Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December 7, 2008 Advent II Luke 21:25-36

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, in perplexity of the roaring of seas and waves; men expiring from fear and anticipation of things coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And these things beginning to occur, straighten up and lift up your heads, because coming near is your redemption. And He spoke a parable to them: Look, the fig tree and all the trees; whenever they shoot forth, already you see; from yourselves you know already near is the summer. So also you, whenever you see these things occurring, you know that near is the kingdom of God. Amen, I say to you that, no, this generation will not pass away until all things are to take place. The heavens and the earth will pass away, but My words, no, they will not pass away. Watch yourselves so your hearts are not weighted down in dissipation and drunkenness and worries of life, and that day spring upon you suddenly, like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth.

Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates! With these words the hymn writer reminds us of how the generation which looks for the Redeemer ought to act. But do we act like those who are waiting the return of Jesus with eager anticipation? Or instead, do we go about our daily grind, acting as though we don't expect Jesus to come back at all in our lifetime. Sadly, our heads are turned downward, toward this world and its affairs almost all of the time, with only a rare gaze of hope upward to Jesus.

Some fail to lift up their heads to seek Jesus' return because they are so distracted. The fears of economic & political turmoil in the world, and the worries of daily life preoccupy all their time. Don't let yourself fall into this trap either. You can easily get caught up in these small things, and miss out on the big picture. Then, you would find yourself unprepared for Christ's return, having focused your attention on temporary matters, and not eternal ones. Instead, you lift your heads and look for Jesus!

For your Redeemer brings the kingdom of God near to you. He did that when you were baptized, bringing you into the kingdom of heaven by water and the word. But you were not made simple subjects in that kingdom, oh no. Your heavenly king adopted you into His Own family that day, making you yourselves into a kingdom of royal priests! Your life is no longer a temporal one, but an everlasting life. You lift your heads now as everlasting doors, for Father, Son and Spirit to enter in through baptism.

Others fail to lift their heads toward Jesus because they feel somewhat unworthy to do so. Perhaps they know of the Son of Man's great power & glory, but then compare that to their own weakness & dishonor. You yourselves may fall into this trap, not wanting to think about Jesus' return, almost dreading it because He is so holy, and you know that you are not. But don't hang your head low and mope around like Eeyore the donkey and cry, *Woe is me...*. Lift your heads high and look to Jesus!

For your Redeemer has left you with a blessed gift which will never pass away–His word. The word of the scriptures was written for your instruction, that it would lift you up, encourage you, and enable you to persevere through all difficult times, as those who have hope. Jesus' Own Word of the Holy Gospel delivers that hope to you, promising you forgiveness, life and salvation from Christ, your Redemption, Who died for you on the cross, in your place, taking away your death to give you life eternal.

Still others fail to lift up their heads in expectation of Christ's imminent return, simply because they don't think He's coming back anytime soon. They figure that He's waited 2000 years so far, and probably won't return for another 2000, so they eat, drink and be merry. Don't fall into this trap, yourselves. You can boycott bible classes, and ignore special worship services as though there is nothing happening for which God wishes to prepare you. Or you can lift your heads and seek Jesus!

For your Redeemer is accustomed to coming down to you regularly. The Son of Man comes down to teach you in bible study. The Son of Man comes down to serve you in the Divine Service as well, as the ever-living body of Jesus comes down from the right hand of God in heaven above to feed you with Himself in the Lord's Supper. His life-giving blood which flows through His veins nourishes you in the cup of salvation. Isn't this a reminder that He Who keeps coming down will one day soon return?

You are the generation of believers who have not yet passed away. You are those blessed by Jesus' Words, proclaimed and put into action in the sacraments, as He prepares you for His imminent return.

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