In the Name of Christ Jesus Our Advent King +

In the Name of Christ Jesus Our Advent King +

In the Name of Christ Jesus our Advent King +

The world can be a wearying place. I would wager that for most of you here there was at least one day this past week where you ended up just crawling into bed exhausted. For me, this week a quick afternoon nap turned into a three hour nap. The world can be a very tiring place – and not just to us physically – not just because of toil and labors and work that needs to get done – but to the Christian this world can be very fatiguing. We look and around us we see wickedness. It affects our families and friends. We see loved ones start to do the dumbest things, bring about problems and trials. We see friends fall away from the faith even – and this wears on us. And this is to say nothing of the burden of our own sin. There is much for a Christian to contend with in this world.

And then we see what is happening in the world at large. There was a military coup in Fiji this week, the military overthrew a democratically elected government, and so much stuff happens that we barely bat an eye. 1000s dead in another typhoon somewhere in Asia or some such place – oh well. 45 dead in a fire. . . it happens. Nations all over the world are in uproar, and the nightly news basically only tells us where the current hotspot is – who is protesting what, who is killing who. So, what is our reaction to this world, this constant rumbling chaotic world to be? Hear what our Lord Jesus teaches us. And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and 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.

What is our response? What does Jesus teach us? Straighten up, raise your heads. Chin up! And why? Because when we see any distress, any chaos in this world, it reminds us of one vital thing. Our redemption is drawing near. Christ Jesus is coming. Our redemption is getting closer. The time is at hand. And we know it. Christ teaches us 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. We know what is coming. Those trees outside, looking dead and lifeless won’t always stay that way. They will sprout forth leaves, and we will know that the summer is coming. Likewise we see this world, we see its death and chaos and wickedness and evil – we feel its burdens upon us. We know what this means – it means that Christ is coming – which is why we confess this every Sunday – I look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Christ is coming, He shall come again to judge the living and the dead. We know this, we are to prepare for this.

And yet – we don’t really prepare for this as we ought. We are jaded, we’ve seen the sun set each day of our lives, so we see no reason to think that it won’t today – don’t expect Christ to really return anytime soon. A friend of mine was teaching the kids at his church about Christ’s return at their Sunday School opening, and teaching them that yes, it could be at any time, even before Sunday school is over. And one of the adults came to him and said, “Pastor, you’ve got those kids thinking Jesus is going to come in their lifetime.” And my friend said, “and. . .” “Well pastor, we know He’s not.” We know He’s not. How often to we end up taking this attitude – just sort of assuming that yes, yes, Jesus will come back – some day. But certainly not now. We become content and indifferent to our Lord’s Second Coming – we follow our eyes instead of heading the Word. I haven’t seen Jesus come yet, so well, I guess He’s probably not coming any time soon. And we get bogged down, stuck in the mire. We end up living as though Christ weren’t coming back.

Here we are in Advent, in the season of the Church year where our focus is on Christ’s coming – and yet even now we can fall into just pushing Christ’s return aside. All I’ve seen is wickedness – haven’t seen Jesus coming back yet. True, but Christ Jesus says look around – do you see the world and its wickedness – then know I am coming back. Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My Words will not pass away. What happens, what we forget sometimes, is that God’s Word is real, and it is real now. That God is active through His Word now. The Bible isn’t just a long time ago thing and also a some-time down the road thing – it is a now thing. We are to know that God’s Word is true – that it is right, and when He tells us to watch, He tells us to watch because He could return at any instant. And we know God is true to His Word, especially His Word about His coming.

Think on this for a moment. There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars - - the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Raise up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Christ is describing his 2nd Coming, but we’ve seen this before. We know His Word about His coming is true. Signs in the stars? Behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose in the east.” Or the powers of heaven being shaken? And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest!” We have not yet seen Christ’s second coming, but we have seen His first – His first which was promised came about, and so we know that when He starts talking about His Second coming He is serious. This is the reason we have this Gospel reading in Advent. When we think about our Lord’s First coming it isn’t just to remind us “Hey, there will be presents under the tree in a few weeks.” No, it is to teach and remind us that our Lord’s Second coming is indeed coming. As He came once to live and die and rise again, as He came to go to the Cross, to be lifted up upon the tree while the sun was blotted out in darkness and the world was shaken, so too He will come again to bring about our salvation, to take us from this world of sin and having raised us up with Him to new life to give us the joys of eternal life. This is reality, this is what we look forward to, this is what we expect. This is what we celebrate this Advent season, just as much as we celebrate His first coming.

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 knows that our life can be full of struggles, full of cares as He puts it. That we can be distracted by the problems of life and worn out by them, or that we can seek to loose ourselves just to avoid them, to numb our minds to the problems of life by wild living, or always seeking something new to entertain us and distract us. So what is Christ’s response? How do we handle the trials of life? He doesn’t tell us to go work harder. He doesn’t tell us 12 simple steps to make our lives great. He doesn’t tell us to booze it up, or find a new hobby. What are we to do? Pray that we may escape these things, these struggles of life and these false solutions to them that the world offers. Pray that we may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

So what does this mean? That we need to pray really, really hard, otherwise bad things will happen to us? That unless we pray the right magic prayer Jesus is going to let the boogie man come and eat us? No. Not at all. Jesus is describing your life as a Christian, your life as a member of the Church. You see, what happens is often when we think of prayer, we think of something we have to do, we get down on our knees and pray. It’s our action – we pray. Prayer isn’t something we cause, something we create – prayer is our response to God. When we hear God’s Word – when His Word enters our ears, our response, our reaction to that Word is to pray, to speak it back to God. When Jesus tells us to pray, it’s not a burden, but rather Jesus is describing what our lives look like. We hear His Word, and then we pray. The great example of this is the Sunday morning worship service. It is Scripture and prayer repeated over and over. Think about how it works. We have the Introit – God’s Word, and then we sing the Kyrie, Lord have mercy. That’s a prayer in response to God’s Word. Then the Gloria, which is more Scripture – and what is our response? We have the collect of the day – the prayer of the day. Word and then prayer. Then we have scripture and a sermon, focused on the Apostles’ teaching. What follows that? More prayers, appropriate to whatever needs we have. And then, the Lord’s prayer – which is a prayer for a group – Our Father – our Father. We have a hymn, where we sing forth God’s Word, and then we have a prayer. If we have communion, what do we do right after Communion? Have a prayer. This is the cycle – we hear the Word and then we speak it back to God in prayer. When Jesus tells us to pray He’s not placing a burden, a task on us – He is describing our lives, He is saying that we are to be living in His Word, hearing His Word, and then giving thanks and praise in response through our prayers. And being in His Word, being richly forgiven by His Word – what happens? We will be able to stand before Him on the last day – we can look up on the last day – be it the Last Day for everyone when He comes again, or be it just our last day as we close our eyes for the last time on our death beds – whenever it is for us we can approach that day not with fear, but knowing that our redemption indeed draweth nigh – because God has kept us in His life giving Word and has richly and daily forgiven our sins. This is how we stand now, and this is how we will stand on the last day – as Christ’s Baptized and forgiven children, washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

Dear friends in Christ – do not let the world wear you down, and do not let the world wear upon your faith. Christ knows that your life is hard, and He knows that patience is often hard to come by. So He calls you here, to His House of Prayer – so that you might be kept richly in His Word – that you might be forgiven and given strength to stand whatever trials come – and so that you might be able to look forward to His Second Coming just as we rejoice and look forward to celebrating His first coming on Christmas. Amen.