Sermon for the Second Sunday in Advent
Text: Luke 21:25–36
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
This Advent Season as we prepare to receive our Lord Jesus Christ we are compelled to give thought to readiness. Last week we reflected on the words of the hymn “O Lord, How Shall I Meet Thee.” But we should be careful how we understand that question. It is all too easy to get caught up with ourselves, even in this season of giving and sharing. O Lord, how shall I meet Thee? Could be taken as a rhetorical question, we ask ourselves. What have I done to prepare for Jesus? What should I do to make myself ready?
Then that question becomes more about us and less about Him. It is something like saying, I love Jesus so much that I want this Christmas to be perfect. The kids must memorize their lines flawlessly for the Christmas program, I need to find the perfect gift for each person in my family, the house needs to be decorated in a manner that shows the true meaning of Christmas while having enough lights to attract the attention of people driving down the street, I have to plan the perfect menu, and time everything so that Christmas dinner is prepared perfectly even though that means timing 6 dishes to come out of the same oven at the same time.
Just as the question “Are you ready for Christmas?” can mean so many different things, the question how shall I prepare to meet Jesus means two different things if you are asking yourself how to be prepared, or if you are asking Jesus how to be prepared. The truth is, you cannot prepare yourself. There’s just not enough tinsel to make that tree shine, if you know what I mean.
In our Gospel Lesson today, Jesus transitions from a conversation about the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple to the end of the world. The end of the world is actually a pretty common theme in our society. The world doesn’t talk much about Jesus’ return, but listen carefully to what people are saying and you will hear plenty of Chicken Littles warning that the sky is falling. Democrats warn that if President Trump isn’t stopped, the world as we know it will end. Republicans warn that if the Democrats have their way western civilization will collapse back into the dark ages. Climatologists warn that we may have already passed the point of no return and climate change is destined to destroy life on earth as we know it. The Center for Disease Control even has recommendations on how to survive a zombie apocalypse. They justify this as a fun way to have people prepared for any kind of disaster. It is not a common sight to see men wearing sandwich board signs declaring the end is near. The internet now provides opportunities for blogs and podcasts that have a much broader reach.
Now please hear me correctly. I’m not saying that we should not care about politics or the environment or other potential sources of danger. Christians are right to be involved in the discussion about how our nation is governed and how our natural resources are stewarded. But I want you to also recognize the distress of nations in perplexity taking place around you.
Natural man tends to respond to any of the signs Christ has given regarding His return by resisting them. Jesus tells us that the sea and waves will fill people with perplexity. Why is our first response to news of climate change an effort to see how is this caused by man and how can man stop it? How can we delay the end? The fallen nature looks at rising sea levels and denies that this is a sign that Jesus is coming again, and instead works toward preparing ourselves for a new way of life.
It doesn’t have to be the climate and can be fears regarding the earth’s population, a meteor impact, a viral outbreak, nuclear war. We can deny that the last day is coming, or we can fight to ward it off a little bit longer, or we can dig a shelter and stock it with food, water, medication, guns, and ammunition. But that does not change our Lord’s promise to return. Nor is this sort of preparation what our Lord would have us do to prepare.
But 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. But 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.
Jesus would have you prepare for His return with prayerful watching. He is the one who gives strength. He is the one who will preserve you through all the trials and tribulations of the end times, and, make no mistake about it, we are living in the last days already. It’s not how you prepare yourself to meet Jesus. It’s not what you must to do be ready, but what He must do to you. “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You?” is a prayer that our Savior will prepare you for His coming.
Therefore, fear not! The signs in the sun, moon, and stars, the distress caused by the roaring of the seas and the waves, are but the first green leaves telling you that summer is near. The howling and confusion of the world is but that last gust of winter’s gales upon the spring of New Life that comes with Jesus.
When you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Do not let these signs trouble you. They testify of Jesus, and He is closer that you realize. For Jesus promises that the generation He speaks to will not pass away until all has taken place. In his death and resurrection,n which occurred mere days after these words were spoken, the signs began. The sun gave up her light, the earth trembled, the nations cowered in fear as the Son of God bore the wrath of God on sinful man that wherever Jesus is there is salvation.
Therefore be prepared, not by your efforts, but by the hope and confidence that comes from knowing that Jesus who came first to save you will come again to take you to be with him. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
More than stockpiled cans of food, guns, and ammunition, more than presents wrapped weeks in advance, or the perfect plan for Christmas dinner, the best preparation for Christmas is the preparation that looks for Christ to come again with joyful confidence.
Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria