I preached this on November 29, 2015. Excuse typos.
Your Redemption Is Near based on Luke 21:25-36
Every year Christmas falls on December 25th. This may not come as a shock to you but, I tend to always be surprised. I love Christmas! I really love Christmas! I love everything about it: the music, the food, the decor, the sweaters, the gifts, the movies. If it is Christmas, you can guess I love it. You would think with my love of the holiday, I would be prepared for its arrival. In some ways I am, my DVR is already set for the 50th anniversary of Merry Christmas Charlie Brown and I started listening to non-stop Christmas music on Wednesday and, this afternoon I will begin to decorate. I know Christmas is always December 25th every year but, somehow despite my annual resolve to be more prepared the following year, I get overwhelmed. I'm never prepared for the annualBaltimore cousins shopping and bonding adventures of Black Friday. I don’t get to all of the Christmas pins on Pinterest, that I have been pinning all year long. I always have one or two or ten Christmas cards that linger partially addressed until February, never reaching their intended definitions. And sometimes Christmas becomes an “emergency”! Where I scrounge picked over shelves five minutes before the store closes because I forgot to get someone that“perfect” gift.
I know that this is not uncommon because I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University courses. One of Dave Ramsey’s main ideas is that if you save regularly, you can eliminate the ways that emergencies can cripple your savings and get you in debt. He suggests that you set aside money for Christmas all year long so you don't rack up debt or blow your emergency savings fund. He says in the lesson about budgeting very directly “Christmas is not an emergency”. Dave Ramsey is correct. Christmas is not an emergency. Whether you are ready or not, December 25th will come and go. Our culture always gives us clues that Christmas is coming. There are signs, signals, and symbols that point to Christmas.
One of my favorite signs isthe gradual way that red and green begin to take over the back corner of Target. I especially love this because it merges 2 of my favorite things: Target and Christmas. Then there is the introduction of the winter cup at Starbucks, Black Friday ads, wreaths on street lights, the Parades and floatillas, Christmas tree lots. There are always signs or something to remind us that Christmas is coming. It shouldn’t be too hard for us to prepare. We need not get overwhelmed, we've been warned.
When we think of the signs of Christmas we think of elaborate store windows and caroling. Maybe we think of a certain scene from a movie, or Donny Hathaway's This Christmas. We think of Goodwill and joy, you know the signs of Christmas?
How different would it be if our cultured mimicked the real signs of the season? The signs not of the consumer Christmas season but of the advent season? This Sunday we begin our advent journey not only with the eager anticipation of the Christ Child, but with a look toward the end. We come this week to a text in Luke that speaks of the destruction of the temple, the upheaval of the earth and declares that it is in this uneasiness, these frightening signs that point to to our redemption ahead. It is disturbing at first thought to trust in a claim that the signs of our redemption are in earthquakes and war, and an unraveling of nature as we know it. Our redemption signs include people fainting and falling and fearful of the world around them. The very parts of the universe that we thought were unshakeable will be thrown into chaos and those will signify the redemption of the world and the coming of Jesus Christ. There are always signs! Signs of commotion: moon, and stars, earthquakes, power structures made unstable like the Temple, Jesus speaks about thorough out the chapter.
And all these signs are to remind us that our redemption is near. Our redemption is coming in the person of Jesus Christ.
We have entered into the season of Advent, that season in the Christian calendar where we are called to wait and prepare. The scripture in Luke this morning reminds us, that in this holy season of Advent we anxiously await Christ, which is to engage in two seemingly contradtictory claims. We remember the birth of a Christ Child- the historic event when God took on flesh, and lived and breathed among us. We remember the promises held in the birth of that child, promises like the government will be on his shoulders, and that he would be called Prince of Peace and Wonderful counselor and we are filled with advent hope. Yet we also engage in this hope that anticipates an event we cannot mark on a calendar but which we are constantly told to beware and stand guard for, and that is the advent of Christ's reign on earth. Advent means the arrival. It is always a season of anticipation of what is to come. In Advent we place our hope both in the infant Christ and the Christ who will return at a time we do not know.
Today we begin this dance of remembering and waiting for the a new world to be birthed into the brokenness of our present day. Today we hope, we hope and rejoice that the signs whether they be the star that guided the magi or the signs that are present in the sun and the moon in the fullness of time, point to another world, another kingdom. All of those memories and hopes that this holy season riles up with in us can be placed in Jesus Christ. This Advent and every advent until the Son of Man returns, reminds us that redemption is ahead. Redemption is ahead in Jesus Christ. The redemption of our sinful souls and the sorrows of the world, both of them are redeemed and made new in Jesus Christ and he is whom we anxiously await.
We begin our advent journey in a text that seems full of gloom. We begin at the end, with the destruction of the temple and a prophetic vision of the end of days as this part of Luke chronologically moves us closer to Calvary. Too often, Christians have tried to take these signs: signs of war and natural disaster, this upheaval of the world and predict a date for the return of the Son of Man. Every prediction has been wrong, so let us look at this passage not as a reason to fear, let us not faint and tremble but grasp on to the faith that in the midst of a generation in chaos, that redemption is near.
Our redemption is near. In the midst of a country where people take to the streets of Chicago to protest the killing of a young black male by the police, place your hope in a God who says that redemption is near. In the midst of a country, where just hours after we gather with friends and family to give thanks, lives are cut short at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado, place your hope in a God that says redemption is near. In a world where you can be at a cafe in Paris, a movie theatre in Louisiana, a bible Study in Charleston, a university in Kenya, a hotel in Mali and lose your life because of terrorism, hatred, and violence, may we find the courage to place our hope in a God that says our redemption is near. Luke's gospel is a word of hope for all generations. Luke speaks about generations not just as epochs of time only but also as times charactarized by certain themes: natural disasters, war, violence. It is this brokenness, the brokenness of our depraved souls that spills out into our streets and suburbs, and into our states and nations where Jesus Christ first came into the world and will come into the world again proclaiming as a child and as an adult, that redemption is on its way. Redemption has both arrived and is ahead, and it is situated firmly in the birth, life, ressurection, and death of the Human One, the son of Man, Jesus Christ.
Redemption is ahead, let us hold fast to this hope in these times when the world seems foresaken: when divisions between race, religion, class, gender, and sexuality, seem so deep. When we have seen waters of tsunamis and hurricanes ravish community after community, even as we see signs in blizzards,fires, and earthquakes. Let us place our hope in the God who says in Him, redemption is near. Let us place our hope a God that says "Fear not, I am with you". Let us place our hope in Emmanuel, God with us. Let us place our hope in a God who tells us in scripture to "Take care for I have overcome the world."
Today we begin our Advent journey and there will be competing signs that signal Christmas is coming: there will be signs of the culture and the signs foretold in Scripture and we choose daily if not, moment by moment which signs we will put our trust in, which signs we will put our hope in. I pray that I have the courage to trust in a God who says in the midst of it all that redemption is near. We signify to the world that we believe in hope and redemption through and with Christ, not just by hoping in some nievete, ephemeral way but my actively engaging in bringing God's will to the world.
We witness to redemption in our lives at the same time we hope in Christ to redeem the world. We stand in the alternative calendar of Jesus Christ, where we believe in what has not yet happened and yet work to inaugurate a new world. So we stand alert, with a watchful faith that stands in solidarity with the downtrodden, that goes to the places where nature has been more foe than friend and we help as we hope, that in Christ all things are becoming new and our redemption is both here and ahead.
This Advent as the culture ask us to prepare through consumption, Christ ask us to beware of the signs and symbols and to not be alarmed because redemption is coming. All of these signs just show us that a new season is approaching, a season of hope, a season of the redemption of the world. Let us both wait and work for it, because our redemption is ahead.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.