Sunday, November 27, 2016
First Sunday in Advent
Matthew 24: 32 – 4
Luke 21: 25 – 28
Preached by Rev. Dr. Harold E. Kidd
“Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28
As we enter this season of Advent, the theme for this morning is one that focus’ on HOPE. The anticipation and expectation of our Savior coming into this world, as well as our watchfulness, readiness to receive Him when He comes again. So I want to preach out of our lectionary text in Matthew as well as the companion text found in Luke 21: 25 – 28. If you’ve ever had the experience of having to deal with your fear of heights, especially when it comes to looking down. When doing home improvements, and while I love to paint and do some ladder work, I have a fear of climbing to roof level to paint. A fear of falling and looking down.
Even while having ones feet firmly on the ground, if one suffers from vertigo, this can still create feelings of anxiety. As though life itself has our heads spinning or that the world around us is spinning and we find it difficult to find our balance. Life itself can be pretty fearful and anxious, and have our heads spinning if we spend too much of our time looking down.
No matter how positive one’s faith is, we still must face the realities that we are living in a world filled with dread and danger. A true and honest faith in God will not deny that there are dreadful and frightful realities that everyone must deal with at some time or another. As much as the Good Lord came to bring us life and life more abundantly, Jesus never claimed that our lives would be lived with relative freedom without some seasons of trouble.
He did however, guarantee us the promise of His presence. “In the world you shall have tribulation He tells His disciples, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” As bad as we might view our world today, we have to be ever mindful that because of Christ and God’s constant involvement in history, we will in the end be victorious. And life is worthy the living just because He Lives! Jesus came to not only bring us salvation but as well to give us HOPE.
The chapter before us, Matthew 24 is one in which we hear our Lord teaching in some degrees of detail concerning the harsh realities of the world we live in. Things that are destructive and harmful, the devilish, demonic powers that are loose in this world that pose the constant threat of capturing the minds and souls of God’s beloved humanity.
He forewarns us that we “shall hear of wars and commotions, nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and great earthquakes shall be in divers places.” (Luke 21: 9 – 11) On He goes about outside conditions, signs in the sun, and in the moon and in the stars.” (Luke 21:25)
How accurate a description given by Jesus more than 2000 years ago to describe many of the events occurring in His own time surrounding the fall of Jerusalem, but which are also a prophetic witness of what is happening in our own time. But Jesus doesn’t stop in this chapter concerning the Signs of the Times and the End of the Age with His recitation of external calamity.
In verse 26 of Luke 21 Jesus probes at the internal batterings and sieges to which our hearts are also liable. He says that under the pressure of outside forces a person’s inner spiritual defense may begin to weaken and crumble. He speaks of it by way of saying, “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
In all of what the Lord describes in this chapter concerning the Signs of the Times, the temptation is to look down. The News Media in fact makes its living on getting a believing public to look down. To buy into all the negative news, while downplaying much of the good news that is prevalent and in dire need of being lifted up in this world and within our own country.
So the temptation is always to look down. But the words that beg for our deeper attention in all that Jesus describes in this passage are to be found is verse 28 of Luke 21: “Now when these things begin to happen look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” It is easy to look down into the abyss of a turbulent world. But Jesus says Look up because your redemption draws near.
While seeking to stay informed on the news of the day, perhaps our interior health, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, would fair far better, if we spent more time in God’s Good News, published through our families, in life, creation, the arts, or some devotional writing by one of our favorite authors.
And if we’re not careful we can find ourselves getting so caught up in the negative news, that we find ourselves being communicators of bad news instead of God’s Good news. Look up, because God is still on the throne. Look up, because Jesus still lives with all power in His hands. Look up, because the Hoy Spirit is yet at work in our midst.
Look up, because there are still a multitude that no man can number, who work and pray for the peace of their families, neighborhoods and our world. Look up, because with each death in this world, somewhere in this world God the giver of all life, is ushering in the celebration of a new born baby. Look up, because the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Look up, because to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord!
Look up, because while sickness is a reality of life, God is a healer. Look up, because His grace and mercy will carry you through. Look up, because earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. Look up, because in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.
Yes, we may be faced with having to live through a fluctuating economy, and adjusting to a new Trump Presidential administration, but look up, because the earth is the Lord’s, the fullness thereof, the world, and we who dwell herein. Look up, because God will supply your every need. Look up, because God will take care of you.
The world may be filled with evildoers, but look up, because this is still our Father’s World. Look up, because the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. Look up, because there are still a whole lot of people in this world doing good, people just like you and me, people, who love the Lord, people who go about doing good. Look up, because our witness is still needed. Look up because, there are yet those who seek truth and the way of salvation. Look up, because God is working through our faith that none should perish. Look up, stand firm, for we shall reap if we faint not.
Look up, because He is coming back some day, and we want to be ready, when He comes. Look up, because the battle is over, the victory has been won, and we shall wear a crown. Look up, because our redemption draws near! And even while we look up to Jesus in hope, we still have work to do, For notice what Jesus says in the Matthew text verse 13: “And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
By Jesus’ own words, the end must not yet have come because we are still here and He has not shown up yet! Although we should do all we can to relieve the problems of this age, these problems will ultimately rest beyond our power to control. Rather than speculate about the problems, we are to be God’s people who have been empowered to carry Good News to a troubled world.
Look up, and as we are looking up take this Gospel to anyone and everyone who will receive it. In the words of the benediction Anthem which our choir sings with some regularity, “As You Go Tell the World. Tell the world about Jesus, Tell them about His love, Tell the world about Jesus, Tell them about His love.” As you go tell them to Look up, Look up, Look up and keep on looking up “unto to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen! Look up”!