St. Luke 21:25-36
December 4, 2016 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Lord issues a number of synonymous imperatives, and implied imperatives, in today’s Gospel. They all revolve around seeing and believing and correctly understanding what is happening.
We are expected to be able to see the distress of nations, the decline of civilization, and the degradation that comes with fear as clearly as signs in sun and moon and stars. Yet we are told not to run and hide, but to pray and to straighten up and lift our heads. These horrors are to be interpreted like buds on a fig tree. It is not winter that is coming, it is summer. It is not destruction and desolation and famine that is coming. The fig tree is budding. This bodes, for the faithful, a harvest and a feast. Your redemption draws near. The devil, the world, and our fallen flesh are thrashing about in death throes. It is horrific, terrifying, devasting. But they will pass away. Thanks be to God: they will pass away. They will leave us in peace but the Word of the Lord will not pass away.
So watch yourselves, says the Lord, lest you think the death of this life is a loss and you get caught up in the wrong things and you give yourself over to despair. Your redemption draws near. If they must, then let the seas rise and the poles melt and the earth itself burn. Your redemption draws near. Take they goods, fame, child, and wife, take they food, music, and laughter: they yet have nothing won. The Kingdom ours remaineth. What is taken will be restored. What is broken will be healed. What was sinful will be sanctified. There will be a reunion in a new heaven and a new earth. Satan and his minions will be bound at last so that we are finally free to be what we were meant to be all along: God’s own children.
So straighten up. Raise your heads. Look not to the fallen earth or presidents or the doctor’s sad news. Look not to Facebook or Buzz feed or even to the Federalist. Your redemption is drawing near. Are you going to meet Him or resist Him? Are you going to join the angels blowing trumpets and singing or close yourself off and cling to this mortal plane? It is not just Christmas that is coming. The Last Day, the time when heaven and earth pass away, when horrors and terror will be on every hand, that is coming. But it will not be a horror for the Baptized who are now trapped in prison, caught in the web of their sins, waiting for their redemption to draw near. They will rejoice and leap like calves from their stalls. They will exult and lift up their heads.
And it isn’t just the Last Day that is coming, even now, right now, the Lord Himself comes. He comes here, now, into the midst of your guilt, your fears and your sorrows. Lift up your heads. Your redemption draws near now, here, in this place. He speaks in His Word. His Spirit stirs your heart and you believe. His Absolution presents you to His Father as His own dear, immaculate and holy bride. He comes now, in His Flesh, and enters into you with His risen Body and Blood consummating the marriage, strengthening your faith, and forgiving your sins.
Echoing the Lord’s words from today’s Gospel the pastor turns to us each Sunday and commands “Lift up your hearts” and we say: “We lift them up to the Lord.” What we mean by this is that we want to stop thinking about other stuff. However inattentive we’ve been to this point in the Service, whatever grudges we might have been holding, whatever lusts or fantasies we might have been indulging, let us forsake all sin now. Let us repent and come before the Lord’s risen Body and Blood with awe and joy and thanksgiving. We lift our hearts up to the Lord where they belong, not high in heaven, but we lift them up to the Altar, not to be sacrificed, but we lift up them to the altar where He promises to be for us in order to receive the benefit and blessing of the One who Sacrificed Himself for us on the Holy Cross. We lift them up there, now, here, to receive Him as worthily as we might, that is with faith and confidence that His Word is true, that His invitation is valid and makes us worthy, and that He is here for us and truly forgives our sins.
This is your redemption, your Christ, who draws near. The one who died for you and has declared you righteous before His Father comes now in Word and Sacrament to bless you and encourage you. Soon He will also come in glory. He will finish the good work He has begun in you. Our joy now pales in comparison to the joy of that Holy Day. We, by grace, will lift up our heads and shout for joy at the Coming of the Lord in glory for even as His righteousness is our righteousness and His victory is our victory so also shall His glory be our glory.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.