
Pastor Dean R. Poellet