Second Sunday in Advent - Luke 21:25-36 - December 6, 2015

Hymn #90 Come, Your Hearts and Voices Raising
Hymn #95 Savior of the Nations, Come
Hymn #611 The Day is Surely Drawing Near

Micah 4:1-7
Romans 15:4-13
St. Luke 21:25-36

Collect for the 2nd Sunday in Advent
Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Thine Only-Begotten Son, so that by His coming we may be enabled to serve Thee with pure minds; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel


1)         Jesus says that before His return in glory to judge the quick and the dead there will be signs which are meant to show mankind that His return is near. There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars. And surely we’ve seen these in our own lifetimes. There are eclipses in the sun and the moon. We see the signs in the stars when we see comets, meteor showers, and falling stars. While the ancients and pre-modern people put stock in these signs as portents of evil to come, we who live in modern age have been taught to view them as naturally occurring phenomena, nothing to get worked up about. This was the teaching of the philosopher Aristotle. But yet these things are signs of the end. Not that the end is nearer than it was before, but signs in the heavens that the end is on its way. These signs should remind mankind that there will be an end and it will come like a thief in the night. But the world refuses to see these signs for what they are, reminders of Christ’s promise. The world continues on just as Christ said it would in Luke 17:26-27. He says, As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.  They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. In the days of Noah, in spite of one family diligently building a large ark, the world continued on its in course, neglecting the Word of the Lord. For this neglect and lack of repentance the world perished in the floodwaters. In the next verse of Luke 17 Jesus compares the days before His return to the days of Sodom before it was destroyed. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all (Luke 17:28-29). The world goes on, each one pursuing his own desires, his own business, keeping his thoughts and intentions on the things of this world which is swiftly drawing to an end.

2)         Some will be affected by thoughts of the end and the coming judgment though. Jesus also says in the Gospel lesson that on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, and the sea the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from and the expectation of those things which on coming on the earth, for the powers of the heaven will be shaken. The distress of nations does not mean that every nation will be distressed at the same time. This fits with what Jesus says elsewhere about wars and rumors of war before the end. There will be perplexity among the nations as well, meaning there will be distress of people’s conscience as well. People will fear world events, fear for their safety, for their very lives. As it is with the signs in the heavens, so this is obvious in our day as well. Our lives are threatened by the Mohammadens and their religion of death. We are often perplexed at the state of the world and our country as it has become obvious that no place is safe from violence due to increasing numbers of people who have no regard whatsoever for the law or for human life. We are often distressed by degradation of our culture as we see it overrun by hellish influences. All these signs lead mankind into two great errors. The first error is to look at these signs and refuse to see the end in them, so that we think that with only another election cycle things can be turned around. There is always the temptation to think that we can, with enough Christians in office or with enough legislation, fix things and go back to a simpler time. This error believes that the end can be forestalled by our own actions and doings. But there is no going back, only forward. The other error is despair, when men see these signs and despair of the end, hoping against the Scripture that the end does not come out of fear of judgment, resentment of God, or out of love for the pleasures of this life.

3)         But Jesus does not tell His disciples about these signs to bring them to despair. Nor does He tell them these things so that they can work harder at forestalling the end. The Christian, saith the Christ, is to look at all these signs in a much different way than the world and the human nature looks at them. The Christian is to look forward to these signs and see in them their promised redemption. Jesus says, now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near. All these signs are not to dishearten you, though they may at times do this. Every eclipse is given to remind you, the baptized, that your redemption is closer than it previously was. Every falling star is not a romantic background for some chick flick. Every sign in the heavens is a reminder that Christ is returning for us, to save us from this wretched generation. It is as St. Paul writes in Romans 13:11 that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  Jesus teaches His Christians to interpret these signs rightly. You are not to ignore them as natural phenomena as Aristotle taught, attaching no meaning to them whatsoever. Nor are you to view these signs in the heavens and in the world and let them distress you and perplex you. Christ teaches you to see His Word being fulfilled in each of them, to see your coming redemption from this sin-saturated, dying world.

4)         He says this another way by means of a parable. Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Jesus uses the fig tree and its sweet fruit as a parable for the signs of the time. He could have used something from the dying months before winter. If He intended these signs to cause His Christians to despair of life and a future He would have said, “Look at the Chinese Pistache trees all around! When you see their lives yellowing and beginning to fall, then you know that the chilly bleakness of winter is at hand!” But Christ does not compare the coming of the kingdom of God to the cold of winter of the dormancy of trees. The coming of the kingdom of God is like the arrival of sweet fruit. By this Christ wants to teach you that His return is not something to feared but something to which we look forward with joy and anticipation, much like a child looks forward to Christmas morning. When Christ says at the end of Revelation, surely I come quickly, St. John does not say, “Please hold out a bit longer so that I can enjoy my life and the good things of this world.” Neither does He say, “Woe is me, for I am not ready to be done with this life.” The Apostle answers in faith, Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20) He teaches us that we should desire the end and the return of Christ, because the Christian should be daily learning to love their promised redemption more and more through their study of the Word and Christ’s promises.

5)         Christ ends today’s pericope with a warning for us as well. Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come upon you unexpectedly. Watch therefore and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. The world, and your own flesh, do not want God’s kingdom to come, whether in your heart now through the pure preaching of the Word, or at the end of all things. Jesus warns us not to let our hearts be weighed down with the things of this life. Carousing and drunkenness are to be avoided because they numb the soul to prayer and watchfulness. Drunkenness and carousing lead are the result of pursuing pleasure and comfort in this life so that we learn to love this wretched world and this sinful generation. Jesus also warns us about getting too wrapped up in the cares of this life. These cares are just what they sound like, the daily cares which drive you in any direction but faith. These cares of the world fight for our attention so that we do not take time to attend to the Divine Word in reading, study, and prayer upon the Word that we have studied. The business of the day quickly assaults us in the mornings lest we take the time to quiet our souls before the Word of God so that the Holy Ghost can work in our hearts and minds through that Word of God. We are not to abandon the cares of this life, for we are put in our vocations to serve our neighbors in love. But we are not to let these cares weigh our hearts down because if we easilyi forget to look up to the heavens, watching in faith the signs He sends, looking forward to our nearing redemption.

6)         Do not fear the things you read in the news and see on television. They must come just as Christ said they will. While they are evil in themselves, Christ attaches great promise to them nonetheless. When you hear of Isalmic terror, rejoice for you know the Kingdom of God is coming and will destroy those who cling to their false god. When you see the moral turpitude of our nation rejoice, for Jesus said that things will progress just as they did in the days of Lot and in the days of Noah. When you see the church growing smaller, not just ours, but across the board, take heart, for the true church is always a small flock. Look upon the signs in the heavens and those upon the earth and take heart, remembering to cast your gaze upward toward heaven in thanksgiving and prayer. With each one of these signs that appears, the redemption of your body from this vale of tears grows nearer. With each one of the signs that is manifest, even it can be easily explained away, rejoice, because the kingdom of God and the recreation of all things is closer than it was before. Watch for Christ and watch yourself lest your heart be weighed down with the cares of this world so that you cannot watch for Christ in joy. Finally again, do not be afraid. The end brings your Lord Jesus Christ who baptized you, who washed you to forgive the guilt of your sin, the same Lord Jesus who was sent in love to be crucified for you. If you belong to Him now by faith, He will be come for you in redemption. If He belong to you now by faith, rejoice as you see these signs, for He will belong to you all the more when He comes again. Amen.


 

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