First Sunday in Advent: Expectation Luke 21:25-36

November 30,2014

First Sunday in Advent:  Expectation

Luke 21:25-36


Intro:  When we think of the coming of Christmas, we don’t normally think about it coming with warnings.  We think of the festivity, the family gathering, the cards sent and received, special foods prepared.  Maybe we should have warnings like:

  • Don’t eat the ornaments:  Nineteen people have died in the last 3 years believing that Christmas decorations were chocolate.
  • Use the proper tool for the job: Fifty eight people are injured each year by using sharp knives instead of screwdrivers. 
  • Watch where you step: One hundred and one people since 1997 have had to have broken parts of plastic toys pulled out of the soles of their feet.
  • And these more general warnings that apply to the season and beyond. . . Found on a Fuel Tank Cap: 'Never use a lit match or open flame to check the fuel level'
  • Found On a child's stroller: 'Remove Child Before Folding'
  • A warning on an electric drill made for carpenters cautions: 'This product not intended for use as a dental drill.'


The Scripture passage we read this morning contains warnings.  Like the others above, maybe they seem obvious or un-needed, but the truth is, Jesus was warning the disciples that before things got better, they would get worse, and in order to stand faithful they needed to be warned.  They are words that tell us to live in expectation of great things, but to heed the warnings and signs that proceed the great thing that will happen.


These warnings pertain to the second coming of Christ, something we reformed types don’t spend extraordinary time obsessing about, but perhaps we should pay a little closer attention.  Jesus explains that the warnings or signs of his Second Coming will be visible in nature and that they will cause panic and fear and apprehension.  But his instruction to those who are his own is this: When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.


Now isn’t that good news!  Redemption!! Complete and forever!  So as quoted from The Pulpit Commentary, “In all times the earnest Christian is on the watch for the signs of the advent of his Lord, and the restless watch serves to keep hope alive, for the watcher knows that that advent will be the sure herald of his redemption from all the weariness and painfulness of this life.” (v. 28 commentary from The Pulpit Commentary, p186)


Do you know anyone who could use redemption from the weariness and painfulness of life?  Do you also know Jesus?  Then you have the hope that person needs to hear – whether they are already a believer or not – they need to be made aware of the hope that is ours when Christ returns.  WARNING!  The return of Christ will be bigger than whatever you have planned for Christmas this year.  Expect it!


What does it mean to live in expectation?  It means you build yourself up with hopes of what can be.  It involves making preparations and plans.  It involves behaving in particular ways so that one finds themselves prepared for what will be. 


And if you consider the things happening in the earth at this time in history, you have to wonder – is it time?  But I am not one who reads the signs well so I want to focus instead on the end of this passage from Luke because Jesus tells us quite clearly how we are to wait in expectation.  And it would do us well to take heed of his words and live obediently.


First a proclamation of what will last forever: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The words of Christ.  Even though the world be cast into oblivion, the word of Christ remains.  Now that is directive.  Where is your hope placed?  In the things that pass away or in the word of Christ?  Think about it!  Do you trust more in the security of the home you’ve built, the job you have, the relationship your in OR in the Word of the One who was, who is and who is to come?  This is serious business and I encourage us to take a long, hard, honest look at this today.


He goes on to detail what we should avoid as we live in expectation.  As an expectant mother is advised by her doctor to steer clear of certain things, so we are called to steer clear of things that may distract us from being ready for the coming of Christ: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down

I do not want a heart weighed down!  I want a heart alive and hope-filled and joyful!  Thinking of a weighed down heart reminds me of Eyore from Winnie the Pooh.  Or the Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.  All of these are characters that portray an absence of hope. 


I don’t want to be weighed down because I have no hope, but Jesus goes on to describe other things that weigh us down. “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life,

Carousing has to do with too much food (think Thanksgiving dinner); drunkenness has to do with too much wine; the anxieties of life have to do with too much worry over material things.  I think these are very interesting choices for Jesus to make.  I share with you the commentary from the Benson Commentary on this passage:

The immoderate use of meat and drink not only burdens the mind with the guilt thereby contracted, but it renders it dull, stupid, and lifeless in duty, and indeed unfit for prayer and praise, for the exercise of any grace, and the practice of any virtue: nay, it stupifies the conscience, and renders the heart unaffected with those things that are most affecting. And cares of this life — Anxious cares about visible and temporal things, and the inordinate pursuit of them. The former is the snare of those that are given to their pleasures; this is the snare of the men of business that will be rich. Observe, reader, we have need to guard against both, also against all other temptations, lest at any time our hearts should be thus overcharged. Our caution against sin, and our care of our own souls, must be constant. But was there need to warn the apostles themselves against such sins as these? Then surely there is need to warn even strong Christians against the very grossest sins. Neither are we wise if we think ourselves out of the reach of any sin.


Do you ever catch yourself being off track?  Perhaps in your actions, or thoughts or words?  Are you ever shocked to find that you have wandered from the path you so desired in your heart to stay on?  Yeah, we need this warning from Jesus.  For any of us can get distracted at any time from the course we intend to be travelling.  This is one reason that we are together as the church – to assist one another if we see someone going off course.  We are here to steady each other, to point the way to the cross again.  Recall the children’s sermon.


Jesus was clear that not even he knew the day and hour of his return.  So I’m not sure why so many people think they have figured it out.  So Jesus has kind of an umbrella warning for us.  He says:  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.”


I don’t like how that speaks to me.  How many of you enjoyed your Thanksgiving Feast?  How many of you are thinking, “Well, it’s only a short time until Christmas.  I may as well wait until after New Years to get back on track with eating right.”  I don’t think that’s what this says.  I think it says do it now.  Whatever it is that will distract you from being ready for the return of Christ – get rid of it now.  Focus your attention on the Hope.  Expect Jesus to return and live like it.


What will that look like for you?  What will you need to do to proclaim hope?  What might you have to get rid of so that your heart is not weighed down?  What anxieties of life do you need to lift up to God this morning?  In the following silence I invite you to personally commune with God.  Ask him what he’d like to take off your shoulders so that you can live in hope.  Let us pray.