Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the second Sunday of Advent 12/6/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Advent2 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the second Sunday of Advent, click here.
A really good storm has way of shaking us up. And last night’s nor’easter was no exception. Once, we had nothing to fear from a gust of wind; but that was a long time ago.
Adam sinned, mankind fell, and all creation fell with him. Since then, since sin and death entered the world, wind and wave have also meant fear and trembling. Storms and rumors of storms bring about fear, panic, and distress.
People filling up gas tanks for their generators are not feeling good. They’re tense, and on edge, and they want to be ready. But they know they can only do so much. They’re hoping upon hope that power won’t be out for too long, and that they can keep the water out of the basement.
But what if you don’t even see the storm coming? What is worse than being stuck in a storm is when that storm surprises you. This is exactly how Jesus describes His return: He will descend on a storm cloud with sea-roaring and sky-shaking glory. And it will catch almost everyone by surprise.
People’s hearts will be weighed down with distractions and drunkenness and banality. What weighs down your heart now? How many of your thoughts, words, and actions are so contrary to your prayers? What pulls you away from Christ? What song is lulling you to sleep?
Stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. verse 36
On that day, people will be fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. verse 26
For them it will be so terrible that they will simply come undone; because they were asleep, because they did not read the signs, and they do not know what to do.
For everyone who insisted on having things their own way, who rejected the Gospel, and wanted no part in Christ and His Church, that is what they will get.
The storm will sweep them to a place where they will fully receive what they have desired; namely, that their will be done, and not His. If His will were done, they would ride out the storm safely in the Holy Ark of the Church, as members of the Body of Christ.
As was the case on my block, and probably in your neighborhood, storms do not affect everyone the same way. One house can be leveled, and another left untouched. The Last Day will look something like that.
When Jesus descends from the sky like a tornado, some will faint at the fear of judgment, just as Jesus says; but not you.
On that day, you don’t have to worry about filling up your generator, or shuttering the windows, or going to hell. On that day, you have one job:
Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. verse 28
The world may be caught sleeping, but you have been awakened.
Like the little girl whom Jesus said was “only sleeping” (St. Matthew 9:24), Jesus has awakened you! When the life-giving waters of Holy Baptism hit your forehead, when the loud and clear proclamation of His Gospel hit your ears, you were awakened! Christ Himself prepares you for His coming at the end, by coming to you now: in water and the Word; hidden in bread and wine, Jesus delivers to you all you need: He gives you Himself – for this day, for the Last Day, and every day in between.
Jesus’ return in glory is what we desire. If you can look forward to Christmas, which has already happened, then you can hope for the new world that Jesus is coming to make.
Look around you: war and division, hate and anguish, sin, and death. This world is a mess; and so when Jesus comes again in glory, He will sweep up everything. Sun and moon, stars and sea, kings and nations, you and me; He will sweep up everything!
For all of you, that storm means not a frightening end, but a fresh start. Christ’s return means an end to all that is false and ugly, and the beginning of what is true and beautiful.
Christ’s coming means a new beginning, and a life lived fully in the image of the God. But between Christ’s first coming in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and His second coming on a cloud with power and great glory, between now and then, we will enjoy a fresh start in Advent, too.
The beginning of Advent last week marked the start of a new year, and so, we have begun to tell Jesus’ story again, front to back – from prophecies given to prophecies fulfilled, Annunciation to Incarnation, Christmas to Easter, from death to life; from resurrection to ascension and His return at the end of all things, to take you from this vale of tears to be with Him forever.
In this season, Christ prepares us to joyfully receive Him; reminding us that in Him we have already been given the
strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. verse 36
Fires and storms and earthquakes have a way of capturing our attention. Maybe that is why folks have a tendency to fixate so much on the Last Day. But, Christ comes to you now, on this day. Like the Last Day, He comes to you delivering grace, forgiveness, and life. Behold the Son of Man is coming with power and great glory, hidden in elements that have no power and glory of their own. What is there to do, but come now to His Supper, straighten up, raise your head, and open your mouth. Your Redemption is drawing near.