Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Reading this text, it’s hard not to think of the way we celebrate Christmas. Seemingly out of nowhere, we have a season of lights and trees and music and presents and parties and candlelight services. But before you know it, it's all gone, and all that’s left is cold, dark winter. In the same way, this world is passing away. It will not be long before everything goes the way of all flesh at the coming of our Lord. For the world, this will be a horrible day, a day of terror. But for you, the children of God, it is the day to lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!
But the Old Adam doesn’t believe this world is passing away. All too often we live as if this is all we’ll have. We worry about how we're going to be comfortable and happy and have enough stuff or get what we want. We live as if the most important things are the things we can buy and worst problems we have are the things we lack. But Jesus says the world has bigger problems. There will be terrible signs of the end that tell us the day is near. Look around you. Wars and rumors of wars; horrible diseases; unspeakable acts of evil—these things are all around us. We are living in the end times! He tells us to pray that we may escape these things and stand before the Son of Man. Ask yourself: Do you really want to stand before the Almighty Judge in His glory on the Last Day?
If that Judge is Jesus, then of course you want to stand before Him! This Man is the Savior. He who is the Judge on the Last Day is the same Man who was born of the Virgin to save us. Jesus tells us that when we see around us these terrible signs of the End of all things, then lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near! Dear Christian, never think that Jesus is coming to condemn you! He is coming to save you! He has already come to give His life into death on the cross to bear your sins and take them away. Now He will come to bring you out of this world that is passing away into the eternal kingdom that has been prepared for you. Pray that you will stand before the Son of Man, because Jesus is the One person who can and does save us from a world that is passing away!
But we're not paying attention. The world wasn't paying attention when Christ came in the flesh. So the Lord says through the prophet Malachi, “I will send Elijah before that great and terrible day.” Who is Elijah? Jesus teaches us that this Elijah was John the Baptist. John was ordained to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins and to baptize sinners in order to prepare for Christ's coming. In the same way, in these Last Days, the Lord gets our attention by calling preachers to preach and baptize. So your preacher says, “Listen up!” You have been baptized to prepare you for the Day when Jesus returns and heaven and earth passes away. You have been absolved of your sins so that there is nothing that the Judge will have against you on that Day. You are filled with the body and blood of the Son of Man Himself so that you have His unbreakable promise that you will be raised from the dead on that Day and stand before Him with all your sins forgiven. And of course there is His Word which lays it all out. Christ's Word in the Scriptures teaches us repentance for our sins and faith in Christ and delivers Christ to us as the One in Whom we trust for all things. And it is that very Word which the Scriptures deliver that is made flesh in Christ that never passes away! And that means you will not pass away.
You know that there will be an End and a Last Day and that you will stand before Jesus. But you know that because you are baptized, because your sins have been forgiven, and because you have feasted on Christ’s body and blood, this Day is a Day of redemption. It is the Day when we shall be free from our sins forever. It is the day that we will pass from death to life. We who have been filled with Christ's Word will not pass away. Instead we will pass into eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth with Christ forever.
This is the season of Advent, and Christ is coming. It is a gift from our heavenly Father to enjoy the pleasures of this season: things like candles and cookies and trees. Even though all those things are passing away, they help us to celebrate the birth of Jesus, whose Word will never pass away. The lights and tinsel will soon be gone again, but Christ and His Word remain forever to comfort us and give us life which never ends. 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.