First Sunday of Advent 2018 – Luke 21:25-36
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, the 21st chapter.
Glory to you, O Lord.
[Jesus said,] There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 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, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” The Gospel of the Lord!
Praise to you, O Christ.
Dear Friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Waiting! None of us are very good at it. We’ve all been there, waiting for one thing or another. Where have you done your waiting?
• Maybe it was a hospital waiting room, waiting for a loved one in surgery and for the doctor to come report on the outcome.
• Maybe it was waiting for that phone call to come from your doctor with the results from a biopsy.
• Maybe it was in an airport and you sat and waited because your flight was cancelled or delayed.
• Maybe your waiting was for the school bell to ring the end of the day.
• Maybe your waiting was for Christmas to finally arrive so you could open the presents under the tree.
We wait for all kinds of things. We wait nine months of a pregnancy for a child or grandchild to make its grand appearance. We wait to finish college so we can start a career. We wait for families to gather so we can celebrate a holiday. Maybe your waiting was at the end of an IV drip waiting for the chemo to do its work and see if your cancer has decreased. There are times when victims wait for justice, or when the hungry and homeless wait for something better. We wait for the economy to improve or for that job we so desperately need. Sometimes we even wait to die when our bodies have grown old or just given up. When you think about it we do a lot of waiting in life.
This Advent I want to invite you to think of this sanctuary as our waiting room. As we wait to celebrate Christmas, we will be reminded of all the other things in life that we wait for, and how God comes to us in our waiting to encourage and help us.
Advent is a season of waiting and hope for a better life and for a better world. God’s people waited for centuries for a Messiah that God would send to rescue them. And God came down to them that first Christmas at Bethlehem. It wasn’t exactly what they were waiting for, but it was what they needed.
Our lesson today talks about another kind of waiting, waiting for a future when Christ will come again. “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, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” There are some people who face the future with a lot of fear. They look at what is happening around the world and wonder what the world is coming to?
As we think about the future Jesus warns us against two temptations. One is to care too little, and the other is to care too much.
1. Caring Too Little. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness.” There are people who have given up hoping and dreaming. They no longer believe in anything. They are cynical about life. Nothing will ever change so why even try. Forget about changing the world. Make sure you get your own. Eat, drink and be merry. These people need Advent. Someone has said that Advent is a season for recovering lost dreams. We need to hope again, dream again. Our lives do make a difference. God is alive and active in this world bringing real change in people’s lives. Don’t waste your life and time here on this earth. Be a part of God’s coming kingdom.
2. Caring Too Much. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with…the worries of this life.” There are times when we care too much, when we become so immobilized with worry about the future that we can no longer live in the present. These people too, need Advent. They need to believe that God is indeed alive and working in this world. We have a power from beyond that we can trust to guide us. Trust in that power. Believe in it. Have faith. Do you know what the opposite of faith is? It’s not doubt. The opposite of faith is fear. And when we care too much we become consumed with fear and we lose sight of the power of God in our lives.
When we care too little or we care too much, that is when we need to hear Jesus’ words to us again to raise our heads and trust in God. ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 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, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
Stand up and raise your heads. That’s what people of faith do. Don’t focus on this world but focus on the world that Jesus is bringing to us. Jesus is coming again to make all things new. Focus on God and God’s power to change your life and to change our world.
The season of Advent is meant to teach us how to wait filled with faith in the power of God. We are not to care too little, nor are we to care too much. We lift our heads to the reality of a new world that God is bringing, a world of justice and a world of peace.
“Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins, and redeem us for your life of justice, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (Prayer for the First Sunday in Advent.)