Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday in Advent (December 8, 2013)

LUKE 21:25-36

In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord Jesus Christ spoke to his disciples about his coming.  December has people thinking of Jesus’ coming at his birth, but Jesus urges us to keep our attention on his coming at the Last Day.  Finally, that’s what matters.  I’m sure that you have a lot on your mind as you think of going to Christmas parties and getting ready for family gatherings.  But if you don’t get around to one of your traditions this year, life will go on.  There’s always next year.  On the other hand, if you fail to be mindful of Jesus’ coming on the Last Day, the results will not merely be disastrous, but eternal.
     Jesus tells you that the world will be frightened by everything they see leading up to his coming.  And that’s understandable.  Jesus’ description of the very last days is frightening stuff.  “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 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)    
     The world will begin to unravel.  Creation itself will become unglued.  The nations will be panicked.  People will be fearful.  There will probably be government initiatives and UN committees set up to stop it.  But the world will meet its end.  The Son of Man will make his return.  The Last Day will come.
     Countless people are terrified of death and the Last Day because they do not want to lose what they have.  They live for their sins and die in their sins.  They do not repent because they have had no fear of the Lord.  They do not take his words seriously.  They do not believe they need a Savior, and so they do not want one and they do not want to hear about one.  They love the world, and they love satisfying themselves with more possessions and pleasures.  It is not hard to figure out why people will be filled with fear and apprehension when they see their world falling apart. 
     Beware, because you are not eager to lose your world either.  You, too, love your possessions and pleasures.  When things get tough or stressful, you draw comfort from your controlled environment.  Or perhaps you try to hide your fear by drowning yourself in your pet sins—whether you are drawn to intoxication, perversion, gluttony, or trying to control everyone and everything.  Jesus warns, “Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.  For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21:34-35)  So, do not cling to this world, and do not give into worldly desires.  Rather, flee from them, and repent of them.
     Jesus is coming again.  Judgment is coming soon.  The world is dying.  Jesus Christ has told you these things so that you will not get swept away with the rest of the world in its panic and terror.  You need not be surprised by what is coming.  You don’t even need to fear it.  On the contrary, Jesus tells you, Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)  The Last Day will be a good day for you.  So fear not; your redemption is drawing near.
     Pay attention to the words Jesus chooses when he speaks of his return.  He speaks here to his disciples, to those who believe in him.  He does not tell you, “Your judgment is drawing near.”  He declares, “Your redemption is drawing near.”  In either case, your judgment and your redemption are both found in Jesus.  Jesus delivered you from the judgment that falls upon all mankind.  He redeemed you from sin and Satan by making himself a sin offering for you.  Your guilt was picked up by Jesus and carried to the cross.  Satan’s claims were diverted from you and put on Jesus.  At the cross, Satan claimed Jesus as his own.  Sin marked Jesus among the damned.  Your judgment fell upon him, and he suffered, died, and was buried in your place.  That is what happened to your judgment—it is dead and buried in the grave.  It is done.
     But the final word is not death or the grave or hell.  Though these put their marks on Jesus, Jesus overcame them.  He is risen, and now Jesus has the claim on sin, death, the grave, and the devil.  Jesus has conquered them, and you are the spoils.  You are the prisoners whom Jesus has redeemed.  He has redeemed you from the curse of sin, from the fear of death, and from the hopelessness that holds so many tightly in their grasp.  You have a better future.  You have a greater hope.  You have a place in heaven that is far greater than a corrupt and cruel world.  Your redemption is drawing near.
     When your world is falling apart, you do not need to flee to anything but to Jesus Christ.  He says: When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)  Jesus is coming again to redeem you from world which is falling apart and is filled with frustrations.  Jesus is coming to deliver you to a place where the joys are not interrupted by pain and loss, and where the blessings never pass away.  So do not shed a tear that this sinful world is passing away.  Jesus gives joys that are perfect and permanent.
     Therefore, Jesus urges you, “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.” (Luke 21:36)  Yes, dear Christians, stay awake and alert.  Keep watch against your own sinful flesh and worldly attitudes.  It is very easy to get swept away with so many who are worried about their worldly cares and obligations.  You will be tempted to free yourself from whatever cross God has laid upon you, rather than to serve faithfully under that cross.  If you long for a better life and a better comfort, then pray for Jesus’ return.  Pray for your redemption out of this world to a better world to come.  Pray that you will not fall into temptation.  Pray that you will not give into worldly pressures.  Pray that the Lord will keep you in his care, and then flee to his altar where Jesus will strengthen you in the faith and pour into you God’s mercy and love. 
     Dear Christians, your redemption is drawing near.  So you do not need to get upset or despair when the world again proves to you that it is dying and that its people are depraved.  Whether you are grieved by the next earthquake, the next epidemic, the next vindictive coworker, the next snarky comment, or the next dying loved one, understand that this will all end soon.  Do not make your goal to be happier in a world which is decaying and dying, but rather that you are delivered from it.  Flee to Jesus.  He is preparing a better place for you.  Straighten up.  Lift up your heads.  Pray for patience, endurance, and strength.  Your redemption is drawing near.  That is a good thing, and it will mean even better things for you forever.

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

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