Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Lord is coming back any time now. Don’t expect your pastor to speculate as to the exact date, but the Lord is coming again in glory, and He is coming soon. If you doubt it, just listen to these words: “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring.” Now look around you. Look at the skies. Back in September, scientists observed two massive X-class solar flares. A total lunar eclipse occurred in June, and another is actually due to happen this weekend. Once again this past month we saw in our skies the annual Leonids meteor shower. And then look at the world around you. The world’s economy is in a nightmare state. Wars continue across the world. The tsunami in April devastated Japan, taking the lives of nearly 16,000 people, damaging or destroying 125,000 buildings, and causing explosions in at least three nuclear reactors.
So now that you’ve seen the signs, it’s time to speculate concerning the day and the hour in which the Lord will return—and that way you can know the exact moment when you should repent of your sins and make your peace with God; and in the meantime you can live exactly the way you want—right? You know better than that, of course. There are really two things that distract from Christ's return and hinder preparation. On the one hand, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the pursuits of the flesh that it seems like it doesn’t matter if Christ is coming. It’s easy to live as if there is no Last Day, no fearful judgment upon sin on that day. On the other hand, the cares of this life can be a heavy burden, and it’s hard to believe that there will be an end to all these trials when the Lord appears the final time. Either way, we live as if there is no Last Day, no Lord who is coming back to judge.
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Right there, Jesus has given you the answer. Everything around you is passing away. Some people live as if this life is it, and they decide to live as if there's no tomorrow. Some are so worried about the end of all things, they try to make themselves ready. But Christ gives us the answer: His Word never passes away. It's simple, really: heaven and earth will pass away. Christ's Word does not pass away. What about you? Brothers and sisters in Christ, you have His Word. You cannot pass away. You cannot perish. You cannot be destroyed. The Word of Christ spoken with water at the font means you will outlive the passing away of this earth and heaven. The Word of Holy Absolution spoken to you means you will not pass away with the unrepentant masses who despise Christ and His salvation. The Body and Blood of Christ Himself are your sure promise that since Christ can't pass away, neither can you.
Last Sunday we began our observation of Advent with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Advent begins with Palm Sunday to remind you that Christ came to die for you. You have Palm Sunday; and then five days later you have Good Friday. In Advent we have Palm Sunday and then a week later the end of the world. The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, put these readings together to connect in your mind that the Last Day, Judgment Day, can never be separated from Good Friday. On Good Friday, on the cross, the sins of the world were judged, and the wrath of the righteous God poured out on Jesus. On that day, the sun was darkened and the earth shook, and it probably seemed like the end of the world. That's because the End of the World, Judgment Day, happened that day at the cross. There, on Calvary, The Son of Man was there in all His glory, saving you. When you think of Judgment, the Last Day and the End of the World, think first of all of Good Friday. Think of Christ suffering the judgment against your sins. Only with this Good News that your Savior has shed His blood for you can you truly lift up your heads and rejoice on the Last Day when He does come again.
Where Christ is present in His Word, Judgment Day has no power to terrify. The Last Day cannot bring fear to those who know their Savior has already undergone Judgment Day. But apart from Christ, apart from His Word, there is nothing but fear. In Christ, Judgment Day has already come; outside of Christ, Judgment Day is still coming. In Christ, the Day is joyfully anticipated; outside of Christ, that Day comes like a thief. Jesus tells you, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” How do you watch? How do you pray? The Lord invites you to this place, where you can confess your sins and hear the Good News that the Judgment upon those sins has already been placed on Him. He invites you to come to this altar and receive His body and blood in the Holy Supper, a foretaste of the eternal heavenly wedding feast that awaits all those whom He has made worthy and who cling to Him by faith.
The signs of the Last Days are all around. The world is going to pieces. Wars, rumors of wars, plagues, famine, and all sorts of natural disasters are all around. The nations are in chaos. You are living in the last days before the Lord returns. But you do not need to fear or despair. Lift up your heads, for your redemption is near. Right before your Lord comes to you in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, you hear, “Lift up your hearts!” And now you lift up your heads, for He will soon appear on the clouds with great glory. And that will be the day of rejoicing, the day of the end of all misery and woe. Your Lord is coming, and He Himself has prepared you by giving you His Word which will never pass away. And because you have been raised with Him in Holy Baptism, you won’t pass away, either. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.