Readings for the day (1st Sunday of Advent – Sunday, November 29, 2015):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
The season of Advent is upon us once again and every season it never fails, I always get asks at least once, “Pastor, why don’t we sing the Christmas carols as we prepare for Christmas?” My answer is, “Because the season of Advent is not the season of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child; he already came.” Like I said in my newsletter article, if Advent is all about preparing ourselves to celebrate the birth of Christ, then we are preparing for the past. Rather, Advent is all about preparing ourselves for the future. That’s why the texts leading up to Advent and during this season all appear to be doom and gloom – like the texts that we have for today.
Our celebration of Christmas is not just a birthday party for Jesus; it is celebrating the reality that our God, the One who created us, in order to better relate to His own creatures, decided to become like us and be born in our likeness. We give thanks for what our God has done through the birth of Jesus. We give thanks for the past, but we focus on the future – our future with God.
Now in the Gospel reading, yes Jesus is talking about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem that took place in 70 AD. He even says that this generation will not pass away until these things have taken place. However, this prediction is a both, and. Yes he is referring to the destruction of the temple. He is trying to prepare his friends, his disciples for what is going to take place in the coming decades. It is a warning to them to not be anywhere near Jerusalem during this time. But Jesus was also referring to the time in which He Himself will return – when His kingdom will finally be restored. This is what we prepare ourselves for every day, but especially during the season of Advent.
And Jesus tells us what this Advent living looks like – how we should prepare ourselves for His return. He says that we should not let ourselves be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life. Basically, He warns us of living our lives in too much excessiveness and uselessness. So don’t let your life get too cluttered with excessive possessions, activities, or responsibilities that they become a hindrance to your faith. Likewise, don’t let your life get overloaded with useless possessions, activities, or responsibilities that they become a waste of time, money and resources and get in the way of your walk with God.
But you know, that is so easy to say – reduce the excessiveness in your life and remove the uselessness and you’ll be all ready for when Jesus comes again. It is so easy to say, but it is so easy to forget too. With the daily routines of school and work and volunteering, it becomes very easy to get complacent or distracted and completely forget why we are even here as God’s creatures in the first place. And then life happens and there are struggles, setbacks, and disappointments that popup in our lives that cause us to even lose hope and fall into despair. So yes, it is easy to just say do x y and z to get ready for Jesus’ return and you’ll be ready. But in this world tainted with sin, it’s not that simple. Life must still go on. Our walk with God still goes on. And even though we get distracted at times and focus only on the past, like talking about the glory days of the church, or caring more about the infant baby Jesus rather than on the Savior of the world – our king who has, who is, and who will always be working on preparing to take over His kingdom and reign forever as our ultimate ruler of the land.
This is Advent. This is not Christmas. The season of Christmas begins at sundown of December 24th. Now this doesn’t mean that you should go and take all of your Christmas decorations down. Rather, let these four weeks of Advent be a special time for you to refocus on your spiritual needs. Ask yourself what is most important for you. “[Jesus] forewarned [us] that adversity would increase in the last times. [We can see] that the things that [He] spoke of are [already] happening. Earthquakes, wars, roaring of the seas, fear and foreboding. These are already taking place. Since the things that were foretold are happening, whatever He promises will also follow. The Lord himself promises, “When you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand.” The kingdom of God, beloved brothers and sisters, has drawn near. The reward of life, the joy of eternal salvation, the perpetual happiness and the possession of paradise once lost are now coming as the world passes away.”
We don’t know when all of this will take place, and it is irresponsible of us to waste our time looking or speculating when Jesus will return. Rather, Jesus calls us to stand up and raise our heads, for our redemption is drawing near. Whenever Jesus does return, we will finally see our Lord face to face with all of his saints and we will join in that great heavenly banquet, the wedding feast that far surpasses any wedding feast that any of us has ever been to. On that day, there will be no more wars, or earthquakes, or shootings in crowds of protesters, there will finally be what we all have been so longing for; something that no matter who our president is, who our leader is, which way we vote, or what our stance is on social issues – there will be only one thing – peace, God’s peace that surpasses all of our understanding or comprehension, eternal peace that will last forever. Amen.
© 2015 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.
 Just, Arthur A.: Luke. Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 2005 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 3 3), S. 325