Advent 2 Sermon, 2021

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus says, “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars…” (Luke 21:25).

But does God give us signs?

It really depends on how the word is used.

In Matthew chapter twelve Jesus says: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39).

For Matthew, the sign of the prophet Jonah is the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the fish before he was vomited out. Just so, Jesus spends three days in the belly of the earth before He is raised from the dead.

In Luke chapter eleven Jesus says: “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Luke 11:29).

For Luke, the sign of the prophet Jonah is the preaching of the Word of God to the people. “For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be [a sign] to this generation” (Luke 11:30).

In Mark chapter eight, Jesus says: “Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation” (Mark 8:12).

And then, St. John, for what it’s worth, records that Jesus does many signs, the first being at Cana in Galilee.

The word is used differently, arguing for one thing here, explaining another thing there, but what’s true throughout is that we don’t pick the signs.

Today’s Gospel lesson isn’t a “how-to” on identifying the signs of the end—but rather a call to repentance.

Jesus is coming soon, and many aren’t ready.

These are the signs God gives of the End:

Jesus says, “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” (Luke 21:25-26).

These are the signs of the End.

But they’re not rare—they’re routine.

When are there not signs in sun and moon and stars?

When are the nations not in distress?

When are people not fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world?

We’re not waiting for signs that don’t occur.

We’re told that these signs are constantly occurring.

That’s what Jesus says.

“He told them a parable: ‘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’” (Luke 21:29-30).

The signs of the end are as common as the changing of the seasons.

Don’t look for the signs.

They’re obvious and assumed.

We observe them.

We measure them.

We’re pretty good at predicting some of them.

Don’t look for the signs—believe Jesus who says, “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 21:31-33).

Don’t look for the signs.

Hear the Word of the Lord.

Jesus says, “Watch yourself 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. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 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” (Luke 21:34-36).

So watch yourself.

Stay awake.

Repent—for the Lord is at hand.

That’s what Advent is for—repentance and faith.

Advent is more than pointing out that it’s not yet Christmas.

Advent is about hearing and heeding the warning that the King of kings is on His way.

“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…”

But thus says the Lord:

“…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, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 4:1-3).

So watch yourself.

Stay awake.

Repent—for the Lord is at hand.

“Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?”

The answer is yes.

More than once, the answer is yes.

So what?

How do you watch? How do you stay awake?

How do you hear and heed the warning of the Lord?

Well—“What was written in former days was written for our [learning], that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (cf. Romans 15:4).

Here is your hope.

St. John records that “Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:29).

Forget the signs—we need no signs.

As St. Mark would have us, we rejoice not in signs to see but in the Word of God that redeems us.

It’s true, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the only Son of God, and that by believing in Him you have life in His name” (cf. John 20:30-31).

The number of signs, all those great and wonderful things, they’re not necessary, because they’re not written for your learning.

But these things are written that you may hear and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the only Son of God.

These things are written that you would have life in His name. That’s St. John and St. Mark.

St. Luke would have you hear and heed the warning.

The sign given is the Word of God preached and proclaimed. Jonah was the reluctant prophet, but Nineveh was still spared.

Jesus goes to cross and death with eager willingness, in your place. How much more, then, will the Lord save from this generation all those who believe Him!

St. Matthew calls your attention to the price paid and the redemption earned.

As the fish vomited Jonah onto dry ground, just so, the earth could not contain our Lord and Christ.

He was “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).

The signs we see—the change of seasons, the nations in distress, the sun and moon and stars—they’ve always been there, directing Man to watch and stay awake.

That he would hear the Word of the Lord and believe it unto eternal life.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Advent 2 Sermon, 2021
Luke 21:25-36
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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