ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Striving to speak God’s saving truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309
A sermon on Luke 21:25-36 for the 1st Sunday in Advent, November 29 & December 2, 2018.
We settle down on the couch. Our favorite show is about to begin. We cannot wait to see how the events will unfold from the previous week’s cliff hanger. The opening captures our attention. The theme song interrupts the action. The suspense builds. As soon as the show is about to continue, the screen changes to something completely different. The local news channel comes on. A tornado warning is issued for our county. To make matters worse they say a tornado touched down in a neighborhood not too far from our house. They advise everyone to take shelter immediately. We rush to our basement. All of a sudden our favorite show takes a back seat to our safety.
We listen to warnings. Those warnings are not meant to harm us, but they warn us of impending danger. If we believe the warning, we can take proper precautions to keep ourselves safe from harm. If we ignore those warnings, it will be to our own peril. Do we always heed the warnings about the end of the world? Are we prepared for the end to come? Or do those warnings fall on deaf ears? We need to listen. We need to be prepared.
God Warns Us about the End
When it comes to the end of something that means, hopefully not a shock to you, it is finished. The credits roll across the movie screen signaling to everyone it is time to get up and leave. The end of our book leaves us searching for a new book to immerse ourselves in. Fairytales end with the hero and the one they rescued living happily ever after.
When it comes to the end of this world, it will be different. It really is not the end. Everything does not cease to exist in a timeless state. Jesus says that life will go on. The believers will live forever with their Savior in heaven. The unbelievers will be forever separate from God in their ruin and pain of hell. Since these two realities exist for every person, are we ready?
Jesus takes much time throughout his earthly ministry to prepare his followers for this day. He does not want it to come as surprise upon the inhabitants of the earth. God never desires the destruction of a single soul in hell. Instead, God wishes us to be ready for that day. As Jesus’ earthly life comes to an end, he teaches all the harder about that great day that will come. He wants his followers to be well prepared for that day. The Christian will heed their heavenly Father’s warnings today just as much when he first spoke them.
Signs will accompany that great day. We know how to read various signs. A red octagon with white letters at an intersection tells us to stop. Last weekend many people, some of you possibly included, might have been searching for signs that advertise the biggest deal a person can get. Even the Jews know how to read various signs. Jesus points them to a fig tree. When a fig tree sprouts, the people know summer will soon come.
So signs will be seen signaling the end will come. Jesus says there will be signs in the heavens above. The heavenly bodies will be shaken. Waves will surge. Nations will be in anguish. Hearts will melt. Fear will rise. People will wonder what all these things mean. It goes against all the laws of nature and human logic.
As those signs appear, it brings with them a warning. The Christian needs to recognize those signs and know that the end will soon be near. Jesus will return with all his glory. Our new life in heaven will soon begin. Our joy will be complete.
We need to be ready for that day to arrive. The signs are all around us. They are happening right now. If they are, why are so many people ignoring them? Why do we sometimes not pay attention to all the things happening around us? “Watch yourselves or else your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the worries of life, and that day may come on you suddenly” (Luke 21:34). So many distractions abound in our life. So many things trying to make us unprepared for Jesus’ return.
We tend to lose our focus. Our hearts become weighed down by the troubles and concerns of this world. The political climate in our nation becomes all the rage. Each party blames each other for all the terrible things going on. Politicians point fingers at each other. We get caught up in all of this leaving our hearts restless. We consume ourselves in work or recreation. Our moral compass goes off kilter. God’s Word dims in lighting our path, because we want to follow what everyone else is doing.
God warns us to be ever vigilant against those threats. The devil uses all the things of this world to focus our attention on the less important. We start chasing after the things that do not matter. We need to pay attention. We cannot let our hearts become weighed down by the burdens and worries of this life. Our minds need to be clear and focused on Christ. Our hearts need to be ready to meet our Lord and Savior.
The end will come. We cannot deny that. “For it will come like a trap on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:35). We find ourselves focusing on all the things of the world. As we do, we lose focus. We forget about the King of kings who will return as our Judge. We forget about God’s laws which are meant to guide us in this life. Before we are able to blink, the end is upon us. It springs on the unsuspecting like a trap. The people of the world do not know what hit them.
God will come again. It does not matter whether we are rich or poor, young or old, live in North America or Asia; God will return. The end will be here. We need to be ready. Our hearts need to be focused on Jesus and him alone. All the signs are there. Jesus will come at the moment we least expect him. However, we will be ready, as we place our trust in him.
Just the thought of the end of the world will be enough to send us into a tailspin. Our minds cannot even begin to comprehend life in heaven free from time. Everything on earth has a beginning and an end. Our possessions wear out and need to be replaced. The concept of eternity blows our sinful minds.
We also do not want to let go of the familiar. Even though this world hurts and causes pain in various ways, we still do not want to let it go. We believe it will get better. We want to solve the world’s problems. If only we have a little longer, we can right all the wrongs happening.
This world in its present form is passing away. All things in our life are passing away. Nothing lasts forever. However, God’s Word will never pass away. God wants our focus to be on what is important. The earthly blessings he showers upon us, well, those are only temporary. God’s Word, all the promises contained in the Word, last forever.
Because we know all the earthly things are only temporary, we need to keep watch. It gets hard to be ready at all times. We are content to wait for a few moments, but those moments turn to days, and weeks, and years. We grow frustrated. We become lazy. Our eyes wander away to focus on the things of this world. Our vision becomes clouded. We turn away forgetting what we were supposed to be watching for.
“Stay alert all the time, praying that you may be able to escape all these things that are going to happen and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). Be always watchful. Not a moment goes by when we can relax. As soon as we relax, that opens the door for the devil to come in and cause our readiness to become unpreparedness. Each new day is a day closer to Judgment Day. We need to be watchful and alert.
How can we stay alert? We build upon the solid foundation of Christ. We make use of his Word publicly proclaimed from the pulpits of church. We strengthen our faith as we feast upon the Word in our daily devotions at home. We keep our eyes focused on heaven and not the things of this world. As we do all of this, we make preparations, very good preparations, to greet our Lord when he comes.
We also pray. We cannot forget about that powerful tool in our belt. In these last days we see so much trouble. We hear about people growing cold to the gospel’s power. We experience heartache and pain, which only leaves us wondering how much longer before he comes.
We pray for God to be with us. We pray for the strength to overcome the troubles this sinful world places before us. We ask God to open up hearts throughout the world to hear his saving message. We pray that God may find us faithful to escape the pain and destruction that awaits so many people.
We can only escape that day because our Lord did not escape from his suffering and death. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for his cup to pass from him. However, the cup needed to be drunk. Jesus willingly took this cup. He went to the cross to suffer and die. His death makes us escape the terrible judgment of Satan.
We now stand before the Son of Man free from all harm and danger. We do not have to feel inferior. We do not fall face first to the ground shaking at being in the same room as the Lord Almighty. We stand in his presence.
When God comes again in all of his glory, when all the angels accompany him, when all eyes look to the heavens to see the Lord of lords descending from above, we firmly take our stand. We have stood upon Jesus and his Word for so many years that we can now stand before him. We wait for him to bring us to his side in heaven. We thank the Lord that he has prepared us for this day so we can stand in his presence for all eternity.
Our lives become very busy. Before we know it, our calendar fills us making us wonder where the time went. God interrupts our busy life with a very important message. He tells us to pay attention to the signs. They are there. We know what they mean. He encourages us to be ready. Our focus needs to be on him and him alone. That day will come. We need to be prepared. We need to heed the warnings God has for us, so that we can stand with him in all the glories of heaven. Amen.