Advent 2| Luke 21:25-36| Pastor James Preus| Trinity Lutheran Church| December 4, 2022
Why do we celebrate Christmas? Why do we teach our children that God became a human and lay down His little head to sleep on a pillow of straw in a manger? Why do we teach them the angels’ song, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men”? Why do we teach them of how Jesus touched the unclean leper and cleansed him and how He restored the blind man’s sight? Why do we teach them that Jesus made the lame man walk, that he raised the dead little girl and the widow’s son? Why do we teach our kids that Jesus ate with sinners, that He forgave the adulteress and the tax-collector, and blessed the little children? Why do we teach our children that Jesus spoke the truth and never lied, that He teaches us how to love and how to reach eternal life? Why do we teach our kids that Jesus permitted himself to be beaten, whipped, and spit upon before he was nailed to a cross and died for all our sins? Why do we teach our children that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning and proclaimed God’s peace to His disciples?
And why do we baptize them as Jesus directed and teach them that they are washed in Jesus’ blood? And why do we take them to church to continue to learn of what Jesus taught and did? And why do we speak about Jesus, not merely as a figure from distant history like George Washington or Julius Caesar, but as if Jesus knows them and can hear their prayers today? Why do we teach our children that Jesus is their friend, who loves them, so that a little girl will speak sincerely to her father or grandmother about how much she loves Jesus, and a little boy will tell his mother how Jesus died on the cross for his sins? Why do we continue to devote ourselves and our children to this man Jesus and His teaching, even eating His body and blood under the forms of bread and wine?
So that we and our children may with confidence straighten up and raise our heads at the coming of Jesus, knowing that he comes to release us from sin, death, and hell.
Jesus teaches His Christians about the signs of the end times, which will cause great distress to the nations of the world. Many people think that these signs in sun and moon and stars with the powers of heaven being shaken and the sea roaring will all happen directly before Jesus returns. But these signs are better understood to be happening from the time of Jesus’ ascension until the Last Day. Jesus’ return on a cloud with power and great glory will come suddenly and catch many by surprise. In fact, not even we Christians will know the day or the hour that Christ returns. But we will know that He is coming.
Whether people believe in Jesus will determine greatly how they will respond to the signs of the end times and how they will react to Jesus’ return in great glory. Unbelievers will be distressed by the signs, fainting with fear and foreboding on what is coming on the world, as we see they do as they obsess over the things of this life. Believers will recognize these events as signs of Jesus’ coming and will prepare their hearts to meet him. Unbelievers will be horrified at the coming of Christ, as He comes with a power never before seen on earth, and they will cower in fear as they are being judged. Those who believe in Christ Jesus and love Him will straighten up and lift up their heads to meet their Redeemer.
This is why we teach our children about Jesus. This is why we continue to hear our Lord’s Word. How can we be afraid of Him, whom we know so well, who we know to be kind, merciful, and forgiving, who died for our sins and rose again declaring peace and forgiveness from God? How can we be scared of Him, who has washed us in Baptism and even feeds us His body and blood as a pledge of His undying love for us? Holy Scripture states, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)
We teach our children of Jesus, so that they eagerly wait for Him. We receive Christ’s mercy by eating His body and blood and receiving His forgiveness and grace, so that we may welcome Him with a good conscience when He comes. He is our Redeemer. What does it mean that Jesus is our Redeemer? It means that he has paid our ransom from hell, which we incurred by our sins. It means that He has released us from the chains that bound us to death and hell. We who have spent our lives learning to know Jesus and His mercy are not afraid of Him coming to rescue us. He is our Friend, our Savior, our Redeemer.
Jesus tells us that heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will not pass away. There are a couple things we should point out about that. First, heaven and earth will pass away. St. Peter declares, “But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly… But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:7 and 10) And St. John writes in Revelation 21, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” God will destroy the present world and recreate it without sin, death, or destruction, in perfect beauty. And we God’s children will inherit the new creation.
Second, Jesus’ words will never pass away. Even after the present world is destroyed, the words of Christ will endure forever. This should encourage us to hold fast to Jesus’ Word and cling to His promises. While the people of the world are distracted by that which will come to an end, we should be focused on that which will never pass away. This gives us confidence in God’s promises to us. Are you baptized? That Baptism will never pass away, even after the earth is destroyed; you are God’s child if you believe it. Christ Jesus died for your sins and promises forgiveness to all who believe in Him. Will that forgiveness ever pass away? No. Jesus’ Word stands forever.
Yet, Jesus warns us to watch ourselves so that our hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life. If that happens, the day of Christ will come like a trap when we are not ready. That’s why we continue in Christ’s Word. That’s why we seek to grow in faith. That’s why we teach our children about Jesus habitually, and have Him as the most important part of their life. We do not want them to fall under the delusion that this passing world is more important than Christ. We ourselves do not want to fall under such a delusion.
Of course, this is easier said than done. We are of the flesh. We need to eat. We need to sleep. We need to work and pay our bills. We get distracted by the politics of our nation, the economy, our social lives. We work ourselves to the bone and then we remember that we’ve been neglecting our spiritual life. So, it has become another burden we must keep up with. And that’s how Satan would like you to see it. “Your spiritual life is just another thing to juggle in a busy life. And when something’s got to give, then you drop Jesus and His Word, because life is busy. It’s not a sin. It’s understandable. I’ll start going to church again when I get everything sorted out at work or at home. I’ll devote myself to Christ later.” But your spiritual life, or better said, your faith life is not something that should be competing with the things of this world. It should be that around which the rest of your world revolves. Your devotion to Christ should not be just another thing in your overflowing arms that needs to be put down for a while. Your devotion to Christ should be the center of your life.
Jesus is our God, who gave us everything we have. He created us, our bodies and all our members, our reason and all our senses and still takes care of them. He gives us our clothing and shoes, house, home, wife, and children. He died for our sins and saved us from hell. We live for Christ. We raise our children for Christ. We find our rest in Christ. Anything that would distract us from Christ is our enemy. We are not slaves of this world. We are not ignorant of the signs in the heavens and sea. We know what is coming on this earth. So, we put the cares of this life and the distractions of this coming age into perspective. Jesus warned us that this generation of scoffers would remain until he comes. So, we beware of these scoffers, but we cling to Jesus’ Word and Sacraments. We hold on to that which will never pass away.
It is important for us to recognize the dangers against our faith, so that we can continue in Christ’s Word and prayer, so that we might escape the evils of this world and stand before Christ with confidence in our salvation. Jesus warns us because He loves us. He tells us that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. Christ wants us to receive this Kingdom. He shed His blood and suffered more than you could know, so that you might have it. He warns you, because He loves you. And when we consider who Jesus is and what He has done for us, it is not a burden to listen to Him, to learn His Word, and to receive His grace. Being prepared for Christ’ return is a joy, because it means learning and knowing our Redeemer. Amen.