Sermon by Martin James 28.11.2021

Sermon by Martin James

Sunday 28.11.2021

Luke 21:25-36

 

Do you remember Private Fraser's words in Dad's Army "We're doomed, we’re all doomed!"!

A cursory glance at today’s Gospel reading could give that impression for us. What hope is there? Well, although it sounds disturbing and worrying for us it isn’t ultimately gloom and doom.

Even so we’ve just heard in v25 - There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. And v26 - People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

All of that is something which all too many people suffer from today.

But what these verses are referring to are signs. And we have to be careful about signs and how we interpret them. There are of course many terrible events today. Awful disasters of all kinds. And of course the pandemic.

But they are signs of what is to come - v27 - Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. The end will come when Jesus returns in his glory to claim us for his kingdom. He is talking about his second coming.  That which was promised in the Bible. He came, as a baby. He lived as an adult. He died. God raised him from the dead. He ascended into heaven. But through it all was the promise that he would return in glory to usher in his kingdom. Acts 1:11 - The two men in white robes said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

As usual Advent Sunday reflects on the truth of Jesus’s second coming. It’s in the context of our preparations for his first coming. Our soon to be Christmas celebrations.

The purpose of the whole Advent season is twofold. As I just said it is a time when we anticipate our celebrations of the arrival of Jesus Christ as a baby. But also it is a time for preparation and reflection about the true meaning of Jesus’s first coming. His life, death and resurrection. His sacrifice for us and the salvation he has given us.

This passage in Luke’s Gospel isn’t there to unnerve us. It is to help us take seriously Jesus’s promise of his second coming. John 14:3 - And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

Above all we are to be prepared. And Jesus has a good illustration - verses29 and 30 - the fig tree and all the trees - Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.

I know that in many respects seasons are not what they used to be. Lots of trees don’t seem to have shed their leaves so much this year. But we can still watch and know that the seasons are changing. Certainly as far as summer is concerned. Leaves sprout. We know summer is coming. We expect it.

But we can’t expect Jesus’s return in the same way. Because we don’t know when it will happen. It will happen in God’s timing.

He warns elsewhere in the Gospels that we are to avoid predictions. Do you remember sandwich boards? - the end of the world is nigh. No, none of that. Simply believe and trust.

There have always been a lot of frankly useless arguments about the timing of the second coming. When it will be and what it will be actually be like are not ours to know. But the one great truth is - it will happen.

The Christian belief about it is that the history of mankind has a goal. And that goal is Jesus Christ and his fulfilment of all he came to do. With the belief and trust I mentioned just now, that is all we have to know.

At the same time we need to be on watch. Life today has too many uncertainties as it is. But hold on to that one true certainty of Jesus and his promise.

Those signs again at the beginning of the Gospel reading - v25 - There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. And the next verse talks about the powers of the heavens being shaken. Leading to - v28 - Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Your redemption. Our redemption. Because of what Jesus has done and then what he will do at the end of time as we know it. His promise again.

However, through all that, at the same time we have a twofold duty. One is, yes, to believe in and be prepared for the end. But the other is to be faithful to the present. After all, much of Jesus’s teaching during his earthly life was about our responsibilities to those round about us. Care for one another for example. That is touched on in the first reading from 1 Thessalonians 3:10 - Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. As a caring and praying church family here, that is the example all Christians are called to live by. And of course for us we have the advantage that we do see one another face to face. Not like St Paul and his Thessalonian friends.

And each one of us needs to look to ourselves and our own understanding of our faith. The way we witness. And that is about being sensitive when we speak. Also about the ways we live our lives.

Above all we need to hold on to the teaching of Jesus. To be aware that in God’s good time the world as we know it will cease and he will usher in his kingdom.

For us that means two things. Be ready for Jesus’s return. And secondly hold on to his promises. Promises such as “I am with you always”. And his promise of eternal life as we live for him. The life that begins in this life through the birth pains that Jesus talked about and goes on for ever.

 

Martin James 28.11.21