Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sermon: Populus Zion (Advent 2) – 2012

9 December 2012 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.

“And there will be… 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.”

Some people are indeed fainting with fear as we get near the notorious supposed prediction of the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar.  Actually, it doesn’t predict the end of the world, but it makes for something to talk about, I suppose.

When people ask me if I think the world will end this month, I always tell them “I hope so.”  And they give me that quizzical look – which is how the world always views Christianity.  While the world runs to-and-fro in fear and loathing, we Christians know that we have nothing to fear. 

In the morning and evening prayers commonly prayed by Lutherans around the world every day, we appeal to our heavenly Father to “let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.”  We also pray in the Lord’s prayer: “deliver us from evil.”  We know that the world is under the sway of the devil, and we know that evil is rampant in our fallen and corrupted world.  So, why should we be surprised at what we see on the news and read in the papers?  Why should we be shocked at the behavior of those around us, and even of ourselves?  But most important of all, dear friends, why would we fear the end of this fallen world?

Listen to what our Lord advises us concerning the end of the age: “Now when you see these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

In the face of the end of the world, our King doesn’t advise us to “keep calm and carry on,” rather He bids us: “Praise the Lord… and let all the peoples extol Him.”  This is no time for a stiff upper lip, rather it is a time for smiling and rejoicing!  “Straighten up and raise your heads.”

Jesus is coming again!  Our Lord who loves us is coming to redeem us!  Our Savior who came to purchase our freedom with His blood is coming to rescue us!  Our Champion who comes to defeat sin, death, and the devil once and for all is returning to rid the world of all evil, so that we shall live forever in eternal happiness!

This is why we Christians pray along with St. John the writer of the Book of Revelation: “Come, Lord Jesus!”  “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest” we sometimes pray before meals.  “Come, Lord Jesus!”  We yearn for Him to: “come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”  We have nothing to fear.  Our “redemption is drawing near.”

For as the prophet Malachi reveals, those who reject the Lord will be burned like stubble, but according to the Lord’s promise, “for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.  You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.  And you shall tread down the wicked.”

The Father has it all under control, dear brothers and sisters.  The Son has taken God’s wrath and redirected it away from us.  The Holy Spirit hovers over us to guide us into all holiness and all truth, directing us to the Son, who shepherds us back to the Father.  And we have been baptized into that most holy Triune name, marked by the blood of the Lamb, and, dear friends, the angel of death will pass over us.  We have the promise of the Word “by the water and the blood.”

How sad it is to read about this latest panic gripping the world!  And how sad it will be if the Lord does not return to bring the world to an end before December 22, how quickly the world will lapse back into its smug, self-assured disbelief.  How sad it is every time the world reverts back to “dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life” when these manmade predictions don’t come true.  For we have been warned: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down… 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.”

The Lord has told us how to prepare for the end of the world, the real end of the world, the date and time of which we do not know, the coming of the Lord Jesus back to this earth to expel Satan and to claim His eternal throne.  He has given us explicit instructions that do not involve stockpiling batteries or building an underground bunker.  Rather, dear friends, “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!  Pray!  And be ready to stand before Him who stood before the Father on our behalf.  Jesus also stood before Pilate and Herod and the High Priest and Satan, and interposed Himself in between the father of lies, the bringer of death, and us, His bride, whom he protects with His very life, even unto the end of the age.

It is good news, dear friends, not bad news, that we are in the last days.  It is a joyful thing to see for ourselves “that the summer is already near,” and that “the kingdom of God is near.”  Just how near in time, we don’t know.  But as to how near in space, the Lord has told us that the kingdom of God is already among us.  He has also promised us that He is with us, right up until the end of the world.  He comes to us in His Word and in His Sacraments.  He comes to us in the mighty triple-named waters of Holy Baptism, and in the cross-empowered words of Holy Absolution.  He comes to us in the mystical meal of the Holy Communion.  He comes to us in the good works that flow from our faith, in the mercy of those who bear the name “Christian,” and in the hope we have as children of God, beloved of the Lord, redeemed by grace, saved by baptism, and protected by the ministry of the holy angels that the Lord sends to watch over 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.”

Hope, dear friends!  That is what we have that the world lacks.  The fallen world sees the threat of the world’s end and expresses panic.  The Church hears the promise of the fallen world’s end and confesses hope in Christ!

St. Paul blesses us across the great chasm of space and time with these words, which are really God’s words: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Our God is the God of endurance and encouragement because He is our redemption, our salvation, and our hope.  He is love!

So, will the world end this month?  I hope so.  But even if it doesn’t, we have hope because we have the Lord’s own endurance and encouragement.  “Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

“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” – now, and even unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

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

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