Sunday, December 09, 2018

Sermon for 12/9/18: Second Sunday in Advent

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Your Redemption Draws Near

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The end is coming. We can see the signs. Wars, perplexity, men’s hearts failing for fear, violence, the demise of the family, natural disasters, the extinction of species—these things show the disintegration of creation. Sin has taken its toll. The world is falling apart in front of us. Every burial is a sign of the end. This can’t and won’t go on forever. We do not know the exact day or hour. But we know it is coming. Repent.
The signs are terrible, and they are themselves dangerous to faith. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape these things. Contrary to the popular saying, there are plenty of atheists in foxholes. The most difficult place to believe in the goodness of God is in the midst of evil and chaos. So watch and pray. The more evil you have to endure, the more your faith is tested; the more danger you are in.
But rejoice in this: the end is coming. Your salvation has been won. God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. He will neither forget nor abandon you. He will use temptation, war, divorce, illness, and death, all the signs of the coming end, for your good. He will teach you to rely upon Him. He will make you weak, for in your weakness, in dependent, desperate faith, you are strong in Him. He will show Himself in the foxhole to be your only Help, Hope, and Savior.
He knows what is good for you. You don’t get to Easter without Good Friday. And though it seems almost cruel to our weak minds, He afflicts you on purpose. He gives you custom-built crosses, designed for your strengths and weaknesses. In the midst of war, He calls soldiers to do good, to show mercy, to witness to the hope that is in them. In divorce, He calls us to reconcile and forgive. Surrounded by death, He calls us to stand before the grave and mock the devil: “O Death, where is your sting?” This doesn’t mean soldiers don’t kill, that the divorced must re-marry their original spouse, or that we shouldn’t bury the dead. It means that we proclaim the death of Christ for the life and hope of the world—especially in the foxhole.
Look around you. Do you think you are alone in suffering? Do you think your crosses are the heaviest? Repent. Do not think the man who is only juggling 3 or 4 balls has it easier than you. We know little of what hidden struggles our brothers and sisters endure. Mental illness, ill health, an abusive past, a secret addiction, a mean spouse, disobedient children, and so many other afflictions are all too common.
So love one another. Comfort one another. Encourage one another. The Kingdom of God is near. Our Lord, who has given His life for you, does not ask you to endure these things alone. He has placed you in a family, in the Church. Your sorrow will pass away. Even if you suffer to the point of bloodshed, you will not do it alone. And in the midst of your trials, you have glimpses of heaven, a foretaste of what is to come. You do not live by those fleeting things, though you are rightly thankful for them. You live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He will not pass away. He will not fail. Lift up your heads. The Lord comes. Your redemption draws near.
In the meantime, in the midst of war, illness, and sorrow, burdened by guilt, shame, and regret, the Lord comes to you in His Word and Sacrament, just as He has promised. He comes to speak words of warning and comfort. He comes to feed your body and soul with His Body and Blood that you would be strengthened for the trials to come, that you would have joy while you wait and while you suffer. He is not simply your Lord in the future, when sorrows shall cease; He is also your Lord now, even in the midst of sorrow. Lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near. 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.  

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