“Look for the Signs”
Luke 21:25-28, November 28th, 2021
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Fist Sunday if Advent “Hope”
“Let’s now open our hearts as we listen to this morning’s reading from the gospel according to Luke, chapter twenty-one, verses twenty-five thru twenty-eight.”
25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
“Having heard these words attributed to the teachings of Jesus let’s now begin our search for the signs of Christ in the world and in our lives, as we now begin the season of Advent, with Hope in our hearts!”
“Look for the Signs”
Hope is our focus and theme today. As we seek out the signs of God’s presence let us allow ourselves to be filled with new and renewed hope. With this having been said, however, our reading this morning suggests that there is fear within the hearts of many. Verse twenty-six of our reading from the twenty-first chapter of our lesson from the gospel of Luke tells us that, “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.” Today is the first day of Advent. Today is meant to be about hope! Did we not just light the first candle of Advent which stands for hope! No, we did not read the wrong passage, it is the one your pastor chose from the lectionary which helps new and old pastors to systematically go through the verses of the Bible. The scripture is a reminder to us ‘all’ that we are living within the real world, a world where the sun does not always shine brightly every day. Some days the storms of life, the tyranny of humankind run rampant and that our Creator God, will one day judge us ‘one and all’ for how we lived our lives. The hope however is in the promises of God. Verses twenty-seven and twenty-eight tell us that “It is then that they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
In the midst a storm it is often ‘somewhat’ difficult to keep the faith, and trust in God! Nonetheless, this is exactly what is expected of us. Therefore, it is so, so very crucial that we do exactly what you and I are doing today! We have gathered-together here, today, as faith filled people seeking to be reminded of the significance of the coming of the “Son of God” into the world. These four weeks of Advent are meant to remind us of what Christmas is truly ‘all’ about! It is not about who can gather-together the biggest stack of presents to impress others with our generosity! No that is not what this season is about. Rather, we can, with a generous heart, be kind and charitable, as we open our hearts to the true meaning of the season, as we seek out ways to share with others the gift of God’s outpouring of love upon us. Love which was seen in the gift of God’s very essence being combined with the essence of the baby Jesus, born of Mary, it is that kind of love which Advent leads us to remember. We do this even as we face and acknowledge that not all of humankind are of a like mind… regarding who Jesus was and exactly what God expects of us, as we continue to journey ever forward in our human lives. Some will be stuck in the fear and foreboding of the storms, some big, others small which do swirl around us and sometimes overtake us or a loved one. This is what being a mortal and living a mortal human life is all about. This is not in question! The question is… will we allow the hope which Christ has brought to the world fill our hearts… renewing our faith which can and shall help us live a faith filled life – in the midst life’s tumult!?
It would not be healthy for you and me to stick our heads in the sand like an Ostridge. Even these beautiful creators know better than that, despite what we may think. Surprisingly to many, an Ostridge does not hide by digging into the ground, in the sand, with its head. Rather, they do so to dig and build a nest, where they can later lay an egg as they seek to reproduce. So let us not turn to this oddity of nature, just to brush away our responsibilities to face life, building our own nests and giving of ourselves for the good of another! Hopefully, when we get to the gates of heaven, let us pray we shall not be forced to confess we were too frightened, of life itself, to fully live. How sad that will be – our having to confess how little faith we had in the promises of God. Let us pray we do not need to acknowledge, how we neglected to grow in our faith, consequently not building our trust in God to give us all – all that we needed in life. If we had had the conviction of our faith we might have been of great service to God; and then others might have looked to us as an example, as we moved thought life exemplifying a lifetime of selfless faithfulness. I have had the privilege of observing many people in their life’s journeys. Sometimes during their times of joys and jubilation, but most often as they have faced challenging times, tragic times even, as life can get hard. Yet, my heart overflows with special moments, hope filled moments, when others have shown me what true faith can do – as it empowers believers to “accept life on life’s terms.” (Original author unknown.)
Yet, amid all this discussion we have the ancient words, the prophesies of the prophet Jeremiah, taken from his writings in the Old Testament, chapter thirty-three, verses fourteen and fifteen. Jeremiah foretells for us the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God. Listen to his words, recorded for our ears. “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise, I made… In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Jeremiah was inspired, compelled even by the Spirit of God to plant this hope in a people who had been pushed, squeezed and downtrodden for a long, long time. Thankfully for them, they had Jeremiah and others who endeavored to uplift their spirits and help them to not give up on God; although it may have felt to them that God’s presence was absent in their lives. I believe many have felt this way as the events of these last nineteen plus months have unfolded! These four weeks of Advent, offer us a time when we can reflect on all that has happened before our own beginnings, as we have been learning, and gleaning all that there is for us to gather and harvest – for our journeys yet to be fulfilled.
As these next days and weeks open to us, let us never forget the symbolic words passed forward for our consumption, through rituals and now tradition, in our own times. Let us not lose sight of the splendor and beauty of our traditions, our customs and practices which help us be reminded of how we came to this season, which has been etched into the hearts of Christians for virtually two-thousand years. This period offers us the opportunity to pass to the next generations the depth and breadth of what we have come to know this time of Advent stands for. Let us not allow our society to lose sight of the richness of these practices and rituals which are played out throughout the world. It only adds to the seeming ‘magic’ of it all, as we look to the diversity of those who passed forward and shared with others our understanding of God. A God, which we now perceive, whom does for us ‘all’ that the story of this season proclaims, Hope, Peace, Joy and Love!
Now that we have opened-up and examined all of which these scriptures are saying to us, let us contemplate the signs which are so very evident of its truth – all around us! Verse twenty-five has the voice of Jesus proclaiming to us of the signs! “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.” The noise and the tumult of the voices that ring loudly throughout the world – can come to us as a horrific barrage of chaos – if we let it. Thankfully, when we have our minds aligned with the Spirit of God and our hearts filled with the promises of new hope as we renew and refresh our spirits, we shall intuitively come to know how to decern the good from the bad, the holy from the unholy. Likewise, we shall be able to clearly see… the eternal ‘presence’ of God’s love in our fellows, separate from the banging of misguided egos, with their selfish disregard for the needs of others. It is not our responsibility to judge the morality of others, that’s God’s task. Ours business, however, is to allow the Spirit of ‘new hope’ to spring forth from our very actions. So let us allow our very words and actions to show forth in our emotions for all to see, hear and witness.
What many of us love most about this Advent, this Christmas season is how the joy of giving sometimes sneaks through the hustle and bustle of life, that now shall surround us, well into the new year that follows. So many around us have their hearts aligned with that of God. So many long for the moment their loved ones, or a child who receives their anonymous gift, will respond with joy to their thoughtful generosity! Those of us who give with no ‘strings attached’ have come to know the true joy, joy that can only be felt when our hearts are filled with the abundant and kind love of God! There is a lot of hope that this kind of giving and sharing of love, which comes from the likes of the celebration of a baby, a child whose birth is observed by Christians all around the world – the hope is that this is indeed contagious; and that no one will seek to stop its spread! The hope is that everyone will come to know the old, old story of Jesus and his love. Hopefully, children everywhere, of every race, creed and color, no matter their orientation or the biases or the prejudices of their parents, shall come to know that Christmas represents love and kindness – as they feel it shared from the hearts of many! Let us allow Advent Hope to be at the top of our shopping list, right alongside of kind-heartedness!