the one where we wait...
December 3, 2018, 8:00 AM

Sermon from December 2, 2018

Text - Luke 21:25-36

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen.

So, welcome to Advent, right? What a gospel text to march us into the season where we sit on pins and needles with bated breath as we wait in expectant hope for what is to come. The part that I think most of us wait for is the opportunity and joy that Christmas mostly represents. There have been so many things to prepare for and so many more things left to get finished. It seems that we always come to this time in the rising excitement that more and more appears to begin just after Halloween.

If anyone has seen a child lately, you can just feel the buzz of their own excitement – presents and more are coming. There’s cookies and awesome food everywhere. Lights. Trees. Crisp air. There is so much going on you cannot help, but be excited because they are excited.

So, we are all just bursting with anticipation for what is to come.

And then what? We get this text from Luke. We get to hear Jesus talk about signs, distress, and confusion. Our text this morning is turning into a real buzzkill as we enter into the season of Advent looking forward to Christmas.

Then as we hear Jesus’ words, we can begin to look a little more intently at the world around us. And, you know what. It’s not all lights, glitter, and amazing smells. There is destruction, and apathy, and fear, and lots and lots of confusion. There is palpable anger from so many people who hold on to so many beliefs and ideologies and leanings.

If we’re not careful we will think that Jesus is just talking about us right now. That these indeed are the signs. There is fear and foreboding, Jesus must be on his way soon. Though, whenever this text has been read – there has always been fear and foreboding. Jesus spoke these words as he was entering into Jerusalem before his death. He spoke these words knowing full well what may come. These words were originally written at a time when these new believers were being looked at sideways and persecuted for venturing on a path of belief outside the norm. These are not just words to heed by as readers and believers in the modern era.

We hear and read these words of Jesus and we might be able to approach this time in a new way. Yes, there is confusion and foreboding around us. We cannot deny that, nor should we deny that present reality. It isn’t so much about the future that may come or even just about past that has already transpired. But, the reality is that right now there is a lot of junk going on and people are fearful. We continue to walk through unknown times and confusion abounds.

And yet, Jesus still speaks to us this day, and I see his words in verse 28 to be especially helpful. Stand up. Raise your heads. Know that your redemption draws near.

Stand up. Take notice. Be on guard. Hope is here.

Hope. That is what we enter into during this season of Advent. It is in this season that we wait with expectation for that hope. We trust and have faith with what will come, but we still have to wait. We still have to endure. We cannot remove ourselves from our present situations. We can’t magically – as much at times as we’d like to – wave a wand and make it all go away.

So, we wait. We wait and hold fast to the knowledge that God is at work. That this new thing that God is doing, has done, and will do is to come and be with us – all of us – through it all. We believe and worship a God whose love for us is so strong, that God breaks into creation to live life with us. To be that much closer. To point all of us towards the goodness and new life that God ushers into the world.

We are not in this alone. Jesus – the Son of God – whose birth we anticipate in hope – is with us. Emmanuel. That our Lord speaks adamantly to us this morning through these words of scripture to remind us that everything else may pass away, but these words – this promise – this hope – God’s very self – will never pass away. Ever.

God – our hope – chooses to be with us. Even in the midst of some pretty terrible times. Stand firm with faith in the ever-lasting, redemptive love of our Savior who chose to be with us in the worst of times, as a vulnerable, naked, poor baby. Jesus doesn’t promise an escape from the pain, fear, and awfulness of the world. Jesus promises to live through it, with us.

As we begin this season of Advent, we are reminded – in joy and expectant hope – that all is not lost. And that’s hard to remember at times. There is hope and joy to come. God has broken into the world. God has torn the heavens asunder. God has re-ordered creation itself. God has done this out of love and grace. God invites us into this life. God is out there actively working so that we might know this love for us.

Because you know what? As I’ve read all these texts in preparation for this Sunday and this season, I noticed something. People aren’t doing a whole lot of ‘active stuff’ in these passages. There’s nothing in here about ‘get right or else.’ There is not a sense of, if you don’t believe exactly like this, you’re going to be toast. So, you better watch out and, well you better cry and plead that God does indeed notice and love you. That’s not what is going on.

Foolishly, I think we believe our hope rests in what we do. We’ve got to prepare our hearts, so that God will come. We need to pray so that Jesus will love us. We need to serve so that we can stand before the Son of Man.

But, if you read over these texts again, there is only one individual who is ‘doing’ all the things. There is only one person that is actively participating and making sure things are ‘going on.’ It’s God. God is the one who is redeeming and bringing righteousness to bear. The Lord is the one directing us into love and grace. Jesus is the one giving us strength so that we can endure during the difficult times knowing that hope waits for us – all of us.

God. Is. At. Work.

Jesus isn’t calling us to not be ‘flat-footed’ else we miss out on God’s love. No, Jesus is calling us to take notice of what is going on as God’s love and redeeming grace continues to build and shine through us and others. To take notice that hope is indeed present, and we do wait in expectant joy for that hope to be made known fully to the world.

Now, this doesn’t mean we get to or should we just sit back and relax and let God get everything done. But, God does indeed call us and work through us to enact that righteousness and vision of peace for the world. We do pray, and love, and serve all around us. Not so that we are noticed and in turn rewarded by God, but we do all that because God works through us and already has gifted us life eternal so that we can pray, love, and serve.

Yet, in the midst of troubling times. It is hard to remember that joy, that hope, that presence of God with us. Over the summer at camp while I gathered with youth from Redeemer, our Confirmation cohort here in Newberry, and our cluster across the southeast, I was introduced to a song and poem that spoke powerfully to this hope to come.

It was a poem that was scrawled into the walls of a cellar by Jews who were hiding from Nazis in Cologne, Germany during World War II; it is called “Inscription of Hope.” I want to end my sermon this morning and begin our expectant walk through Advent with these words…

I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there
And I believe in God
even when he is silent
I believe through any trial there is always a way.
But sometimes in this suffering and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter
and to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me saying “hold on my child”
I’ll give you strength
I’ll give you hope
Just stay a little while
May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace.

That someday, I believe is in God’s in-breaking of creation, this new thing that God has done, is doing, and continues to do for the entire world. This new thing we wait for and have already seen, this Advent of God. This Advent of the Spirit. This Advent of the Son. Amen.

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