Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the Second Sunday of Advent, 12/4/2022. The bulletin is available as a PDF: Advent2 Bulletin
The texts for the sermon were the day’s gospel and Old Testament lessons. To read the Bible texts for the Second Sunday of Advent, click here.
It’s said that the way you see things depends in large part on where you are standing. An easy example of that could be taken from Wednesday night at the Garden, where the Celtics were playing the Miami Heat. It was a high-scoring game – and it was plenty entertaining, if you don’t care about defense.
If you were a referee, running up and down the floor, paying close attention, you would say that the Heat were a bit reckless, getting themselves into foul trouble early. But then again, as a referee, fouls are what you’re looking for.
On the other hand, if you were a Celtics fan up in the “cheap” seats, you might say that Boston was playing an incredibly disciplined game, and that the referees were doing a perfect job. But, then again, as Celtics fan, that’s exactly what you’re looking for and hoping for.
Finally, if you were the Prince or Princess of Wales, though you found yourself at courtside, you might see everything perfectly, and still not have a strong sense of what’s going on or when exactly to clap, even if, out of British decorum, your Twitter feed is cheering on the Celtics.
So, on second thought, while it certainly matters where you are standing at a Celtics game – unless you want referees calling foul from the 53rd row – it seems to matter even more who you are. Your relationship to what is happening is even more important than where you are standing.
This is an important consideration as we hear Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, as He tells us what it’ll be like when He comes back: signs in the stars, distress on the ground, storms on the seas, and the Son of Man, Jesus, hurtling towards earth on a cloud, making the heavens shake and people pass out from fear.
Regardless of where you are standing, these things will be impossible to miss or ignore. So, the question is not “where,” as in “Where are you standing?” But, “who,” as in, “Who are you?”
What is your relationship to all of this? What are you looking for? What are you hoping for?
If you’re not a Christian, if you’re not part of the Church, if you’ve rejected Jesus, then you will still be looking up. The big difference is that you won’t be standing on your feet, you’ll be one of those who passes out from fear. Which is the most reasonable thing to do if you see your judgment drawing near.
If you are a Christian, however, Jesus says to straighten up, and raise your head, because your Redemption is drawing near. This is not a new idea for Christians.
If we believe Jesus, when He says to the disciples on the Emmaus Road, that the Scriptures, i.e. the books of the Old Testament, were written concerning Him (Luke 24;27); and if we believe St. Paul, when he tells us that holy marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:32); and if we consider the prophets’ regard for Israel as the LORD’s bride (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 31:32, etc.) then we’re able to understand what the Song of Solomon is ultimately about, including our reading today.
The Song of Solomon deals externally with the marriage and love of Solomon and his bride, and in that, teaches us how to regard, celebrate, and extol the beauty of marital love. But it does more. It says how the bride, the Church, should consider the arrival of her Lord.
It’s hard to imagine Jesus wasn’t referring to this text when He told the Parable of the Fig Tree. Consider the remarkable degree of textual correspondence. In both the Song and in Jesus’ Parable:
- The Lord comes with power and glory, making a prop of the heavens and the earth
- The fig tree ripens and flowers bloom, for
- Winter has gone and summer is near
- And the Bridegroom bids His beloved to arise, rejoice, and come away
So, when the world is coming undone, be it on the Great Last Day, or in its slow, present unraveling, who are you? Why should you straighten up? Why should you raise up your head?
Because you are the Church. Because your Redemption is drawing near. Jesus wants you. You are His beloved. You are His, and He is yours.
A short, beautiful verse pulled from the Song, and inscribed on my wedding ring: behold, I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.
If thinking about Christ’s return from this perspective is a bit of a challenge, we have three more weeks of practice. If you would embrace it, preparing for Christmas is a way of preparing for the end, for Christ’s return.
His first coming was, of course, was much gentler; but here also are too many similarities to overlook:
- Christmas was full of signs in the heavens (angels and stars)
- It was rich in perplexity and distress (Joseph, Herod, and all Jerusalem with him)
- And the powers of the heavens were shaken, albeit quietly, as God took on human flesh
We’re not too certain about apocalyptic storm fronts, but English hymn-writers would have us think that the weather was not-so-great.
All in all, only a few people saw, heard, and paid attention; but they understood that their redemption had drawn near.
As Christmas comes near yet again, and with it, a reminder of our Lord’s promise to return, how shall we meet Him?
As Christ’s redeemed. As His beloved. Watchful, eager, and confident, with heads raised high.
Lo, He comes to us: then in the manger, now in Word and Sacrament, and at the last, upon the clouds, to bring us home.