Good morning? Today, we are celebrating the 1st Sunday in Advent, but the Scripture, assigned for this particular Sunday says…, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth dismay among the nations in their confusion over the roaring of the sea and surging waves…”
Certainly, when we hear about the earth quake in Alaska last Friday, we are alarmed and it puts us right in the context of today’s Gospel lesson in which Luke continues to say, “The planets … will be shaken, causing people to faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.” Ok…, but, what does any of this have to do with Advent and Christmas? Our thoughts already have turned toward putting up the Christmas tree and decorating our homes. I don’t know about you, but for me, on this first Sunday in Advent, I would rather hear a message about Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. Wouldn’t you? I wonder why the church encourages us to consider this passage today.
Well, maybe because many of us need a wake-up call at this time of year? It is true that we easily become distracted by the shopping, the stressful traffic jams, and the parties that we miss out on the “peace on earth and good will to all people.” I think many preachers will preach today, “Wake up and don’t miss out on the coming of Jesus!” That’s right. The season of Advent is a spiritual wake-up call. Through the reading of the scripture lesson, you can almost hear the alarm clock ringing.
But, now, I want to press a little bit deeper because Advent not only tries to wake us up, but it also invites us to look… in two directions – back upon the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and forward to Jesus’ return as he brings God’s kingdom on earth to fulfillment.
If we are going to stick with what the scriptures say about Christ’s return, then the first thing we must say is that nobody knows the day or the hour of his return – I repeat, nobody! Not even Jesus knew when the end of human history will come. Jesus said, “… about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36). Only God knows.
But, there have been a countless doomsday predictions in history. Do you remember, a few years ago, when Harold Camping, the radio preacher made a name for himself by predicting the world would end on May 21, 2012. Because nothing happened on that day, he changed the date – this time on October 21st. He also claimed that non-rapture believers wouldn’t be saved. How embarrassing it was!
Even today, some folks believe that the Judgment Day is very close. Have you ever heard about the Doomsday Clock? It was created in 1947 to illustrate how close the world is edging to a global catastrophe. Reasons for adjusting the clock have changed over the years, but nuclear war has always been the largest fear. The Doomsday Clock was set at five minutes to midnight for both 2013 and 2014; 4 minutes before midnight in 2015 and 2016. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) claimed last year that they have a “major announcement.” The Doomsday Clock is now 2 minutes before midnight. One of the reasons was the 3rd world war. Wow! Are you scared?
The following is a direct quote from their statement: The greatest risks last year arose in the nuclear realm. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program made remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks to North Korea itself, other countries in the region, and the United States. Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.
I think some people worry so much about these things because they want to prove that the Bible is true. In our text today, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” (Luke 21:32).
Now listen carefully, my friends. The Bible doesn’t need proofs to make it true. The Bible reveals God to us through Jesus Christ and that makes it true. I would add that I believe the events Jesus predicted have already taken place. In the year 70 AD, the Roman army invaded Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and the earth shook with violence. Jesus warned his disciples that life would be difficult for all who sought to serve God in his time, and that certainly was true.
The point of our suggested reading for this first Sunday in Advent is this: Christ’s return is a source of hope, not fear. There have been many folks who use the apocalypse to scare people into faith. For example, the so-called “rapture theory” is a non-sense. Period! And this is not our Lord’s way: “Now when you see these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Do you hear that? In the midst of tragedy, in the midst of war and rumors of war, in the midst of oppression and poverty, in the midst of our own personal losses, we can raise our heads and look for the Lord because he is coming. That is the message of Advent.
In German, there are 2 words for history: Historie and Geschichte.
Historie is about the objective historical facts recognized by all observers, while Geschichte has its emphasis on subjective significance which can be appreciated only by the participants. The former refers to events in history; the latter refers to event-making history. For example, the creation story has to do with Geschichte, rather than Historie.
Now, listen carefully, my friends. In Historie, Jesus came 2000 some years ago. And he will come in the future. No one knows exact time, though. In Geschichte, the coming of Jesus is not an once-upon-a-time event, because Jesus comes every day, every moment. Jesus is coming right now.
In Chronos, in the objective and materialized time, that can be recorded in our calendar or history books, our Lord had come 2000 years ago. But, in Kairos, the time that cannot be measured by any means, the time that is subjective, existential, and mysterious in quality, Jesus is coming right now. That’s how Jesus is with us right now even though he had come 2000 years ago. That’s why the Scripture calls him “Immanuel,” God with us!
Advent is a season in which we remember that we are a people of hope. We are the Christmas people. We sing to Emmanuel because God is with us. When we sense that we are lost in the darkness, Advent reminds us that we are not alone. The God of hope is with us. Jesus warns us not to get distracted by the worries of this world. Lift up your eyes and look upward toward God because even in the midst of difficult times our Lord comes to us.
When you get right down to it, that’s really all the scriptures say about the end times: no one knows when it will come, but it does come, and it is a time of hope (not fear) because God is with us. Obviously, we, Methodists don’t believe in the doomsday scenarios. Instead, we do take a great deal of the way we prepare for the coming of our Lord. How do we prepare? We prepare by living out our faith each day with a sense of urgency.
Let me say this one more time: the Advent, especially, the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ is not about the Judgment Day; it’s all about Hope and Living in Geschichte…, here and now. So, let us wake up, be alert, and stay on guard. Lift up your eyes to the Lord and stand up to face him, for he is coming…, Jesus, our Lord and Savior is coming…, right now. Amen.
Let us pray. Gracious God, for this season we are grateful. Wake us up. In the midst of the busyness of this season, help us to hear your voice, to spend less and give more, to sense your presence, to worship you, and to serve you in both word and deed. This we pray in the name of the Jesus the Christ. Amen.