Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Populus Zion – Advent II (December 7, 2008, revised from 2003)
Luke 21: 25-36
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “Watching for the Coming King”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel lesson just read, with focus on the words of Jesus, But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.
We are all creatures of habit, you and I. When it comes to this season, and preparing for Christmas, we are all creatures of habit. You know exactly what you will do with the Christmas lights. You know what cookies you will bake, how you will decorate your house, and when family and friends will be coming to your house for the holidays. And yet it is this very constancy, this fact that you know what this month should be like in your mind, that can often be the source of frustration and tension. You have to spend more time at work than you want, and so you don’t have the time to prepare you wish. The kids are, well, being kids, and it means that your life is always a roller coaster. Somehow it even seems as though things break more in December than any other month of the year. And so we spend our lives trying to grasp for the white Christmas that is never exactly what you just know you your head that it is supposed to be like.
Our text this morning really speaks to our temptations this time of year. Jesus warns us to take heed, lest our hearts be weighed down with parties, food and drink, and the cares of this life. Why? Because these things distract us from what really matters, what is really important in our lives. Jesus even warns us that the cares of this life can make it so that the Last Day may come upon us unexpectedly, and we won’t be ready.
If Jesus were to return tomorrow and Judgment Day were upon us, would you be ready? How would you receive Him? Would you receive Him with faith and joy at His return, or would you be so focused on the things of this day that you wouldn’t even notice? Or, as Jesus Himself asked the question, Do you think that when the Son of Man will come, that He will also find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8).
I think that’s what we find so frustrating and distracting about texts like this one this morning. Jesus warning today is against, by and large, the very things that this world tries to make this season all about. Food. Drink. The things of this world. Gifts that don’t last. The love of money. These are the things that Jesus warns you about this morning.
Now I will be the first to admit that this doesn’t fill me with a lot of Christmas cheer. I am especially not happy about this warning over food and drink. How can things like food and drink be spiritual? What does this have to do with God at all? That’s what we ask, not only about food and drink, but about everything in our lives. Why does God care how I spend my time? Why does He care what I do with my money or how I take care of my family?
God cares about these things because He knows you. He knows your very soul. He knows how Satan seeks to tear you away from Him by getting you looking at yourself and your possessions so much that you can’t lift up you heart to see the Son of Man coming with healing in His wings. And if Satan can use things like food and drink and toys big and small to tear you away from Christ and His Word of forgiveness, then that is exactly what he will seek to do.
So God’s warning for you today is clear and to the point. Repent. Repent of believing that your life can be found in cookies or hot chocolate or cars or parties or food or drink or friends. Repent, because God has much bigger and better plans for you than these things, which come and go like the wind. That’s God’s Law, and God always gives His Law to you because he wants to give you something even better.
Repent and believe that God offers you something today that is far greater than the temptations of this world. Our Lord says through Malachi the prophet:
But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the
soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,
For our Lord, you see, has a banquet planned for you. He has a banquet planned for you that will fill you up, both body and soul. You don’t have to escape from your troubles with food or drink or whatever it is that turns you on. Christ Himself is coming, and He will take away all of your troubles, by taking them in Himself. Christ is coming, and His work of life and forgiveness will give your life meaning and purpose that none of the things of this world could ever give.
Now to make this point, Christ uses the story of the fig tree. I kind of appreciate how he uses a food story to warn us about overindulgence. How do you know when a tree is ripe? You know a tree is ripe when there are buds on the branches. That’s the sign that its coming. The fruit, the flowers are on the way. You know what’s coming because you can see the buds.
That is how our Lord wants us to look at the end of the world. When you see trials and heartache, when you see the world obsessed with food and drink and carousing and self-absorption, when you see these things coming, then that is the sign that our Lord is on the way. That’s the sign. And that sign is for you a very good thing, because it means that Jesus is coming back, and that when He comes back, all of our troubles will be gone forever. We suffer through trials and heartaches now because we know that they are here and gone, but that the Word and promise of the Lord endures forever.
So repent and rejoice! Christ is coming soon, and He sustains you this day by Word and Sacrament, so that you may be found worthy to receive Him at His return. We pray in the liturgy every Sunday that God would lift up our hearts to Him so that we may receive His body and blood. God will draw you out of the cares of this world into Himself. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.