Sermon for Populus Sion – Advent 2
Micah 4:1-7 + Romans 15:4-13 + Luke 21:25-36
People are always looking for signs from God, aren’t they? A sign, showing them what to do in a given situation, what decision to make. A sign, showing them that God is there, that God is real, that God cares. Or, sometimes, people take tragic events as signs that God doesn’t care, that God isn’t real. The people who seek signs all over the place are usually the same people who ignore the biggest, most impressive signs of all: the cross of Christ, and the word of God, where He reveals Himself and His gracious will to us, where He tells us specifically what signs He has given and why He has given them, and, in some cases, what signs He will give and why He will give them.
Take the rainbow, for example. There’s a sign, given by God, that has been completely coopted and twisted by wicked men into the sign of their support for the depravity that is homosexuality. In reality, the rainbow is a sign, defined by God, that points to His promise never again to destroy the world with a flood, His covenant with all flesh that, While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease. Every time you see a rainbow, it should point you to that promise, like a sign.
Now consider for a moment, what were the signs pointing to Jesus’ first Advent? What were the people of Israel to be watching for, as signs from God that the Christ was soon to come? Well, they were to expect a time of peace in the land of Judea. There would be a forerunner coming soon before the Christ, one who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah. And the people were to be watching King David’s line of descendants carefully, because at the time of the Christ’s coming, there would be no son of David sitting on the throne of Judah, and yet a virgin from David’s line would conceive and bear a Son who would sit on the throne of His father David, and Bethlehem would be His birthplace. Shepherds were given a special sign: a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. All those signs were present at the time of Christ’s birth, though not everyone in Israel, much less everyone in the world, took notice of them.
Just last week we heard of another sign that pointed to Jesus’ coming: the King of Israel riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Today we are told by Jesus—in words that He spoke to His disciples just a day or two after He rode into Jerusalem on that donkey—about some other signs to be watching for, signs that point to Jesus’ second Advent.
Now, when Jesus actually comes at the end of the age, no one will miss it. “Every eye shall see Him.” His coming will be “like lightning that comes from the east and flashes to the west.” He won’t come in secret, and He won’t come little by little, so that you can see Him coming in the distance for days or weeks or months. When He comes, it will be sudden and unexpected, like a thief who breaks into a house in the middle of the night. But for those who listen to Jesus and believe what He says, there will be plenty of signs pointing to His coming.
Jesus speaks of signs in the heavens, in the sun, moon and stars. What are these signs? Are they spectacular events no one has witnessed yet, or are they somewhat common occurrences? If we use Jesus’ other signs as a guide, then they are relatively common occurrences. Just as Jesus predicted that earthquakes, famines, pestilences, wars and rumors of wars would be signs pointing to His coming, and those things have happened repeatedly over the last 2,000 years, so things like solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, shooting “stars,” comets, solar flares and ominous asteroids are all signs—signs that God built into nature, into the creation itself, for a purpose, to lift our eyes up to the heavens and to warn us that the end of this earth is coming. Jesus is coming soon.
Jesus speaks of signs on the earth, signs in the wind, in the water, in the weather, in the climate. Every natural disaster—every storm, really, points to the end of this world and the coming of Christ. And for as much as I think most of the hype about “global warming” and “climate change” is simply false and an evil scheme designed to dominate people and take advantage of their fear rather than to save the planet, there’s no arguing the fact that many people in the world are truly distressed about variations in weather patterns, and honestly afraid of what’s coming on the earth. That fear, that foreboding is one of the signs Jesus predicted.
But most people in the world do not listen to what Jesus said about these things. Most people do not take these signs to heart or view them as signs, so they busy themselves trying to keep the universe from dying, trying to postpone the destruction that’s coming on the world, or they simply go on with life as usual, which Jesus also predicted. Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus said plainly what people would be doing right up until the day of His coming: Eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, buying and selling, building and planting. We shouldn’t imagine that the days leading up to Jesus’ second Advent will be so horrendous and “apocalyptic” that everyone will be cowering in fear. No, it won’t be that bad. It won’t be that “unusual” at all.
Some of the other signs Jesus mentions that point to His coming are the abundance of false doctrine and false teachers that will be around in the days before He comes, leading many people astray. And never in the history of the world have so many false teachers been active as are active now, corrupting people’s minds with godless, wicked religions like Islam and modern Judaism, and corrupting the preaching of the Christian faith, too, making it almost unrecognizable in many denominations, turning sound doctrine and historical Christianity into an oddity and making it almost impossible to find on the face of the earth. Surely Jesus is coming soon!
The persecution, targeting and killing of Christians is another sign. Is that happening? “Lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Is that happening? The spread of the Gospel of Christ into all nations is another sign. Is that happening?
Yes, all the signs are pointing to the imminent arrival of Jesus. The kingdom of God is near. What will you do?
Jesus urges you, Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. People are so afraid of doomsday prophecies and catastrophes and apocalyptic tribulation. What people should be worried about is business as usual. What people should be afraid of is a day-to-day routine, where you go to school, learn a trade, get a job, have a family, have some fun, plan for retirement, enjoy retirement, see the doctor, take your medications, and then get your estate and your burial plot in order. That day-to-day routine should scare the hell out of you. Because those are the “cares of this life” that will weigh your heart down, if you let them, so that Christ and His kingdom become little more than an afterthought. And you will not be prepared for His coming.
It’s not in vain that Jesus earnestly pleads with His disciples, Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. You and I know how easy it is to get weighed down with the cares of this life, whether it’s the day-to-day routine, or Christmas preparations in our homes, or the sin that so easily entangles. Let Jesus’ warnings and signs bring you again to repentance and watchfulness. Let them stir up your faith and also your prayers. And don’t forget the chief signs that Christ has given us here below: the signs of Baptism and Holy Communion, where God indicates to us what His will is for us. He wants us to be washed clean of sin in Holy Baptism and then to trust in Christ constantly, who washed away our sins when we were baptized. And in the Sacrament of the Altar, Christ again gives us a sign and seal of His forgiveness, His very body and blood once given and shed on the cross, and now given to believers to forgive us again and again and to strengthen us for the difficult days ahead until the coming of Christ.
Thus prepared, you have nothing to fear as the signs of Christ’s coming unfold all around you. Let the unbelieving world live in fear and distress. You have been brought into the kingdom of Christ, His Bride, His Holy Church. You know a Father in heaven who is gracious for the sake of Christ and who has promised to guard you and keep you until the end. You know the Savior who will be the Judge on the Last Day, and you already know His verdict for all who trust in Him. While the rest of the world lives in fear, pretending that all the signs don’t actually point to Christ’s coming, you have every reason to rejoice, because as the world falls apart around you, you have made it onto the lifeboat, as it were. Only keep watch, as Jesus told you to do. He didn’t say it in vain. His Spirit will continue to use those words as the lifeline that will keep you safe, trusting in Christ all the way up until He comes. And so, by faith, you will be counted worthy to stand before the Son of Man. Amen.