The Second Sunday in Advent
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time
The Hymn # 58 – Gerhardt O Lord 4:49
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Romans 15:4-13
The Gospel Luke 21:25-36
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #71 Watchman 4.9
My Words Will Not Pass Away
The Hymn # 304 An Awesome Mystery 4.6
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 647 O Little Town 4.13
Second Sunday In Advent
Lord God, heavenly Father, who by Thy Son hast revealed to us that heaven and earth shall pass away, that our bodies shall rise again, and that we all shall appear before the judgment seat: We beseech Thee, keep us by Thy Holy Spirit in Thy word; establish us in the true faith, graciously defend us from sin and preserve us in all temptations, that our hearts may not be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, but that we may ever watch and pray and, trusting fully in Thy grace, await with joy the glorious coming of Thy Son, and at last obtain eternal salvation, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
KJV Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. 8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. 12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. 13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
KJV Luke 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. 29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. 32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. 33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
My Words Will Not Pass Away
This Gospel gives us both a warning and great comfort.
The warnings about the end times give many different clues but also tell us not to predict. Whenever crises stir up the world, people think about the end times.
When the papacy was bent on destroying the Lutherans, and faithful men were burned at the stake, leaders wondered if the end times had arrived. That was when Lutherans still called the pope the Antichrist instead of having his archbishop teach Lutherans about the Word of God (WLC, Milwaukee; similar examples in the ELS, LCMS).
Martin Chemnitz, in his Examination of the Council of Trent, referred to “the last days of an insane, old world.”
World war and weather catastrophes have made people wonder if the end times had finally arrived.
Jesus’ address in Mark 13 emphasizes not being fooled by pretenders when the end times threaten. Many people were fooled when the year 1000 AD came around, because they took the number from Revelation literally.
This passage has a different emphasis – the great terrors mean the Savior is returning:
Luke 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
We take for granted the serene calmness of the night skies. When the sun and the moon change, with world-wide political crises, and the oceans roaring – people will be terrified.
26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
Once the normal state is changed, and our calm world disappears, the rest of the calamities can only be imagined. Although we can never predict, our emotions can easily focus on many types of disasters.
We accept the relative calm of the natural world as our due, seldom realizing how much this depends on God’s gracious will. All power lies within His hands, so whatever we see is the result of His governance.
Everything is perfectly balanced for life on earth to prosper. The sun’s warmth, the moon’s effect on the seas, and the atmosphere are all exactly right. One little example is the reflective surface of the moon. If it were normally reflective (like other satellites), it would be too bright and have an adverse effect on the cycle of life. So would a different gravitational pull. All these complications, working perfectly together, point to the God’s Creation and management, rather than evolution.
When everything was nearly perfect, before the Flood, man took the prosperity and ease of life as normal, and became utterly evil. We know that a Florida-like climate existed all over the planet, so all forms of life grew in abundance, but thankful hearts were rare. Rehwinkel’s The Flood is quite instructive about the pre-Flood era. Who knows what life-easing technology existed then, when people lived for centuries?
We live in a much tougher climate than the time before the Flood, but we Americans are blessed with a unique combination of resources, weather, and soil. Slight changes in weather patterns make people all too aware of how much we are harmed by the slightest variations.
We cannot even imagine what it means to have the great powers of heaven shaken.
27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
When Christ returns, as the Word reveals, no one will have any doubt about the truth of the Scriptures. Although Christianity takes a beating in the world press, it is world-wide and remains the largest religion of all, in spite of being preceded by other religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
My understanding is that the pagan religions of the world are perversions and mockeries of the original true religion revealed to the Biblical patriarchs. (Evolutionists see polytheism starting first, followed by monotheism, with the best and final stage being an ethical atheism! That is like saying a rusty car, left alone, will become a shiny new car. I see the pagan religions as the rusty cars, sometimes barely recognizable.)
Philippians 2 will be fulfilled at the return of Christ:
KJV Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Every knee will bow and everyone confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The return of Christ will be a great terror for unbelievers, but a great comfort for believers:
28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption [GJ – release] draweth nigh.
Here is the same word for redemption (setting us free, release) - NKJ 1 Corinthians 1:30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God -- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption –
Christ is a terror to guilty unbelievers, but salvation to those justified by faith. The same epiphany will divide the world into believers and unbelievers, for final judgment. Eternal damnation will be the knowledge of God without His comfort, plus far more. Eternal salvation will mean reunion with all believers at the Throne of the Lamb.
This has been revealed to us so our hearts do not fail when the calamities come. Nothing is worse than being without hope, and this knowledge from the Holy Spirit gives us hope.
29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
This brief parable encourages us in our discernment. People know when a tree buds and begins to flower and fruit. This does not require secret knowledge. Even those who are oblivious to nature are aware of these signs of spring and summer. Likewise, when the global calamities come, it is a sign of hope, rather than despair, for believers. Even thought the time is delayed, the increase of catastrophes is enough to make us hopeful rather than frightened.
In the last week, Dubai declared it could not pay on its huge debt. Dubai is part of the oil-rich Emirates. They built the largest skyscraper in the world, a new train system with very few passengers, and incredible numbers of office buildings and residential buildings, all 50% empty. Many buildings have stopped, partially completed. That is just one snapshot of a worldwide debt and real estate catastrophe.
32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. 33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
“This generation” has been used to justify the notion that the New Testament is wrong about the return of Christ, that this had to be patched up in other places. That would be true if “this generation” meant precisely what the skeptics want it to say. But 2 Peter says 1,000 years is like a day, and a day like 1,000 years to the Lord. So that means two days have elapsed, in the divine count, not 2000 years.
In history, we are still in the Roman era, one generation. All of the things we value come from the Roman Empire, and they filched the best from the Golden Age of Athens.
Egypt and Sumer were so long ago that they have little influence on our customs, our language, science, and arts. (“Walk like an Egyptian” is still popular at Mequon.) That was truly another age and we have very little left from that era.
In contrast, the Roman era continues. America was founded by men who read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a best-seller at the time. Our Founders were educated in Latin and studied Roman history. Hitler called his era the Third Reich, using Rome as the first. At the time of WWI, the ruler in German was the Kaiser (based on the word Caesar, one Roman name for rulers). In Russia, the ruler was called Czar, also based on “Caesar.” We have Czars in America, appointed by the president.
33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
Verse 33 is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. As I mentioned many times before, since the Bible is so concise, every phrase means something important. Repeating the same phrase or verse is especially important.
Those who belittle the Word of God by replacing it with their words are fighting against one of most important revelations of the Bible. All of this stuff that people value so much will not last. Everything will pass away. Granite and marble monuments with brass plates will be gone. Nothing will last, except the Words of Christ.
Because the words of Christ will outlast heaven and earth, they should be valued accordingly. Yet we find the revealed Word of God bent and twisted to serve the carnal needs of man. One of the current fads is to say, “God told me…” That is another example of Enthusiasm. God has one revelation – the Scriptures. He has not given a license to people to make up whatever they want and call it a vision or revelation from God.
Luther’s Large Catechism:
91] For the Word of God is the sanctuary above all sanctuaries, yea, the only one which we Christians know and have. For though we had the bones of all the saints or all holy and consecrated garments upon a heap, still that would help us nothing; for all that is a dead thing which can sanctify nobody. But God's Word is the treasure which sanctifies everything, and by which even all the saints themselves were sanctified. At whatever hour, then, God's Word is taught, preached, heard, read or meditated upon, there the person, day, and work are sanctified thereby, not because of the external work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all. 92] Therefore I constantly say that all our life and work must be ordered according to God's Word, if it is to be God-pleasing or holy. Where this is done, this commandment is in force and being fulfilled.
100] For let me tell you this, even though you know it perfectly and be already master in all things, still you are daily in the dominion of the devil, who ceases neither day nor night to steal unawares upon you, to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against the foregoing and all the commandments. Therefore you must always have God's Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle, and the Word does not sound, he breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware. 101] On the other hand, such is the efficacy of the Word, whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, that it is bound never to be without fruit, but always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness, and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not inoperative or dead, but creative, living words. 102] And even though no other interest or necessity impel us, yet this ought to urge every one thereunto, because thereby the devil is put to Right and driven away, and, besides, this commandment is fulfilled, and [this exercise in the Word] is more pleasing to God than any work of hypocrisy, however brilliant.
34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
So many celebrities are eager to prove the validity of these words from Christ. These three verses are the practical application of this lesson. Dangers that make us unprepared for the coming of Christ include carousing, drunkenness, and being overwhelmed with the cares of this life.
A snare grabs wildlife (or human targets) suddenly and traps them. We have all seen movies where the hero is suddenly hoisted into a tree in a big net. The snare has found its target. When people are consumed with their material needs or with hedonism, they are also caught in the snare and unprepared for the return of Christ.
Watchfulness and prayer are necessary, that we remain with the True Vine and stay fruitful through the Gospel Promises so generously given to us.