Advent 1c

Preached: November 29, 2009

Watch with Eager Expectation
Luke 21:25-36

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit brings us hope in Jesus is Luke 21

[Jesus said,] “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth there will be distress among nations in perplexity over the sea's roaring and surging, as people faint from fearful expectation of what's coming upon civilization. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to happen, stand straight and lift up your head, because your redemption is near.”

He told them this parable, “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they put out their leaves, you know for yourselves by seeing it that summer is now near. So also when you see these things happen, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you that this kind of people will certainly not pass away until all these things come about. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly never pass away.

“Watch yourselves so that your hearts are not weighed down in hangovers, drunkenness, and the worries of daily life, and that day suddenly appears for you. For it will come as a trap on all who lounge on the face of the whole earth. But be awake at every moment, pleading that you have the strength to escape all that's going to happen and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:25-36)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

“Aw Mom! Do I have to go home? It's so much more fun here with my cousins. Look at all these neat toys they got.”

It's easy for children to get swept up in the excitement of the moment and forget how important home is. Home is where Daddy and Mommy are. Home provides us our food and clothing, our shelter and care. Home is that safe place when the world runs us down. Home is where tears are wiped away. Home, sweet home.

Heaven is your home, dear Christian. Yet instead of watching for heaven, we become weighed down with the things of this world. Through these words of Jesus may the Holy Spirit today lift up our eyes in eager expectation. That brings us to our theme: Watch with eager expectation. As you watch you will see the signs of a failing world and you will be waiting for your Redeemer. So watch with eager expectation.

A. Seeing the signs of a failing world

1. What earthly things are you eager for you?

His cousin's toys seemed like so much fun. We as well easily get caught up in the toys of this world. I'm not only talking about the fun extras that amuse us, but also the necessities of life, namely food and clothing. How these things consume our eager expectation! We watch for them instead of watching for our true home.

How eager we are to unwrap that Christmas gift we've wanted! How eager to finish up work for the weekend or to get that harvest in! How eager to make those Thanksgiving weekend sales! How eager to see family and friends again! How eager to fill our stomachs when it start to grumble!

All those are good things and there's nothing wrong with being eager about them. But our eagerness for them overwhelms our eagerness for our heavenly home. Just look at how eagerness for earthly things spurs us on. We get up early or stay up late. We spend money getting them and time enjoying them. They fill our thoughts and plans. Do we give the same eager devotion in anticipating our heavenly home?

2) What will happen to all earthly things?

Yet all these things pertaining to our earthly life wear out and break like a child's toy. Jesus describes how the very fabric of our universe will unravel to the horror of all whose eager expectation has been focused on this world. “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Luke 21:25, 26 NIV).

I don't know how it will all look, but when it happens, you will know. All people will know. How dreadful it will be for those who were not watching! Any whose eager expectation was built on this world will faint from fearful apprehension. All their hopes and dreams will come to an end for “heaven and earth will pass away” (Luke 21:33 NIV).

Even now we see the signs that this world is failing. Just as when the leaves on the trees bud, we know that summer is coming, so also when our world is shaken, it drives home that we live in a failing world. See the signs Wealth so easily comes and goes as the economy changes. How our personal money woes can rattle our bones! National security is shaken by hijacked planes flying into buildings or by wars half a world away. How our personal security seems so fragile when those fateful test results come back positive! Every cemetery silently shouts how short this life is, but nothing brings that home to us as a death of dear loved one. Think of natural disasters: earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hail, fire. All signs. How quickly our world can crumble! See the signs of a failing world. Don't build your expectations on it.

3) What weighs down our hearts when we see that the things of this world fail?

But when these toys wear out and break, what do we do? Do we turn our watchfulness away from this world and look heavenward? Rather how easily our hearts become weighed down instead! The worries and anxieties of life burden our thoughts. Rather than the expectation of our home in heaven, we can only see the disappointments of this earthly existence! The world offers you its solutions to heavy heart worries: drink, drugs, entertainment, false hopes, over-work. These might lift our hearts for the moment, but then it all comes crashing down even more the morning after. Jesus warns, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap”(Luke 21:34 NIV).

So how can we avoid the Last Day snapping down on us like mice destroyed by a mouse trap? How can we watch with eager expectation without the toys of this world distracting us or weighing down our hearts?

B. Waiting for your Redeemer

1. Where alone do we find lasting stability?

Listen to what Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Luke 21:33 NIV). As the world crumbles around us, one thing stands steady and sure. “My words will never pass away” (Luke 21:33 NIV).

And where do Jesus' words point us? To our Redeemer. When you see the world failing, rather than giving up in hopelessness, wait for your Redeemer. “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28 NIV). Yes, Jesus is coming. He is “coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27 NIV).

It will be the end of the world as we know it. And those who have not been watching with eager expectation will dread it. Like a trap that day will spring on all who lounge on the face of this earth reveling in what this life can offer. For them that day brings hell in its fire and fury. No wonder they tremble in terror!

So Jesus tells us, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36 NIV). As you wait for your Redeemer, watch and pray.

2) What does God's word answer when we, as beggars, call out in prayer?

The word Jesus uses here for prayer focuses on begging, pleading. As we watch and pray, we realize how powerless we are to stand on our own. Like a beggar, we have nothing. The world around us crumbles. Our sin and guilt is exposed. The prophet Malachi declares, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire” (Malachi 3:2 NIV).

So as beggars with empty hands, we call out to our God. And what does his word answer you and me ? His enduring word says, “Watch. Watch your Redeemer. See what he has already done for you? He paid the price to ransom you. He has bought you back. He has redeemed you with his holy, precious blood.”

He's the one that's coming, coming to liberate us from this sin-cursed world. So wait. Wait for him with eager expectation. “Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28 NIV). He's already paid the price for you, and he will come to redeem his purchase and take you home, home to himself. You will stand in that day, if you stand by faith, faith that trusts your Redeemer, faith that believes that his blood has paid for your sins and his righteousness clothes you. So wait for your Redeemer. Wait as you watch with eager expectation.

3) How do we change as wait for our Redeemer?

This faith that makes you ready for the Last Day changes you each day until then. As your faith waits for your Redeemer, your priorities and expectations change. We live our days not consumed by the things of this life, which pass away. Rather we fill ourselves with what does not pass away. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Luke 21:33 NIV). Rather than sacrificing for earthly toys, we gladly offer ourselves as living sacrifices to him who redeemed us with his blood. Rather than watching for what we can get out of this life, we watch for our Redeemer. We watch with eager expectation, awaiting him to call us home, home to heaven.

That's the home where our God and Savior are, the home that provides ffor all our joys for all eternity, the home where we live in everlasting safety and security, free from all sorry, pain, and death, the home where God himself wipes every tear from your eye. Watch with eager expectation. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313