• Introduction: Advent is the start of a new year in the church.  We are now in Series C of the 3yr lectionary series, if you are keeping track of such things.  The start of Series C this weekend included two different Gospel readings from Luke. When faced with two good options for an either/or scenario, I sometimes respond with “yes” instead of making a choice of one over the other. 😊  This is why we had an unusual set of readings to start off with Advent on today.
    • The reason for this is thetwo Gospel readings instruct us of Jesus first and final coming to our Age.  As has been observed in the past, we worship a God who comes to us.  All other religions of the world are set up to worship a god who must be approached and appeased of his anger.  These gods (emphasis on small “g”) are prayed to, but they have eyes which do not see and ears which do not hear.  Therefore, those prayers wind up in a virtual wastebin.
      • Not so with the God to whom Christians of every tribe, language, and time in history worship.  Jesus came to us in the same flesh & blood you & I have.  He lived with the same temptations you & I do, but He never sinned.  The first reading for today covered Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem – on the way to His cross where our sins were nailed.
      • Despite this triumphant entry occurring at the end of His ministry tour, it was a scenario of foretelling how He will return to us a second and final time. As mentioned on last week, Jesus will come again triumphantly in the clouds to end the Age of existence as we currently know it.
    • In this season of Advent, our focus is to make ready for both occasions.  In your home you probably will put up a tree and decorate the house for Christmas. However, are we prepared for Jesus to come at the end of this year?  This month? Maybe even this afternoon?  It is His second and final return for which we will explore how to prepare.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, each season of Advent reminds our short-sighted minds of the great love You showed for us.  You sent Your one and only Son to us to be like us except for sin, so that He could take our sins from us.  Please send the Holy Spirit so that in gratitude for saving us from our sins, we recognize different things we can do to prepare our heart for Jesus’ triumphant return.  We pray this, Father, through Your Son Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: As was just mentioned, there were two (2) readings from the Gospel according to Luke.  Let’s spend a moment taking a deeper dive into each.
    • Our First Reading recalled Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40).  We celebrate this event each Palm Sunday in the church year.  It always seems kind of odd to do so, since that is the end of the Lenten season. Lent is a season of reflection upon our sins and repentance from those sins.  We go through Lent in sorrow that our sins drove Jesus to the cross, only to cheer wildly on Palm Sunday when the King of kings entered into Jerusalem.  If we didn’t cheer wildly, the stones along the path would do so!  We then again go through the sorrow of witnessing our Lord Jesus die a horrible death on the cross just five (5) days later.  Ah, but on the third day of that death on the cross, He is raised from the dead! 
    • Aside from the emotional roller-coaster I just mentioned, what would the events of Palm Sunday have to do with Advent?  The answer is, a lot!  Our second Reading was a series of admonitions from Jesus to be aware of when He returns again triumphantly.  It will be just like He did on that Sunday in March about 2000yrs ago, only on a much, much larger scale.  He will return under some very sorrowful circumstances, similarly to the comparison between the emotions of Lent and Palm Sunday.  Jesus described in Luke 21:10-24 how bad things will be at the time He returns.  How does one prepare for His second and final return?
      • There are four (4) admonitions Luke recorded from Jesus that provide instruction for what we need to be doing in preparing our heart to meet Jesus.  You may want to pull out your bulletin and turn to the fourth page where the 2nd Gospel reading is printed for you, so you can highlight them for future reference.  The first of the four (4) admonitions to prepare is get up & lift your head up toward Jesus, because redemption is near (Luke 27:27-28). Jesus said this after explaining some signs of His return in Luke 21:25-26.  Despite it becoming more oppressive to follow the Lord Jesus in 2021, we should not slump down and bury our head in the sand.  We need to straighten up from head to toe, because we are on the winning side.  There is no reason to slump down any more than when your favorite team wins it all. You want to celebrate with the winners and not cry with the losers.
      • The second admonition is found in a parable Jesus told about a fig tree that sprouts leaves in the spring time.  Jesus admonished us to behold the fig tree and know what the sign means (Luke 21:29-31).  When leaves sprout, it’s clear that summer is near.  This is akin to when we see all of the signs of the tribulation, we know the end of the Age is near.
      • Our third admonition is to not be weighed down with the stresses of this Age, and particularly the ways to cope with those stresses (Luke 21:34-35).  More & more people are dying of overdoses of all types of opioids sourced by prescription or off the street.  From 1999 to 2019, which was the last year for which statistics were available, the total number of deaths in this country rose five (5) times[1].  Almost 50,000 people lost their life in 2019 to something preventable because they had no hope. They were in a slump they thought they couldn’t get out of.  Jesus said, 34 “But be on your guard, so that your hearts will not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that this day will not come on you suddenly, like a trap…[2]”  There were fewer ways at the time of Jesus to drown away despair which we still have in 2021, but science has provided opioids since then.  Jesus admonished us to not seek relief from stress like governments across the country suggested during the lock-downs due to Covid19. Remember April 2020 when the liquor stores were allowed to stay open, but the churches were shut down?
      •  The last admonition is to stay awake, paying attention to the times without getting stressed out about them. Additionally, we should be praying to be able to flee the coming wrath, and to stand before Jesus (Luke 21:36).  Jesus wants us to be aware of the signs of His second and final return.  He wants us to pray about being able to flee from the distress of the end times, because that means we are correctly interpreting the signs and trusting in Him to make it easier on us to persevere through them.  He wants us to be able to stand before Him on Judgement Day without sweaty palms and heart racing because we don’t know how it will turn out.  He wants us to have total confidence in Him that He covered us with His righteousness.
    • We can gage this love of His to want to cover us in His righteousness, because squished in the middle of these four admonitions is a promise.
      • Jesus said in v33 - 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away[3].  Everything we see and experience in this Age will come to an end.  The very earth and sky will disintegrate into nothing, just as they were created from out of nothing.  Jesus was part of their creation and He will bring about their destruction.  The good news is Jesus’ words will not pass away.  Jesus’ words are true, and will always be true throughout eternity.
  • Analysis: The season of Advent is a time to get ready for Christmas.  Each of the 3-4 Sundays in Advent, depending upon the year, provide insight on why we celebrate Christmas each year.  However, Advent also reminds us to be ready for the End of the Age.  Let me provide some practical analogies of these theological concepts.
    • For example, expectant mothers will do something called “nesting” when the time is near for the child to be delivered.  They’ll run around the house cleaning things up so the house is ready for the new arrival.
      • Advent is a time to decorate our “nest” for Christmas.  I’m sure most of us bring the Christmas decorations out for the Christmas season, and leave them out probably by tradition until Epiphany.
        • And why not?  Christmas is the celebration of the Son of God coming to us in our flesh.  Martin Luther wrote the words to the hymn, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”.  Contemplate as I read to you stanzas 2 & 3 from Lutheran Service Book[4], the hymnal of our church:
          • 2To you this night is born a child Of Mary chosen virgin mild This little child of lowly birth Shall be the joy of all the earth
          • 3This is the Christ, our God Most High, Who hears your sad and bitter cry; He will Himself your Savior be From all your sins to set you free.
        • We do not have a god who is distant from us. He is not someone who when he has the time or desire, he’ll get back to us.  We have a God who loves us to the point of sacrificing Himself so we can get a free ticket to live in His mansions forever.
    • Another analogy of preparing during the season of Advent is a host who prepares their home for the arrival of guests. 
      • Karla & I just did this for Thanksgiving.  We had friends and family over for the meal and visit afterward.  We looked at the calendar and work backwards on what needed to be done by when for a successful gathering.
        • Eschatology is the study of what the End Times look like.  The Greek root for the word eschatology is εσχατος which means last.  Only God the Father has a date in mind for when the last day will be.  Since we don’t know that date, we need to be prepared in anticipation of the day possibly being today.  In order to prepare for a date, it’s always good to work backwards to plan out what we need to be doing to prepare for it.
        • God’s word in Luke 21 references four (4) distinct things to do in order to be prepared for whenever the Father says to Jesus, “okay, it’s time to harvest the earth to bring in the fruit of Your labors, My Son.”
  • Implications: I encourage you this Advent season to prepare your soul for both events of Luke 19 and Luke 21 in order to recognize them.
    • The first coming of Jesus was His birth in some filthy stable in ancient Bethlehem.  This was no ordinary baby boy.  Yes, it was a baby boy, but it was also Almighty God, so He could become like us.  The Apostle John wrote -  1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God[5].  John wrote that to clearly establish Jesus as the Word who is one with God the Father.  That set up for this next quote from John 1:14 - 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth[6]
      • Thank God (literally!) for this newborn coming to us.  This baby boy grew up while never sinning.  This boy became a man and at age 30 started His ministry – while never sinning.  He marched in Jerusalem to the cross starting on Palm Sunday, while not sinning.  He was nailed to the cross, bleeding out the sinless blood He swapped in exchange for the sins of the world.  There was no other way for us to free ourselves from the sin we caused.
        • The Apostle Paul wrote about the implications of this baby boy regarding where we would spend eternity.  Paul wrote - Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life[7].  Paul went on to say if we were united with Jesus in His death, we are also united with Him in His resurrection from the dead.  Since He rose never to die again, we too will rise, never to die again. (Rom 6:1-11) 
      • This virgin birth of God in man therefore is a big deal!  In the Gospel account by the Apostle Matthew, he noted that Joseph who was engaged to the virgin Mary was going to call it off when he found out she was pregnant.  However, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said – 20b“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a Son; and you shall name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.[8]”  Matthew made it a point to be clear Joseph was Jesus’ stepfather, because the Holy Spirit was the means by which Mary became pregnant.  Matthew then pointed to Isa 7:14 and referenced Mary as the virgin foretold who would call her child Immanuel, meaning God with us (Mat 1:18-25).
    • Jesus, our Almighty God, has warned us in Luke 21:33 that everything we see is coming to an end.  He said - 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away[9]
      • Before you start lamenting the fact that your favorite whatever will disintegrate, it is actually a good thing that everything will pass away.  There is nothing in this Age that can compare with what Jesus has in store for us when we get into heaven. Take this for example from Rev 21:4 - and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.[10]”  Many of you know I love my Mustang GT convertible.  I love driving it with the top down.  There’s nothing like it.  But I will happily trade it for never having to mourn, cry, or experience any emotional or physical pain once heaven and earth pass away.  I can’t imagine what it will be like for the Lord Jesus Himself to wipe away all of my tears, but I’d like to find out.  It’s worth preparing for this event to happen one day in my eternal life.  I hope you feel the same way. 
      • Additionally, once in heaven, our relationship with the Triune God will be restored to what it was intended to be.   The Apostle John heard a loud voice from the throne in heaven he then recorded in Rev 21:3 - “…Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them…[11]”  Isn’t that aspect of your eternal life something to get prepared for? Amen!

[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates#:~:text=Any%20opioid%20includes%20prescription%20opioids%20%28and%20methadone%29%2C%20heroin,and%20remained%20steady%20in%202018%20with%2046%2C802%20deaths, Figure 3

[2] Luke 21:34 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2021&version=NASB

[3] Luke 21:33 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2021&version=NASB

[4] Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, MO, 2006, Hymn 358

[5] John 1:1 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=NASB

[6] John 1:14, ibid.

[7] Rom 6:3-4 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+6&version=NASB

[8] Mat 1:20b-21 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+1&version=NASB

[9] Luke 21:33 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+21&version=NASB

[10] Rev 21:4 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Rev+21&version=NASB

[11] Rev 21:3, ibid