Advent is here. Contrary to popular belief of every retail store and website, Christmas is not here. Advent is here. For Christians in the Church, this is not a time for consumerism and consumption. This is a time for hope-filled anticipation. Advent is here.
Advent is derived from the Latin word which means ‘to come’. In English, it is a noun which means ‘the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.’ For us as Christians, Advent directs us to the coming of Christ on Christmas as well as the coming of Christ on the Last Day.
Advent is the first season in the Church year. We look around and see that the colors of the church year have changed to blue. Blue symbolizes anticipation and hope in our coming King. We also see that the Advent wreath is before us. Each Sunday during Advent an additional candle is lit, marking the passing of time until Christmas. As the candles are lit each week, our anticipation mounts as we look forward to Jesus’ coming. On Christmas we light the Christ candle in the middle as we give thanks for His coming on the first Christmas and look forward to His final coming.
During the season of Advent, our congregation, along with many other congregations, has special midweek services to heighten our awareness and anticipation for the celebration of Christ’s coming in the flesh.
Please join us for all of the Advent worship services as we look to the King who first came to us in Mary’s womb and who will come again with power and might. During this time we pray that His return to bring us safely into His kingdom will be soon and very soon! Yes, Advent is here.
Advent is here, and the text for our sermon is much like we heard last Sunday. And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:25-28).
To our ears, this sounds horrific. It sounds as if the world is completely and totally out of control. It sounds like chaos on a cosmic level where even the very heavenly bodies in the heavens will be shaken. It gives every indication that we should enter into panic mode and sound the alarm.
It would seem that we should join with Chicken Little, who, when struck on the head by an acorn, went and declared that the sky was falling. He told it to Henny Penny, he told it to Ducky Lucky, and he told it to Foxey Loxey before their end finally came as the fox’s lunch.
Yes, it would seem that now is the time to raise the flag of surrender and panic because it looks as if we don’t stand a chance. Though the sky may not be falling, we look around and ask, “What is the world coming to?” There are hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, flooding and droughts. But where the world may declare that we join with Chicken Little in saying that the sky is falling, we Christians have been given to know better.
Advent is here, and our redemption is near. From the very lips of the Son of God Himself, He has made known to us that all of these natural disasters were expected to take place. He knew they would happen because He is in control, and He graciously shared it with us. That way we would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no need to panic. Our redemption is near.
Redemption means to ‘buy back’. The whole point of Jesus’ coming to this earth was to buy us back from death and into life. He did that by coming to this earth as one of us. He became human to save humans. He laid down His life, His perfect life. He endured an innocent suffering and death by shedding His own precious blood to purchase us back from the grip of death and the devil so that we may be secure in the hands of our Savior…the same hands that were stretched out on Calvary to save us.
All of these catastrophic realities around us in our world today are the comforting reminder that He draws near to us once again. So, take comfort, for the time of His return is ever so close. We need not look at such events with fear and trepidation. We expect them to come, so we straighten up in preparing for His arrival.
Think of it this way, when the Commander and Chief of the United States comes on the scene around any military personnel, they do not sit or slouch. They immediately stand up straight and salute. Such an act makes a clear indication of respect and readiness.
So as Advent is now here, the question is, are we ready? Are we ready for the coming of our King? The world would tell us that such readiness comes in packages, boxes, and bags. And by recent retail sale figures, that would seem to be what is true. It is estimated that Black Friday topped a record of over 23 billion dollars in sales. The four day weekend (because Black Friday now starts on Thursday), topped 60 billion dollars in sales. Cyber Monday produced another estimated 8 billion dollars in sales. That’s 68 billion dollars that Americans spent in five days.
To give some perspective on that figure, there are nearly 140 countries in the world that have individual Gross Domestic Products lower than 68 billion dollars. And Americans spent that amount in five days! What’s more, is that for many Americans, the only way to make such purchases is to assume debt. The average American will add over one thousand dollars of credit card debt at the time of these holidays alone. One thousand dollars more debt, added to a national average of $6,375 in credit card debt. And because of that, America can now say that it has topped over 1 trillion dollars in credit card debt.
So, perhaps this is where Chicken Little’s declaration that “the sky is falling” would be more appropriate. Because if we allow greed and covetousness to consume us, we run the risk of not being ready when Jesus does return. Which is exactly why Jesus warns us: But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth (Luke 21:34-35).
In love and care for us, Jesus doesn’t want us to get swept away by the cares of this world. If we get are to get caught up in the sinful consumption of the things of this world, then how will we ever recognize the signs of the time? If we spend more time on our phones, computers, or stores looking for more stuff than we do in the Word of God, then how will we ever recognize what this time of year is really meant to be?
Advent is here. The kingdom of God is near. This is a time of excitement. Just like we are excited to gather with family and friends to arrive at Christmas, this is a time of even greater excitement than that as our King is coming. But where other gatherings demand cooking and cleaning, shopping until there is dropping, Jesus invites us to slow down, to be still and know that He is God and we are not, to pause and to pray.
And so we pray as He has taught us, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come…“Thy Kingdom Come”. The catechism tells us that when we pray this petition, we are praying that “our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”
This means that as we gather here today the kingdom of God has come to us. For we have been given the Spirit as His Word has been proclaimed here today forgiving us of all of our sins of greed and coveting. Where we are so often consumed with what we want, He comes to us to fulfill all of our needs. Our God has come from heaven to earth to be present with us here and now. And His presence is far greater and grander than any presents we may give or receive.
So instead of focusing on getting more and more stuff for the garage, let us turn our attention to the coming of the King who graciously comes to us even today. He comes into our ears through His Word which never passes away, and He comes into our mouths through His body and blood. He comes into our lives to redeem our dead bodies back to life.
That is what the season is all about. Advent is here. Our redemption is near. The kingdom of God is near. The signs are all around us. But there is no need to panic. Rather this is a time to straighten up and raise our heads in excitement. This is a time to take comfort in the fact that our King Jesus comes for the sole purpose of saving us. For that is why He came the first time on Christmas, and that is why He will come again when the Last Day comes. So, come Lord Jesus, and come quickly. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.