COMING SOON – A sermon on the first Sunday in Advent 2010

Children’s Time: Here’s a bowl of popcorn! Don’t you love eating popcorn when you go to the movies? And if you get there in time you’ll see the previews – all those movies “coming soon to a theater near you!” Are there any movies you want to see this holiday season? There’s a new Narnia movie coming out (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) and a new movie about Rapunzel (Tangled)! Did you know that Jesus also wants us to look forward to his coming? “Be ready!” he told his followers “Keep awake!” We look forward to Jesus coming each Christmas, as we remember the baby Jesus, born in a manger, to be the savior of the world! But we also remember Jesus who said, “Be ready, for the son of man is coming at an unexpected hour!” The next time you see a movie and get excited about the previews… remember all we have to look forward to in Jesus, who’s “coming soon” to each one of us!

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The night is far gone, and the day is near… That line from our 2nd lesson today just seems to be the case for much of what I’m going through these days. Mom’s health continues to worsen as her vital organs shut down and she slips in and out of sleep more and more. My brothers and our wives have been keeping a bedside vigil to comfort her and care for her in these final days.

A new day is dawning for mom and she’s been the first to tell us “I’m ready.” She got a call this week from a boy she was a nanny for years ago. “Carol, aren’t you afraid of dying?” “No, not at all,” she said “are you?” “Well, a little.” he said. “Why should I be afraid of God?” was Carol’s reply.

Mom is showing us the way through the night to the dawn. She has the best guide on that journey: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” has been her favorite saying. We still don’t know when her time will come. I hope I’m able to be with her when she breathes her last… to hold her hand and to bid her farewell. But I know that she knows she won’t be alone, come what may.

As we hear in our gospel lesson today: “About that day and hour no one knows.” Jesus said, “You must also be ready… for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

That’s where I’m coming from, with my walk with mom through cancer… and let me tell you, we’ve been watching the signs all along that her cancer might be going back into remission: blood counts, hemoglobin, platelet levels, you name it… for thirteen years we’ve been watching and waiting for “the signs.”

What signs are you watching for in life? Are you watching for a job opening? Maybe you’re watching for a buyer for your home? Are you watching out for “Mr. Right” to come along? Are you watching for the faces of your grandchildren or great-grandchildren to brighten your day? Or for that phone call or text from that special someone? Are you watching for the new face in worship who has come to journey with us in mission at Holy Cross? Are you watching for God to surprise you this day?

A lot has been said (and even more has been written) about Jesus’ reference to “being left behind” in this text from Matthew 24. A lot of folks worry about being “left behind” rather than taken up at Christ’s coming. But I think if we spend too much time watching for the 2nd coming and worrying about ourselves… we’ve missed the point of what Jesus said. What if the 2nd coming really is like “in the days of Noah” as Jesus said? What if we are the ones who “want to be left behind” like Noah and his family – left to make a new start – to build a new society, the way God intended.

What if we had a chance to envision a day where war is learned no more (as we heard from God’s Word in our 1st lesson from Isaiah ch. 2)? What if we had an opportunity to start all over and make a society that turns its weapons of war into farming tools (“They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks” said Isaiah). Is it too much to hope for – a world where people learn war no more?

As I write this, the US continues so have troops deployed in Afghanistan, fighting to stabilize their country so they can govern themselves after years of oppression under the Taliban. Across the globe, North Korea is stepping up its aggression toward South Korea, after attacking an Island in the south this week with missiles. The US has sent a warship to the region to survey the situation, stressing its support of South Korea and calling on China to put pressure on the North to stand down. Who needs more killing in this world – more war and bloodshed? Isn’t there more to watch for and pray for?

Granted, we may not see “international peace” in our lifetimes… but if we never pray for it… hope for it… believe in it… and watch for it… it certainly won’t come. As Gene Tucker said in his New Interpreter’s Bible commentary: “Wishing, and even praying, will not necessarily make it happen. But it certainly will not come unless we imagine it, unless we believe and articulate the vision that God wills the end of war.”

The good news is that God is in charge – God is the one brining about a better future – a peaceable kingdom. We are the watchers and the waiters… we are the ones receiving this vision for a new tomorrow. It’s for you and for all who believe!

Remember that when you come for communion today – you who wait and watch for a sign. That you don’t have to wait to receive Christ’s promise to “be with you” and to “be in you.”

As Martin Luther said it in the Small Catechism:
Fasting and bodily preparation are in fact a fine external discipline, but a person who has faith in these words, “given for you” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sin,” is really worthy and well prepared.

One of the last things mom said before she slipped into deeper sleep is “you can’t take anything with you when you go except the love of Jesus.” That’s all it takes to “be ready” – to simply have a faith that God is coming – and there’s nothing to fear. God is with you… and God is for you. Let us pray: O God, we thank you for sending us your son, who gave himself as a sacrifice for sin. Make us ready to receive you now and at the last day, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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