1st Sunday of Advent
Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go, take a look in the five and ten glistening once again with candy canes and silver lanes aglow. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Whether or not you are a fan of Christmas music or not, you can hardly go through a Christmas season without hearing that song played somewhere. And it’s true, isn’t it? It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. There’s signs of it all over the place, isn’t there? You came into church this morning and saw all the Christmas decorations set up- Christmas must be coming soon. You go to Wal-mart or Target and what do you see? Thousands of square feet dedicated to all kinds of different Christmas items and decorations. You drive your car down the road and what do you see? That fluffy white stuff all over the ground, houses decorated with Christmas decorations and lights. Perhaps even in your own home you have your Christmas tree set up and ornaments and decorations all over your house. So it IS beginning to look a lot like Christmas. You see all of those things and you know that Christmas is right around the corner, it’s coming.
Well, during the church season of Advent we also are looking forward to Christmas. During Advent we prepare our hearts so we are ready for Christmas and are ready to celebrate the love of our God for us that He came as a little baby to save us. But that’s not all we do during Advent. During Advent we aren’t only looking back at the historical reality, the fact of Jesus’ first coming in Bethlehem, we also look ahead to the future, we look ahead to Christ’s 2nd coming on the Last Day. When Jesus first came in Bethlehem about 2000 years ago, He came in lowliness and humility. To their own dismay many people, however, even though Jesus walked right among them were not prepared; they didn’t recognize Jesus for who He is and what He had come to do. Many were far more concerned with their own lives, their own things, their own ideas about God, than to be concerned with God or what He said or what He wanted. We, too, await Jesus’ coming. No, not His coming in lowliness and humility, but when He will come with all greatness, power, and majesty. Today let’s examine our own hearts. Jesus could come at any moment, our text makes it clear that many people won’t be ready for Jesus 2nd Advent, so the question for us today is are we prepared, are we ready?
Jesus knows our needs and so He fills them. In order to help prepare us for His second coming Jesus gave us the words of our text this morning. On Tuesday of holy week Jesus was in the temple and He spoke these words to His disciples in order to prepare them and to prepare us for His return. In the words before our text Jesus has already indicated some general signs that will happen before His 2nd Advent: wars, rumors of wars, nations against nations, earthquakes, famines, false teachers, etc. Those are general signs but, immediately before the end there will be even greater signs: “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. One 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.” Wow! Just before Jesus returns the whole universe is going to go through some phenomenal changes, they will be shaken, there’s going to be roaring and tossing of the sea. People will be utterly confused and perplexed, in anguish and terror, even fainting at these cataclysmic signs happening to this world. Everything that people are used to will be shaken and changed.
Then “at that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” When Jesus returns everyone will see Him, He’s not coming secretly and He’s not coming lowly and humbly like His first coming in a manger in Bethlehem. No, this time He will come in great glory and power. And what are we going to be doing when all of this stuff is happening? “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Now of course, we don’t know when Jesus will return. But if you are around, when you see all of this stuff happening, you’ll have no reason to be filled with fear or dread, instead you’ll be thinking to yourself, “Hmm, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christ is coming.” J When many are bending their heads in shame and fear and fright and terror, you’re going to be looking up thinking, “Wow! This is awesome! This is great! My Savior Jesus is coming! My redemption, my freedom from sin and the shackles of sin and the frailties and weakness of this temporary life is here! Heaven awaits!”
Then Jesus tells a short parable. “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” Just as surely as all of the signs in our day-to-day life are pointing to the fact that Christmas is coming, so also all of these signs point to the fact that Christ is coming. When in the spring you see the buds on the tree and green life sprouting, you know that summer is surely coming soon. The same is true with these signs, when these awesome signs happen, know that Jesus is certainly coming.
Then Jesus goes on, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” So what does this mean? It could be that Jesus is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem that would happen in 70 AD. Jerusalem being destroyed was kind of like the “beginning of the end of all things.” More likely what Jesus is talking about here is that this generation as in people, people who are skeptics and scoffers about God, about the end of the world ever coming, those kinds of people will not pass away until it does come. But when all of this stuff is happening, when the world seems to be falling apart, there is something that is rock-solid to stand on and that is Jesus’ words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Where do we put our confidence and our hope in the midst of all the trouble and tribulations of the world around us? What can we rely on when everything else is falling apart? The unchangeable and everlasting words of our Savior. In fact, when all of these things begin to happen, we will be filled with even more confidence and joy as we see Jesus’ promises fulfilled.
But how should we be as we consider Christ’s coming, how should we be as we consider our celebration of Christ’s first coming and our anticipation of Christ’s second coming? Jesus tells us, “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. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.” Life is full of many worries, cares, and anxieties. Things like: what should we eat, what should we drink, what should we wear, how should I pay my mortgage, what can I afford, what should I do today, etc, etc (add more). All of these things of life can weigh a person down. Many people are weighed down by these things and so Christmas time is just another busy time of the year, just another time of parties and drinking and festivities. And the warning is here for us too. All these concerns of life can weigh us down and not allow us to take care of our souls, not allow us to direct proper attention to the signs of the times, to focus on the preparation to receive all that God has to give us in Christ.
The proper preparation for Christ’s coming is found in Jesus’ words “Be always on the watch, and pray.” God wants us to be constantly watching and praying. Praying for strength to stand firm in the faith when all of these signs of the end are happening. And not just during Advent as we prepare for His first coming, but also all the time as we await His second Advent.
And how are you prepared? You’re prepared when you realize you have nothing to be concerned for, nothing to worry yourself over, you already know what to expect, when the whole world is in disarray, when things are falling apart, when someone’s life is falling apart, when things are going crazy in the world, Christians aren’t going crazy, you aren’t going crazy. You see, those who’ve ordered their lives according to God and His Word are solid, built on the rock-solid foundation of Christ. Yes, storms will come and try to beat down the life of a Christian, but built on Christ everything is withstood. Even in the end, when Christ comes again, there’s going to be some crazy stuff going on in the world and it’s going to cause some panic, some fright, some fear for many people because they don’t know what’s going on, why? Because they didn’t take Jesus’ words to heart, didn’t take time to listen to Christ’s words, which by the way, as Jesus said, NEVER pass away. Everything that they’ve attached meaning in life to, everything they’ve found their identity in, in being an American, in being a good citizen, in their job, their abilities, their things, all of which will pass away.
You, however, are different. Your identity in life is not found in you or in the things of this world, but in Christ. In the fact that Christ came, His first Advent, He came, it’s a fact. Advent reminds us of Christ’s first coming, He came with a purpose: to deliver us from our sin. Since Christ came the first time we have absolute confidence, absolute assurance that we stand before God pure and forgiven. That our salvation was accomplished completely. It’s a done deal! Lift up your head and look at Advent! Jesus came once to deliver us from our sins and since He did we look forward with anticipation to His 2nd Advent when He will bring us from this life of sin to a perfect life with Him.
And do you know what that means? That means no matter what catastrophe happens in the world, what problems you experience in life, this is certain: Christ came, won your salvation in full and complete, it’s a done deal, and one day He will bring you to heaven. That means you can laugh at anything. When things go crazy in your life, lift up your head and say these words: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. When you see the signs of the times in the world and the distressful things happening: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
So what does Advent mean? It means lift up your head and see the deliverance Christ brought when He came the first time and lift up your head and see the deliverance He will bring when He comes again!