Jesus said: ”There’ll be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations…because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming…For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they’ll see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory…When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:25-28).
The day of the Lord’s return will burn the wicked and consume the proud with fire with hellfire.
Not only will they suffer terribly, they’ll know a great and mighty terror, because they lived as if they mattered most.
They loved their families.
They loved Thanksgiving and Christmas.
They shopped local, loved America, teared up at parades, and stood for the national anthem.
They loved the Jesus who laughs.
But not the Jesus who warns.
They knew Him not as the Righteous One who preached repentance, who came to suffer for your sin and die. They knew Him not as the one who said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” They didn’t believe Him when He said, “No one comes to the Father but by Me.”
The wicked and the proud will see the signs (too late) in sun, moon, stars, earth, and sea.
They’ll see them as a gathering of armies on the border, as imminent and painful death, and as the end of all good things.
The End of All Things will be for the wicked and the proud a total loss, complete destruction, everlasting doom.
The justice of God requires repentance from us all, because we’re the wicked.
We’re the ones who forget our place—who forget the God who made all things—who forget that pride is a sin and vice.
What was written in former days has been written for our instruction, yet we live not for harmony and hope but for ourselves.
We think it admirable to love only our families and those who love us, but that’s no different from the wicked or proud.
Loving Christmas and eggnog and feasting, loving presents and decorations and Rudolph doesn’t make you a Christian.
At Judgment, when our works are revealed, everything done apart from faith in Jesus will be consumed as chaff.
That Day is coming, and for some, it will be terrible.
The warning must be given.
And, for those who have joy now in Christ, that day will be pure joy.
The blessing must be given, too.
In the Gospel lesson today, Jesus directs our attention to what’s going on in the world now.
The signs in the sun, moon, and stars, the signs on earth, these are signs that have always been and will always be.
The end has been and is at hand!
This world will not endure; it cannot.
Entropy is the trend of things towards chaos.
Or, you can say it like this, things are always getting worse.
Both are simple but accurate definitions.
That may sound negative or pessimistic, fatalistic or gloomy, but what I mean is, try as it might, try as we might, Creation, mankind, can’t undo the effects of sin.
The wage of sin is death. We can’t stop that.
But Jesus doesn’t say what He does to turn us all into a bunch of namby-pamby worriers.
No, He says, “Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
For you, for all who grieve and mourn—for those who wait with eager expectation the coming of the Lord, your redemption is drawing near. And on That Day, we—and all believers in Christ—will rejoice.
This is most certainly true.
The signs we see teach us to expect the Day of the Lord. To be ready.
Signs in sun and moon and stars—every sunrise and sunset, every full moon and new moon, every twinkle twinkle of every little star should be a sign to you that Jesus is coming soon.
Be ready, and rejoice that the End is coming—the end of pain, the end of grief, the end of waiting.
God, in His Word, the Bible, promises tribulation now.
And, His Word, the Bible, promises the end of all tribulation in Christ.
The enemies of God and the Church, your enemies now, will be no more. God knows their end as well; His will delivers us from evil.
The time of your redemption is drawing near.
When sin loses its appeal and temptation its power.
Where there’s no one to accuse you, no one who can hurt you.
The good work begun in you will, on that Day, be complete.
Your justification and your sanctification will match.
Who you are—because of what God has said and done—will be also be who you are—in all that you say and do.
In the resurrection, who and how you should be is who and how you will be.
That is, you will be made whole.
And Creation itself will rejoice to see you revealed as a child of God, the People of Zion.
You’ll rejoice. You’ll be glad. The kingdom of God will come to you, and it will never be taken away.
This is most certainly true.
But it is not most certainly easy.
Every day, we have to believe God’s promises and suffer the tribulation of this world.
The Lord is with you now by means of His Word and the Sacraments. And He, Himself, is coming back to raise you up and heal you.
This isn’t the end our sin deserves, but it is the end God promises, the end He’s won for us all.
Jesus says: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Luke 21:29-33).
When Jesus teaches regarding the fig tree, it was a different season than what we have here and now.
The fig tree, then, was in bloom. Summer was near, like the kingdom of God.
Our trees aren’t in bloom, but there are still other signs to hear and see and taste.
We receive the body and blood of Christ. We eat and drink and taste and see that the Lord is good.
He comes to you in this, your hour of need, in grace and mercy, as the Lamb slain for your salvation.
We confess that Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father—but—He doesn’t abandon you—He abides with you.
The kingdom of God is near—it’s here.
The Kingdom of God comes, now, with the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
Now is the fall, almost winter, of our discontent made glorious summer by the Son of God.
Winter—though it technically hasn’t even started yet—is already at its end.
Our Lord comes to save us.
Straighten up. Lift up your head. And rejoice!
Your redemption is drawing near.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
The Second Sunday in Advent, 2019
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt