Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sermon: Populus Zion (Advent 2) - 2010

5 December 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 21:25-36 (Mal 4:1-6, Rom 15:4-13)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear Christian friends. This is a busy time of year. From the hustle and bustle, the busyness, the stress, the things we must do and the places we must go – there is no escape. It can also be a depressing time of year for many, especially those who have recently lost loved ones.

“But watch yourselves,” our Lord warns us, “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.”

“That day” is the promised return of our Lord Jesus Christ. For all of history is moving ever-closer to the final advent of our Lord. Each day edges us one more day in time towards the day of judgment and the day of redemption. For whether we are alive to see the last day and the second coming of our Lord, or whether our life in this world ends – there will come a final day for us in this age regardless. And there is no telling when it will be.

“For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth,” says the Lord.

In other words, no-one is exempt from our Lord’s warning. And He promises that His return is as sure as the summer is on the way when the trees bear new leaves. The will of God has been set in motion before the foundation of the world. And our Lord further warns us: “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.”

“Stay awake.”

Our Lord is encouraging us to vigilance, to alertness, to remain steadfast in His Word no matter what great and mighty things are going on in the world around us. For the “cares of this life” can take many forms. In some cases, it can be over-attachment to the passing material things around us. For others, it might involve someone or something being more important to us in this life than God. It may be pleasure, power, or pride. Regardless of what these distractions are, they pull us away from what is truly important.

When our Lord suffered at Gethsemane, He asked his closest three disciples to remain with Him and watch. Our Lord was praying, even as these men fell asleep. They did not remain vigilant, and when the predestined time of evil came upon them, it came as a shock and a surprise.

Our Lord bids us to see their example as a warning. Don’t doze your life away in this world allowing days, weeks, months, and years to drift by – without praying, without hearing God’s Word, without taking part in the Sacraments. Don’t fall into the devil’s delusion that we can always wait to repent, wait for other “more important” things, wait for a more convenient time.

No, dear friends! Don’t wait! As St. Paul teaches us: “Behold, now is the favorable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.” And when the writers of Scripture say: “Behold,” they are not just using a quaint word, but rather they are shaking us by our shoulders, saying: “Are you listening? Pay attention!”

The prophet Malachi also speaks in this urgent tone when He relays the Word of the Lord: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”

Are we listening to the prophets? Are we listening to our Lord Jesus when He also warns us: “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.”?

These events will happen just as surely as God’s Son was born in Bethlehem, preached in Galilee, was crucified in the proximity of Jerusalem, “suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven...” For if we confess the words of Scripture and the Creed concerning the history of our Lord’s first advent, we should certainly confess the prophecy of our Lord’s second advent: “And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”

And though to the unready and ill-prepared, our Lord’s words either seem silly or terrifying, to those who have been born again by water and the Word, having received the gift of salvation through faith, to those who have been called and who believe on His name – the Lord has words of comfort: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”


What a glorious word, dear friends. In the midst of sin and death and decay and destruction, amid wars and terrorism and conflict and hatred, though surrounded by murder and mayhem, and in our own brokenness and disappointment, there is “redemption.” We are being bought back from this fallen world and from the grip of Satan, purchased at a price, “not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”

In light of this glorious promise of redemption rooted in the clean slate of sins forgiven and of our fallen flesh and blood being bought back by His perfect body and blood, we can rejoice with St. Paul, who testifies: “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.”

The last word in this sentence is “mercy.” In spite of the dark clouds that will gather at the very end of time, we are told to hold our heads high, stay awake, and rejoice – because we have been redeemed for the sake of God’s mercy. We are not redeemed by our own goodness, righteousness, wealth, nor any other strength of our own. For these will be wiped away when the day of judgment comes. Rather we are redeemed by our Emmanuel, God With Us, our Redeemer and Savior, our “Adonai and ruler of the house of Israel.”

For the Lord doesn’t merely get our attention by calling us to account for our sins. He does this, to be sure. But He does not do this to punish us, but to call us to repent. He bids us to come to him, to stay awake, to turn from the dissipation and drunkenness of this world. He gets our attention with this as well: “Daughter of Zion, behold, surely your salvation is coming. The Lord will cause His glorious voice to be heard, and you shall have gladness of heart.”

Dear brothers and sisters, because of our Savior, we have hope.

St. Paul encourages us: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope…. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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