Advent 1, December 2, 2018, Luke 21:25-36, “A World-wide Event”

Do you remember the solar eclipse we had a few months ago?  People from Europe, Asia, North America, and the Arctic could see it with those special dark glasses.  That solar eclipse just about affected the whole world.

Some thirty years ago a scientist working at the science lab, CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, invented the world-wide web.  Now information can be shared by billions of people with computers.  The world-wide web just about affects the whole world.

The UN just released a report about global warming.  Scientists who prepared this report for the UN said that we have 12 years to stop the earth from warming even a degree or two or else the world faces more floods, more droughts, more extreme heat, and poverty for millions of people.  Global warming may just about affect the whole world.

When Jesus, the Son of Man, comes to this earth for a second time the whole world will be affected.  The whole world will be judged.  That is the sense of today’s gospel reading from Luke chapter 21 where Jesus himself talks about the end time.

The imagery Jesus used has cosmic proportions.  Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars” (Luke 21:25).  When Jesus comes to earth, the heavens will give us signs.  And now with modern science, astronomers can predict future lunar and solar eclipses.  They can tell us when to look for cosmic events in the sky.

Jesus said that on earth there will be “distress among the nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves” (Luke 21:25).  Remember the 2004 Indian earthquake and the tsunami which flooded Indonesia and thousands of people drowned from that disaster.  That earthquake and tsunami brought chaos and confusion to so many people.

These cosmic signs must happen before Jesus, the Son of Man, returns to this earth to judge people of every time and place.  Not one person can escape his coming.  Not one person can hide from his presence at the end of time.  Jesus’ second coming is a cosmic event.  Jesus’ second coming is world-wide.  We remember that in the Nicene Creed we confess this about Jesus’ second coming, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

Jesus’ second coming does not bring fear to the hearts of all who love him and trust in him.  He promised that when the signs of the end time come, our redemption is drawing near.  That gives us hope.  That gives us confidence.  There is joy in trusting that on the last day Christ will grant us eternal life in the heavenly kingdom just as he has promised.

So, then, how do we live until that day when Christ returns to this earth with power and glory?

Jesus commands us to “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life”  (Luke 21:34).  Our hearts can be heavy when the worries of life take over.  What do we worry about?  A divorce?  A child addicted to drugs?  A cancer diagnosis?  The loss of a job?  So what do we do when these tough times come and tempt us to despair?

Jesus provided the answer.  He said that we are to “Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).

Isn’t praying important?  Isn’t praying a spiritual discipline?  Doesn’t praying to a gracious and merciful God make all the difference in the world?  God hears our prayers.  God answers our prayers.  God will do what is best for us.  His will will be done in our lives so that we will draw closer to him and withstand all the challenges and troubles that life brings in this broke world.

In 1535 Martin Luther wrote “A Simple Way to Pray, How One Should Pray, For Peter, the Master Barber.”  In that treatise Luther wrote this about prayer, “It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night.  Diligently guard against those false, deluding ideas, which tell you, ‘Wait a little while.  I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that'” (The Annotated Luther Study Edition, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2017, Mary Jane Haemig, volume editor, page 257).

As faithful Christians we remain alert and pray for the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Lord.  With the Holy Spirit inspiring us to remain faithful to our Lord, we can stand before him with confidence on the last day when the whole wide world will be judged by him.

But in the meantime, we can pray as Jesus taught his disciples and us, too.  We pray:

“Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.  And do not bring us to the time of trial”  (Luke 11:2-4).

Thanks be to God!  Amen

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Bible verses are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version.  For more information on today’s gospel, see Sacra Pagina, The Gospel of Luke, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1991, by Luke Timothy Johnson.

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