The Second Sunday in Advent, 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Jesus said: ”There’ll be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations…because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming…For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they’ll see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory…When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk. 21:25-28).
The day of the Lord’s return will set the wicked and the proud ablaze in hell’s tortuous fire. They’ll not only suffer terribly but they will also know great terror, because they lived this life as if they were the only ones who mattered.
They loved their families, and they loved Thanksgiving and Christmas.
They shopped local, loved America, teared up at parades, and stood for the national anthem.
But the wicked and the proud didn’t love Jesus.
They knew Him not as the Righteous One who came to suffer and die, the one who said, “Take up your cross and follow Me,” the one who said “No one comes to the Father but by Me.”
The wicked and the proud will see the signs (too late) in sun, moon, stars, earth, and sea. They’ll see them as a gathering of armies on the border, as imminent and painful death, and as the end of all good things.
The End of All Things will be for the wicked and the proud impending and total doom.
Justice requires repentance from us all. We’re the wicked. We’re the ones who forget our place—who forget the God who made all things—who forget that pride is a sin and vice.
What was written in former days has been written for our instruction, yet we live not for harmony and hope but for ourselves.
We think it admirable to love only our families and those who love us, but that’s no different from the wicked or proud.
Loving Christmas and eggnog and feasting, loving presents and decorations and Rudolph doesn’t make you a Christian.
At Judgment, when our works are revealed, everything done apart from faith in Jesus will be destroyed as stubble in the fire.
That Day is coming, and for some, it will be terrible, but for those of you who have joy now in Christ, that day will be pure joy.
In the Gospel lesson, Jesus directs our attention to what’s going on in the world now.
The signs in the sun, moon, and stars, the signs on earth are signs that have always been and will always be.
The end has been and is at hand!
This world cannot endure.
This past week, I overheard a student taking a vocabulary quiz. One of the words was entropy.
The definition I remember is this: “Entropy is the trend of things towards chaos.” Or, “It’s always getting worse.”
Which is a simple but accurate definition.
That may sound negative or pessimistic, fatalistic or gloomy, but what I mean is, try as it might, try as we might, the Creation, mankind, can’t undo the effects of sin.
The wages of sin is death. We can’t stop that.
But Jesus doesn’t say what He does to turn us all into a bunch of worriers. No, He says, “Straighten up…raise your heads…Your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
For you, for all who grieve and mourn—for those who wait with expectation the coming of the Lord, your redemption is drawing near. And on That Day, we—and all believers in Christ—will rejoice.
The signs we see teach us to expect the Day of the Lord. To be ready.
So, look to the sun, moon, and stars—look in the earth, the sea, and even in your own life.
Look to the cross, to war, to death, and see what God—even in the midst of terror and loss—promises.
His Word promises tribulations now.
And, His Word promises the end of all tribulation in Christ.
The enemies of God and the Church, your enemies now, will be no more then.
Sin will lose its appeal.
Temptation will have no power.
There’ll be no one to accuse you, no one to hurt you.
The good work begun in you will be complete.
Your justification and your sanctification will match perfectly. Who and how you should be is who and how you will be.
And Creation itself will rejoice to see you revealed as a son of God. You’ll rejoice. You’ll be glad, for the kingdom of God will come to you and never be taken away.
This is most certainly true.
But it is not most certainly easy.
Every day, we have to believe God’s promises and suffer the tribulations of the world.
The Lord is with you now by means of His Word and the Sacraments. And He, Himself, is coming back to get you.
This isn’t the end sin deserves, but it is the end that God promises, the end that He’s won for us.
Jesus says: “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” (Luke 21:29-33).
When Jesus teaches regarding the fig tree, it was a different season than what we have here and now.
The fig tree, then, would’ve been in bloom, so summer was near, and the kingdom of God is near.
Our trees aren’t in bloom, but there are still other things, other signs, if you will, to hear and see and taste.
We’re here to receive Jesus’ body and blood, to taste and see that the Lord is good.
He comes to you in this, the hour of your need, in grace and mercy, as the Lamb slain for your salvation.
Jesus is faithful.
We confess that He has ascended to the right hand of the Father, but we also confess that He hasn’t abandoned you.
The kingdom of God is near.
The Kingdom of God comes, now, with the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
The summer of everlasting joy is coming.
Winter—though it technically hasn’t even started yet—is already at its end.
The Lord has come to save us.
Straighten up. Lift up your head. Rejoice!
Your redemption is drawing near.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!