Advent 2 Sermon (Populus Zion), 2017
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Knowing that something has an end makes that thing easier to endure.
If you hate basketball—if you know nothing about basketball—and if you find yourself at a basketball game—halftime will be wonderful thing for you, because—if nothing else—you’ll learn that that thing is halfway over.
That makes the second half easier, because you know exactly what to expect.
I remember going to a symphonic concert in St. Louis at the Fox Theater when I was in Junior High.
To this day, that was the most boring thing I’ve ever done.
Even the choir director fell asleep, and I remember, at intermission, thanking God, because I could start counting down until it was time to get back on the bus.
I didn’t know what to expect—but intermission, halftime, made it clear exactly what was left to sit through.
Knowing that something has an end makes that thing easier to endure.
But the more difficult the thing is to endure, the more we want to skip over it.
We hold to these thoughts simultaneously—if not in what we say, then in what we do.
Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty…I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life, but I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
I can respect that.
But—depending on the day and the effort, pain, and difficulty required—I also respect taking the “path of least resistance.”
One of the funniest scenes in any movie is in the movie Life, with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, when Murphy’s character, one of the few who’s able to read, reads a letter for one man in their group.
He reads the letter, and it’s full of terrible news.
The man’s second-cousin Bo had died.
And his other cousin Sally had died.
And his sister had died.
And his other sister had died.
And, of course, things have been pretty tough since the crops didn’t come in on account of the frost.
And then, there was the big tornado in which his mom and his dad, both, were killed.
But at least the dog’s okay!
If it gets over the worms, that is.
Murphy’s character reads the letter, and—after reading it—he asks if anybody else has a letter they’d like for him to read.
And—of course—they say—No!
Now, I’ve taken the time to tell you all of that so that I could make this point.
How ever bad the news—there’s always an end to the letter.
How ever bad your day—there’s always an end to it.
But would you want someone to read your letter to you?
Would you want the contents of your day, your entire life, spelled out for you, every bump, every break?
And before you say yes, consider that the contents of that letter could include not only the death of your family, friends, or even children—but their judgment.
Would you want to know which of your family members reject the faith on their deathbeds?
Everyone would like to know the good things, sure. But would anyone like to know everything?
I think not.
Consider the words of our Lord. Consider what and how He tells us to live and watch:
“’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. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
And he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the 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. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’
But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day [the great Day of the Lord] 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” (Luke 21:25-36).
The Lord has promised an end.
As He came in humility once.
He promises to come again in glory.
Some days, it may seem as boring as a symphonic concert to a kid in junior high.
Some days, it may seem like the bad news in the letter keeps coming and coming.
Some days you won’t want to go on.
You’ll wish it to all be over.
There’s going to be days of gain, sure. But there’s going to be days of loss.
There isn’t an intermission—but there are signs.
And they’re clear, if you will see it.
“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.”
Jesus says the signs that tell of the end are common things. Signs in the sky—like an eclipse. Like a super moon. Like a supermassive black hole.
Signs on the earth, distress of nations, nations in perplexity, because of the roaring of the sea.
People fainting with fear of what is coming on the world.
President Trump is part of the sign of the end of the world—but so was President Obama, and Bush, and Clinton.
The parable Jesus tells makes it even clearer:
The signs that tell of the end are as common as the seasons changing. They’ve always been changing.
After Jesus’ ascent into Heaven, it’s always been the case that the end could come at any moment.
The end is coming, and all that you need to meet that end well—your salvation—has been won.
The Lord has come to earth as a Man, to be a Sacrifice on your behalf.
He’s died in your place.
He’s proclaimed you as His heir and claimed you by name in the waters of Holy Baptism.
He’s forgiven your sins and declared you righteous, and holy, and innocent.
He’s risen from the dead and ascended into heaven as your Advocate and Friend.
And He’s coming back to raise you and all believers in Christ to life and immortality.
He has promised. He will not fail.
In the meantime, in the midst of all this perplexity and loss, the Lord comes to you as He’s promised—in His Holy Word and Sacrament.
You’re not alone.
You have the Lord.
You are His. And He is yours. Forever.
He comes—now—speaking words of warning and comfort to you.
He comes to feed your body and soul with His Body and Blood to strengthen you for the days to come, that you have joy—now—while you wait and joy—now—even when you suffer.
Christ, our Lord, is not simply our Lord in the future, when sorrows cease.
He’s our Lord even now, in the midst of sorrow.
You will escape these things in the end.
That end is coming.
He’ll bring you to Himself and give you His peace.
While we wait, hear the words of our Lord, and understand them:
Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
We know the end is coming, but that’s how it’s easier to endure.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!