Devotional Message: The First Sunday of Advent (12/2/2018)

Lessons

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10 (1)
1st Thessalonians 3:9-13
St. Luke 21:25-36

Prayer of the Day

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins, and redeem us for your life of justice, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

St. Luke 21:25-36, New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: “Living in End Times

An old cartoon lampooned the stereotypical street-corner evangelist, warning passers-by about the impending end of the world. Yet this modern day prophet hedged his bet a bit. He wasn’t bold enough to claim that the “end is near.” He was content to point out, with his sign, that “the end is nearer.”

We Lutherans have rarely found ourselves in white robes, standing on street corners, warning others about the end of time. Not many of us bought into Harold Camping’s nonsense in 2011. Even fewer of us took seriously the frenzy created by the Millerites in the 19th Century. We are more inclined to remember how Jesus warns us against such speculation.

Yet at the same time, Jesus speaks clearly about the coming end of time. With rich, apocalyptic language, this week’s Gospel lesson reminds us of a time when Jesus teaches his followers about the days to come. There will be signs in nature, unrest among people, and suddenly the Savior will appear, and the end will be at hand. This can be a frightening and unsettling message. But Jesus doesn’t speak these words in order to trouble his followers. His intent, as this weekend’s Gospel lesson makes clear, is to invite them into a different way of living. “Be on guard,” he says. “Be alert at all times.”

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we live in this “now, but not yet” time. The end of all time may or may not come before we draw our last breath, but we are called to live as if it might come at any time. There is a sense of urgency among those who live in such a way. If I live as if today is the last opportunity I may have to do what God has called me to do, I am much less likely to put if off until tomorrow.

This anticipatory way of living is part of the undercurrent of the season — the Season of Advent. We are reminded, every year, how Advent calls to mind the three “comings” of Christ (Advent, a Greek word, means “arrival” or “coming”). Christ came to the world as the Babe of Bethlehem. Christ comes into our hearts today. Christ will come at the end of all time. We Lutherans tend to be pretty good celebrating at the first, are getting better at welcoming the second, but can still a bit uncertain about how to understand the third.

It may well be that the faith practices of Advent are perfect ways for us to learn how to “be on guard” or “be alert at all times.” As we spend increased time in Bible study, meditation, prayer, worship and service, we become more in tune with the movement of God in our world, and more at peace with the possibility that the end may come during our watch.

In a season where most of society is rushing from one day to the next, in a frantic attempt to “get everything ready” before Christmas Eve arrives, the season of Advent calls us to slow down, open our hearts and minds, and look for the ways Christ is coming into our lives. There really is no better way for us to prepare ourselves for the end — whether it is the end of our time, or the end of the world’s time. Blessings to you as you seek to put this into practice this year.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What signs were present in the first century that the end might be near?

  2. Why does Jesus call attention to these signs?

  3. How are his words filled with hope, for people who lived in frightening times?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. Is the end of time a cause for concern or hope for me?

  2. Am I content with how my family has honored Advent and celebrated Christmas in past years?

  3. How might the faith practices of Advent prepare me to be more hopeful about the end?