SERMON FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 12-8-2019
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL
Pastor Michael Larson
Old Testament: Malachi 4:1–6
Gradual: Psalm 50:2–3a , 5
Epistle: Romans 15:4–13
Verse: Luke 21:26b–27
Holy Gospel: Luke 21:25–36
This current creation, the world and all in it, are but the scaffolding of the eternal dwelling place (Walther). When that heavenly city is finally prepared and ready for entrance, the scaffolding of this current creation will be pulled down. It won’t be needed or wanted anymore. Not when you see the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Not when you see crystal clear rivers and streets paved with gold.Today’s collect really nails the theme of the day. We prayed, “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only begotten Son.” What exactly are we praying for there? We’re praying that God would guard us all from complacency and self-security. We’re praying that God would stir us up, that is, make us uncomfortable in this world, and uncomfortable with our sins. We are praying that God would stir us up, make us uncomfortable in this world and cause us to long for another. We’re praying that He remind us that we are in fact pilgrims in this life and on a journey. For the world in which we live will not last forever, or the things in it. It serves only a passing purpose, and once that purpose has been served, it will be torn down by the very one who built it. The Bible teaches us that the world is only a tent under which we, who are moving toward eternity, remain just for the night; and when the last person has completed his pilgrimage, it will be pulled down. And something far greater and infinitely more wonderful will be ushered in, a new heaven and a new earth where there is nothing but eternal joy and happiness.
You won’t need the sun or the moon then, for everything will be lit by the glory of God, the light of Christ the Lamb.
This morning we prayed that the Lord would stir us up. And in our Holy Gospel this morning our Lord does just that. He preaches three little sermons to us.
First, He preaches that He is coming again. Second, He lays before us the comforting lesson of the fig tree. And third, He warns us and encourages us to remain watchful and ready, that we would stand before the Son of Man when He returns.
Hear the words of our Lord: “And 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.”
Here we see the signs to expect before the end of the world. Now first off, God has forbidden us to speculate on the exact day and time of His final judgment. Our Lord Himself said, “Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
So no speculation! But we are called by God to look for that day, desire it, pray for it, and rejoice in it! After all, the last several weeks we have learned and saw again and again in our Scripture readings that the false Christians are identified by an attitude that says, “Hey, the Lord is delayed…He’s not showing up anytime soon…so I’ll live how I want! I’ll sin how I want! I’ll worry about obedience, forgiveness, and grace at a time that better fits my schedule.” How foolish! Our Lord warns against this sort of attitude. In contrast, true Christians are described as those who wait eagerly for the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their wicks are trimmed. Their lamps are burning. They have given attention to the means of grace, the gift of the Holy Spirit. They are living by faith in the Gospel.
Now, back to those signs that precede the Lord’s coming. There’s something important you all should know. They’ve all happened, folks! Solar eclipses. Roaring of the sea and waves, hurricanes, tsunamis, nation rising up against nation, world wars, famines, earthquakes, and false teachers leadings folks astray. All those end-time signs have happened. They’re common occurrences, so we sadly think nothing of them. But that would be a horrible mistake. These instances remind us that we live in a fallen world. A world led into chaos and decay by our own sin and rebellion against God. This evil world can’t be fixed or saved. Instead it must all be burned up and dissolved, and yet restored, made entirely new at the consummation, when Christ comes in great glory. So we learn that those signs we witness in the world are but a merciful reminder of the end of the age, our need for salvation, and our rescue in Christ.
Next, our Lord in today’s Gospel lays before us a little lesson on a fig tree. Jesus tells 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 summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
Got it? Does it look like the world is coming undone at the seams? Does this evil world look violent and scary and filled with sin? Are you frightened about raising your children in a world that is so troubled and in such a mess?
Our Lord is preaching such a comforting and wonderful lesson here. He’s saying, Don’t be discouraged. Don’t fall into complete and total despair. Instead you may look upon these troubles in the world as fresh buds shooting out on the branches of a tree in spring, when things are lush and green and filled with promise. Those signs of decay and trouble in the world are signs that summer is coming. That better times are ahead. That Christ is on the move, proof positive that our Lord is at the gate, ready to break in and rescue His Christians from every evil, relieve us from every suffering, and bring eternal and everlasting summer.
So then finally, our Lord Jesus leaves us with a sober warning. He says: “Watch yourselves, therefore, 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.”
In other words, don’t let the cares of this life choke out faith in the Gospel. Extravagant living, incessant worry, coveting, lusting after worldly possessions.
Our Lord teaches us to be on guard. The apostle Paul encourages us to set our minds on things that are above. Higher things.
Again, this morning’s collect sets the tone. Stir us up, O Lord. Make us uncomfortable in this life. Cause us to love You and to hate our sin. Teach us to long for the joy of Your forgiveness and to depart this world and live with You forever!
This morning heaven and earth are everywhere calling to us with the voice of thunder, “The judge is standing at the gate.”
Satan himself is ringing every bell, calling for the last revolt of mankind against his maker. The final battle is drawing to a close. So be vigilant, stand firm, and arm yourself with the words and promises of God, that we may be ready when Christ the King comes to judge the living and the dead, that we may all welcome Him with joy.
Dear Christians all else shall pass away, but the Word of the Lord will never pass away. Today, be stirred up in calm confidence in our Lord’s promises. That’s what St. Paul wants you to have in our epistle this morning – Christian hope! Raise your head in joyful expectation as you see your redemption drawing near. The storms sweeping over this world are the gales ushering in the spring and summertime of God’s Kingdom and the perfect sunshine of Christ’s presence.
This season of Advent is a good time to refresh yourselves in the promises of His holy supper. St. Paul writes to us that by eating and drinking you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
You see, the Lord’s Supper is the bread of pilgrims. It bridges the time between our Lord’s days on earth and His return in glory. And at His table time and eternity meet.
In this celebration of the holy supper we lift up our hearts far above this earth which is passing away to the throne of Him who died and lives forevermore.
We lift our hearts to Him and join the heavenly choir in the hymn that came to us from heaven: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of angel armies. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
The earliest communion prayer in the church was simply, “Come, Lord Jesus,” a prayer from which we get our common table prayer.
In the ancient church the pastor would hold up the Sacrament and say before the people, “May grace come and this world pass away.” Not a bad prayer! May our hearts all eagerly long for that great and wonderful day, the eternal summer when Christ returns. And let our prayer be: “Come Lord, Jesus. Come quickly!” In the name of Jesus. Amen.