How’s your preparations going? We’re getting ready for Christmas. Many of you have already decorated. The Sunday School children are preparing for their program next Sunday during the Bible Class hour. Have you sent out your Christmas cards? Are you done shopping? Are you listening to Christmas carols all the time? Are you hoping for a white Christmas?
The Church tells you to prepare for Christmas, but she does not tell us we have to do any of those things. You don’t have to decorate. The children’s Christmas program is nice though. You don’t need to buy gifts, even if that won’t go over well. You don’t even need to like Christmas carols, though I presume you do.
The Church tells you to prepare because your salvation is coming. We mostly think of Advent as preparation time for Christmas. The Advent wreath is leading us up to that day. Some of the decorations focus on it. They’re reminding us Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago is the reason for the season. But Advent also reminds us He delivers to us His salvation every day when we hear His Word and when we receive His Sacrament – that’s how He forgives our sins and gives us the promise of everlasting life.
Now Advent is not just about getting ready for Christmas or the church service. It’s about getting ready for our Lord’s coming on the last day. We’ve had a couple Sundays about this already, and we’ve sung many of the same hymns on those Sundays that we’re singing today. This is partly to help the children learn those great chorales. It’s also because we may notice something different each time we sing them. This allows them to teach us further and to increase our growth in faith and knowledge of the teachings of God’s holy Word.
Our Lord is coming on the last day. We don’t know when that will be. That’s why He tells us to be ready. But we do know it can be at any time. That’s what Jesus says today. He says there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. That happened already when He died, when the sun was darkened around the world. Then there’s eclipses, comets, and novas. We all watched the solar eclipse that happened last year. Those are the sorts of things Jesus is talking about here.
Then Jesus tells us men will faint out of fear and expectation. We complain the world is not as good as it used to be and the golden years are way passed us. Add into that all the fights and total polarity we see around us as people seem too extreme, reject compromise, and riot without cause just because somebody disagrees with them. People turn to violence in ever-increasing numbers and cast unfounded pejoratives and seem so totally confused about the facts of life. Fear surrounds us. We are in the last days.
But we have been. People in Jesus’ day saw the same signs in the skies we see, but they scared them because they didn’t know the science behind it. Perhaps they were more controlled, perhaps not, in their dealings with others. We would consider many things done in the past inhumane, after all, and the only reason they didn’t have more riots back then was that Rome hated them with such a passion their armies made sure they wouldn’t happen – that’s why Pilate was in Jerusalem at Passover. Maybe in some ways we still have it better than they did back then. But one thing Jesus says here tells us it is the last days. He said: “Amen I say to you that this generation will not pass away until all things happen.”
“This generation” – those are the people alive right then, who talked with Jesus. They saw all the signs. They saw the sun darkened when He hung on The Cross. They even saw Him coming on the clouds with power and great glory there – even though it looked totally ugly, God’s glory was in total view because that was God at work recreating the world. Your redemption was nigh. It was in process. It was being accomplished right there. Your redemption is come.
Your redemption is come. You believe this. Straighten up, lift up your heads, and look to the crucifix. There you see the vivid concrete picture of your redemption finished by Jesus Christ your God and Savior. You see pictured there God buying you back from sin, death, and Satan.
He had to buy you? But He created you! He lost you. To be more precise, you wandered astray. You wandered directly into the devil’s pen, into the black hole of death, into the chains of sin. Adam’s fall brought us all into ruin. It ripped us out of God’s hands. It drove us out of His sheepfold and off the path to heaven. That made us slaves of the devil’s kingdom of sin and death. We were unable to escape. We were captives.
So Christ came to pay the ransom. He couldn’t pay money. All the silver and gold in the world isn’t enough to pay for sin. It took something much more special, something worth far more: God’s Blood. The life is in the blood. The fine for our sins amounted to death and eternity in hell. For us to escape that fine, the Eternal God had to suffer hell and die. So that’s what He did. Though we would have never dreamed of it or done it, He rejoiced to do it. All this for you He suffered. All this He did to ransom you. His Blood dissolves the chains of your sin. His Death frees you from death’s jaws. His Resurrection pries you free from the devil’s lair.
He is coming again. He can’t let this world stay the way it is. He came to rescue it from sin and death, so He must put an end to them. He must bury them eternally. He must reveal the crushing of the serpent’s head for all to see. He must raise the dead and lead His faithful into life everlasting with Him. He can come at any time. The signs have all been there since He died and rose. So let’s get ready for Him to come!
How do we do that? At the end of the Church Year we focused a little on sorrow over sin. Today we want to focus a little on how we live our life in view of our faith. Jesus said to watch out. What are we to watch out for? He wants us to watch out to make sure our faith doesn’t get overtaken. Don’t overindulge in whatever might cause you to take your focus off Christ – and overindulgence does drag us down to other great sins, shame, and vice! Don’t knowingly fall into sin or commit the sins of the flesh. Don’t let the cares of this life get the better of you. Don’t get anxious about if you’ll have enough, if you’ll get through the next problem. Cast all your cares on Him and be temperate and moderate in all things. Have your focus every day on God’s Word first and foremost. Nothing else matters. Everything else has an expiration date. Only God’s Word lasts into eternity so only it can take you into eternity. Only God’s Word can prepare you to meet the heavenly Bridegroom.
So be constant in prayer. Pray that your celebration of the Savior’s Birth will enable you to serve Him with a pure mind; that’s what we prayed for at the beginning of the Service. We learn about our Savior’s Birth because it shows us how much He loves us, and we want to show Him love too. He was born in time so we could be born into eternity when He comes again. On that day He will gather His saints together to Himself, for they made a covenant with Him by sacrifice: His very own Death on The Cross. You entered into that covenant when you were baptized – that’s when you nailed your sinful nature to His Cross; you renew it whenever you drink the New Testament in His Blood at this Altar. “Daughter of Zion, behold, thy Salvation cometh!”