Sunday, December 6, 2020

Populus Zion - The Second Sunday in Advent (Advent 2)



Luke 21:25-36; Romans 15:4-13; Malachi 4:1-6


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

“And 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.”

I am certain that you will agree with me that our Lord’s prophecy contains a fairly alarming list of tribulations. I suspect that many of you will look at our world today and come to the conclusion that Jesus must have been talking about our time. Or, perhaps you think that this tribulation will come at some time in the future. But, I ask you to consider, what did your parents, what did your grand or great grandparents think about their own time? What did the people of Luther’s day think? What did Jesus’ hearers in the first century A.D. think when they heard these His words? You see, though He has given you a lengthy list of alarming signs, and has instructed you to keep watch, the signs He instructs you to watch for truly are not very specific. I mean that, the people of any time and any generation could equally see the signs as being fulfilled in their own time, in their own generation. And, that’s precisely the point.

For, truly, the outward signs have been occurring, and they will continue to occur, from the time of Jesus’ Ascension until the day of His Parousia, His Second Coming. In fact, the primary sign that you are to watch for and to take note of is that this world, and everything in it, is passing away, and that, in the end, there is only one thing that will endure – the Word of God. Therefore, Jesus says, you are to watch, much less for the signs of the coming end than you are to watch yourselves: “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.”

Perhaps it seems to you that Jesus is using mixed metaphors? Indeed, He is. For, your Lord warns you at once of His coming again in judgment and the end of this present world, even as He warns you of your personal coming judgment at the end of your life. Jesus shifts his images from powerful and turbulent forces of nature – solar flares and supernovas, hurricanes and tsunamis – to the commonly observed phenomena of the annual life cycle of a fig tree, and all manner of 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.”

From Jesus’ teaching you must learn that He is Lord of the cosmos and the creator and upholder of all things. Both the normal course of the heavenly bodies and the natural lifecycles of living creatures, plant and animal alike, are governed by Him, exist and function by His ongoing creative Word. It is of this truth that the Psalmist sings, “These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” Thus, Jesus says to you, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Jesus is God’s Word of creation, made flesh, and dwelling amongst us; in His time, at His command and no other, He will pull the plug on this world and unveil His Kingdom of Heaven for every eye to see.

As much as this reality must guide and govern your cosmology and worldview, so must it guide and govern your day to day life. Again, Jesus is speaking not only of the end of the world, but of the nature of your day to day life in this world until He comes. Look around you, not only at the heavenly bodies, the forces of nature, and the destructive wars and wickedness of men, but look at your aging body, look at your aging car and appliances, look at your weathering paint or siding on your home, look and see that nothing in this life or world lasts. For, that is a sign, as much as the lifecycle of the trees or the fading of stars. Jesus’ warning to you is plain and simple – these are not your gods; do not put your fear, your love, and your trust in them. But, put your fear, your love, and your trust in God and in His Word by which all these are made and sustained. For, the temptation is to become weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life. Therefore, your Lord says that you must watch yourself. The signs of brokenness and decay all around you, the distress of nations, wars and rumors of wars, these, which are the results of our sin, are used by the Lord to awaken you to watchfulness, to keep you vigilant, that you may watch and wait in faithfulness, and that the day of His coming not come upon you suddenly like a trap. Your Lord says to 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.”

And yet, your Lord’s Words are not meant to terrify you or to threaten you; after all, you know the nature of He who is coming. He is your Savior, your Redeemer, and your Messiah; He is your God and your Lord. He, who was in the beginning with God, who was and is God, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again that He might raise you from the dead and bestow eternal life upon all who fear, love, and trust in Him. He is coming again, not to punish you, not to destroy you, but to crown you with His victory over sin, death, and the devil, and to make you, once again, Kings and Queens with Him over heaven and earth. Thus He says to you, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Thus, even now, there is no need to walk around with your heads down in fear, anxiety, and despair, for we are not like those without hope, but we look forward to that day when the Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings. Then we will go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Indeed, that sort of expectant hope is what this Advent season is all about. In expectant hope, our Lord’s faithful people watch and wait for His coming. This is what St. Paul encourages you with in saying, “What was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And, to sustain you in hope, to strengthen you in faith, and to seal you and keep you in communion with Him, your Lord Jesus has given you His Word and His Spirit alongside water, bread, and wine that you might eat, drink, and wear the fruits of His labor as you wait and watch for His coming in glory. For, He is coming; He has come; and, in answer to your prayers, He comes. The angels of heaven sang at His lowly birth. The earth shook at His death. The heavens and the earth will dissolve when He comes again. This generation will not pass away until all has taken place. And, though there may be various modes of His coming, there is but one Lord who comes – your Lord, our Savior and God in human flesh, Jesus the Christ. For those who fear, love, and trust in Him – for you, His baptized children – the judgment has already taken place on Good Friday’s cross: Innocent, not guilty, for the sake of Jesus. It is finished. Jesus’ death on the cross is the sign above all signs, and it stands fulfilled for all eternity. Therefore, when you look to the signs in the heavens, and when you look to the signs in the trees, these all point to the sign of the cross – sin is judged, death is defeated, this world is passing away, the Word of the Lord alone endures forever. Therefore, live in harmony with one another, and welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. And, may the God of hope fill you with all peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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