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Advent 1C Sermon
21: 25-36
November 28, 2021

Sermon Archives


Luke 21:25-36

25 ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
29 Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

For as long as I have been a pastor there has been a bit of a battle between the popular secular sentiment of celebrating Christmas during the entire month of December, and the historical church’s encouragement to observe the season of Advent during the four weeks that precede Christmas, focusing the anticipation of Jesus’ coming in our everyday lives and at the culmination of our lives and not strictly on celebrating his coming as a child in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago.

Look around the sanctuary this morning and you will see signs of Advent all around. There is no tree up yet, no wreaths on the walls or pews - only the Advent Wreath with one candle lit and our blue paraments adorning the altar, ambo, and pastor’s shoulders. And we didn’t even read anything remotely reminding us of the Christmas story this morning. Certainly, we could have heard about the angel telling Mary that she would bear a son, or Joseph being told in a dream that he should take Mary for his wife even though she is pregnant and they have not had marital relations yet. Why haven’t we shared any part of this account as we transition from Thanksgiving to the Christmas season?

Why do we hear about signs in the sun, the moon and the stars? Why are we confronted with Jesus’ words from his final days of earthly life, warning about distress among the nations, the roaring of the sea and waves and people fainting from fear and foreboding? It seems like a bit of a downer to most of us, doesn’t it? After all, we have been through enough this past year and two-thirds. Why even come to worship, either in person or online, needing the merriment of Christmas if this is what we are going to hear and see and encounter?
The answers to all of these questions lies within Jesus’ lesson of the fig tree. He tells his disciples to look at the fig tree - and all of the trees; when the leaves sprout you know what time is approaching … summer! Time, God’s time, does not so much have to do with what we see on our clocks, watches or calendars, but what we see happening around us. The Greek word, Chronos, describes time which is measured by these devices; the word, Kairos, has to do with seasons, and conditions being ripe for something to happen. Just because we are less than one month away from Christmas doesn’t mean that by beginning our yuletide celebrations now, our joy will be increased. As a matter of fact, I contend that we have tried that before and it just doesn’t work. Last year, during the height of the shut-down, it seemed that folks were putting their trees up right after Halloween! And one Columbus radio station continues to begin playing Christmas music earlier and earlier … and look around! We are still frustrated with the pandemic and responses that are either too strict or too casual. We see that the numbers of murders in our city have broken a new record this week for one year. We all have opinions on recent court decisions one way or another and wonder if justice is really possible in our society. The prices of food, heating fuel and petroleum are climbing, and we always wonder what will happen to our savings, investments or retirement if our fragile market takes a nosedive. It is enough to make us faint for fear and foreboding, isn’t it?

Maybe that is why, on this first Sunday of Advent - before we meet up with John the Baptist in the next two Sundays of Advent, and then Mary, then Joseph, the angels and magi, we hear Jesus tell us exactly what he told his disciples days before he was betrayed, beaten and killed. Things are bad … yes they are bad, we cannot deny it; and there have always been things that have been bad; as a matter of fact, there always will be things that are bad. That is the nature of living in this sinful world. But, in the midst of those things that continue to cause us fear and foreboding, there are a bunch of trees coming to bud. In the midst of the darkness and cold of winter, we have a reminder that there will be signs of new life and summer coming in a very few months. We will be able to look at the trees around us which are pretty much either empty or filled with dead, brown leaves now, and we’ll see the green life that bursts forth when it is the season for it. It is because of all of this that we are able to stand up, raise our heads as the world struggles and wonders what comes next, and confidently proclaim that in God’s timing, new life will burst forth, just when we need it.

Advent is a gift to us to remind us of the real reason for the season of Christmas - it is our need for a savior! We hear words of comfort as we await God’s redemption to be fulfilled even as we experience some degree of terror each day of our lives. Those things that make us faint with fear and foreboding are not the end. I have all confidence that this pandemic will reach a time when it is over. I have faith that God will heal our communities and somehow bring peace to people in violent situations. I pray and trust in God in times of any type of uncertainty. And I know that even though the scripture passages we heard when we came together might not have been the ones you would have picked today, they are the ones that we need to in order to welcome and rejoice when Christ comes, while we celebrate his birth those years ago in Palestine, when he breaks into our lives like the greenery of the fig tree, and when he returns in fullness to rule forever and ever.

Ultimately the reason you came here today (maybe remembering that the scripture passages for this first Sunday of Advent aren’t the most upbeat or focused on the Nativity as you would like) is that we know that we cannot do it alone. We come here - either in person, or on a screen - with others who share the fear and foreboding of life on this planet. We come here as God’s people, who know to whom the future belongs - it belongs to Emmanuel, God with us! We join our voices in prayer - O Come, O Come, Emmanuel … and ransom captive Israel!! Ransom, redeem, buy back all of us who have been enslaved by the powers of this world that lure us with false promises and weigh us down with worries.
In full disclosure, at the Wolfe household there are two trees already set up and in various stages of decoration. As we wait we cannot help but anticipate that profound celebration that we will share on the eve of Jesus’ birth and for the twelve days following. But we come together today so that together as we anticipate Jesus’ coming. We do this so that we may be on guard for the presence of Jesus, to be alert and pray together, to remind ourselves of God’s promise to come again, and to trust & proclaim that our redemption is drawing near. Amen.