Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sermon -- 1st Sunday in Advent (December 2, 2012)

LUKE 21:25-36

In the name + of Jesus.

     We have begun a new church year, marching into the season of Advent.  Advent means “coming,” and it is easy to think of Jesus’ coming into the world at Christmas time.  We can’t help but think that with the stores having Christmas displays, with homes decorated for the season, and with Christmas songs playing some radio stations.  The world is already celebrating.  The Church, however, waits.  We anticipate December 25 not as a deadline to be met or a goal line to be crossed, but a day when our celebration actually begins.  Until then, the Church prays.  The Church repents and prepares.  And, in fact, we give our attention to a different coming.  And while it surely approaches, we do not know what day to circle on the calendar for its arrival.  Dear Christians, Jesus is coming.  Your redemption is near! 

     The picture Jesus paints for his second coming hardly makes a good image for a Christmas card.  It is downright dismal.  Perhaps it is even frightening.  Jesus says, 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.” (Luke 21:25-26)  

     Jesus makes it sound like the world will be falling apart.  In fact, it is; but that should not surprise us.  Sin has corrupted not only mankind, but all creation as well.  And when sin comes, so does death.  So the world that we live in is dying.  It is slowly winding down.  Things are going from a state of order to disorder.  We need not be alarmed by any of this.  The evidence has been in front of us for generations.  Every natural disaster is the result of a sin-corrupted world.  All kinds of diseases and mutated genes are the result of a sin-corrupted world.  While we are thankful for the advances in medicine that can help us deal with various diseases and disorders, they cannot cure everything.  And new medicines are always needed because genes mutate into new strains of disease.  You need not faint from fear.  For your Lord is coming.  Your redemption is near.

     We are often frightened at the idea that Jesus is coming again and that the world as we know it will be destroyed.  We are familiar with this world.  We enjoy its blessings.  We often regard this world as our home.  As a result, we find ourselves loving the world and everything in it.  Like Lot’s wife, we are not willing to depart from it or see it destroyed.  But St. John warns us: “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires….” (1 John 2:15-17)  While God has given us blessings in this world, it also has its problems and frustrations, trials and temptations.  The effects of sin taint even our best days.  The effects of sin cause us pain and sorrow, heartache and grief, bitterness and frustration, and finally death.  Why would you love such a place as this?

     The world will continue to be ungodly.  God’s patience will run out.  The Last Day is coming.  And all of the devastation in our world is a sign that the end is near.  But you need not fear.  “When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)  The Lord Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead.  All will stand before him.  “For [the Last Day] will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21:35)  You will not escape it.  You will not miss it.

     Usually, the prospect of Judgment Day scares people, even Christians.  After all, your conscience testifies that your judgment will not be good.  You’ve sinned, and you cannot deny it.  Fear not.  For the Lord who is coming to judge the living and the dead has already come for you once.  He came to redeem you from sin.  The price of your redemption was the holy blood and righteous life of God the Son.  God became man so that he could die for you and so that he could conquer death for you.  So Jesus has redeemed you from sin and death.  Sin cannot condemn you.  Jesus paid for it, and you have been baptized into Jesus.  Death cannot hold you.  Jesus nullified it and has made you children of the resurrection.

     When Jesus comes again in a cloud with power and great glory, many will tremble at the sight of him.  They have no answer for their lives.  But Jesus answers for you.  And he is coming for you.  He who conquered death for you will raise you from the dead.  He who ascended to heaven to prepare a place for you is coming to deliver you to that place.  Your redemption is drawing near.

     When Jesus does come, he will finally deliver you to a life that is free from any form of sin or evil.  In this world, you know both blessings and troubles.  Jesus is coming to deliver you to a world that is void of any troubles.  Never again will you know fear or frustration or bitterness or disappointment or sadness or pain or death.  You will only have blessing and peace and joy and life.  These are the kinds of things we pray for.  You do not have to dream about it; you only have to wait for it.  While many in this world are fearful because the world is falling apart, not so with you.   “When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28) 

     Meanwhile, “…watch yourselves….  Stay awake—that is, be alert—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.” (Luke 21:34,36)  Satan will use every means in his arsenal to distract you from your Savior.  He will surely try to seduce you, appealing to your desire to indulge your sinful flesh with every sinful pleasure your flesh craves.  The world will always seek to lure you away from Jesus, promising you that giving into temptation always means a good time.  Satan knows that you would rather party than repent.  The world wants you to celebrate with drunkenness and debauchery.  It mocks humility, modesty, and self-control.  Therefore, Jesus warns you: Be alert.  Repent.  Pray.  Do not be deceived by Satan; he has been cast down.  Do not envy the world; it is marked for destruction.  And do not fear the world’s demise.  You have been redeemed from it.  You have a much better and more glorious future waiting.

     Jesus is coming.  Your redemption is near.  But until he comes on the Last Day, Jesus comes to you at this altar.  He gives you his body and blood to sustain you in all of your trials, to strengthen you against temptation, and to forgive you when you have demonstrated your weaknesses against these things.  This is where Jesus provides relief from your guilt and redemption for your life.  This is where you find your comfort and your salvation.  The feast you enjoy here will be yours for all eternity. 

     Your redemption is near.  You will soon be delivered from demons that taunt and accuse.  You will soon be delivered from a world that deceives and disappoints.  You will be delivered from all disaster and disease, from all pain and sorrow, from bitterness and rage, from death and despair.  Jesus will bring you to everlasting joy, uninterrupted peace, and eternal blessings.  Lift up your heads.  Jesus is coming soon, for it is Advent.  Your redemption is near.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

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