Saturday, November 28, 2009

Advent 1

All powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at His coming and call us to His side in the kingdom of heaven, where He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

The theme for this the 1st Sunday in Advent is the return of Christ. You and I are encouraged to watch and pray as preparation for the sudden return of Christ. At the start of a new church year it is useful to be reminded of the sobering fact that some day soon the world, with all its history, will be bought to a sudden halt by the return of our Lord in glory. As that old song sings - “soon and very soon we are going to see the King!” At that point the future will no longer be an extension of the present. Instead, it will offer us a glorious alternative to all the sorrow of and anguish of this present existence.

With that prospect before us we shall do well to take up a portion of Scripture that deals with the sings that immediately precede the end of all things. Jesus says to us this day – remain ready to stand.

1. Remain ready to stand amid growing chaos. “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Vv.25-26)

A. Sun, moon, and stars were set by the Creator to rule the day and the night. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:17-18) As “powers of the heavens” they keep reminding us of the order and stability that God built into the universe at the time of creation.

1. But just before the Lord’s return to bring the course of history to its end, even these steady elements in our cosmos will begin to show signs of breaking up. The prophets of the Old Testament predicted these events as we approach the coming Day of the Lord.
a. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light Isaiah 13:10
b. I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. Ezekiel 32:7-8
c. The sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine Joel 2:10

2. The sea is a symbol on Scripture of nations churning in turmoil (Daniel 7:2) but kept under control by God’s providence and power (Psalm 65:7). But there, too forces and events will be allowed to become unhinged, as it were.

B. People exhibit a twofold reaction to these awesome signs.

1. Panic, anxiety and dismay grip those who do not know the Son of Man.

2. New courage and a fresh heart characterize those who recognize the signs as the prelude of God’s mighty act of deliverance.
C. The followers of Jesus Christ will recognize the signs of God’s kingdom coming in glory.

1. After these cosmic disturbances people everywhere will see the Son of Man returning by way of the kind of cloud with which He was taken up into glory. After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:9)

2. He will come in power and great splendor. The era of his “veiled” activities in grace will end.

D. Jesus description of the growing chaos in the universe summarily dismisses false dreams.

1. Rejected are people’s dreams of creating their own utopias here on earth. This text is a reminder that no new social or political structures will bring in a perfect setting, as liberation theology and Marxism proclaim.

2. Equally unacceptable is every type of expectation that a millennium will precede the Parousia.

2. In the presence of the Son of Man. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)

A. Knowledge of Jesus Christ as the Son of Man prepares us to stand in His presence. Jesus Himself preferred to use this title during His earthly ministry, a ministry in which He demonstrated its meaning.

1. The Son of man has authority to do what is the prerogative of God alone; to forgive sins. But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” (Mark 2:10)

2. The Son of Man is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 ready to go into death. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (Mark 10:33-34)

3. The Son of Man is the celestial figure of Daniel 8:23, who has received power and dominion to rule for His church as its Head. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:62)

B. Christians are called to live a life that readies them for the return of the Son of Man.

1. We cling to Jesus’ words because they will never pass away, they remain steady and sure and all chaos and disruption. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Luke 21:33)

2. We stay alert in prayer always. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man. (v.36), asking for a way to escape with “the skies fall in.”

3. We avoid hangovers from yesterday’s debauchery, the drunkenness that is expected to drown today’s sorrows, and the worries dealing with tomorrow’s problems. Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. (v. 34)

4. We recognize the announced cosmic disasters as ushering in the time of release from the oppression and affliction that often beset God’s children. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (v.28)

The first Sunday in Advent serves us well as an occasion to recall the why and the how of being ready always to stand up straight amid the debris of history and in the face of the coming judgment. For “that day” will be hard on those who “sit on the face of the earth” (v.35) in pursuit of their own comfort and convenience. Therefore, be ready to stand.
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use.

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