11/30/03, Advent 1C
ne of the themes of my ministry is that in any situation that comes our way we can “Keep Looking Up!” It may sound simplistic but it has proven to be true in the lives of many, and in the life of my family. Folks have picked up on it and have found it helpful in times of trouble and blessing to remember to “Keep Looking Up!” Indeed, my webmaster has made it possible for you to purchase on our website novelty items with this theme and a smiley face that say: “Keep Looking Up!”
In today’s Gospel Reading for this first Sunday in Advent’s preparation for Christmas we hear Jesus encouraging us, caught in the midst of trouble, to “Keep Looking Up!” Verse 28 says, “So when all these things begin to happen, stand straight and look up for your salvation is near!” In verse 36 Jesus instructs us to, “Keep a constant watch. And pray that, if possible, you may escape these horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” (NIV)
Looking up is good because it forces us to look beyond ourselves. We often need help and our ultimate help is found in talking directly to our God who is able to help us in all of our trouble: to keep us from falling down, to lift up our sights to a greater goal in life and beyond life.
We need to re-hear this theme from Jesus as we prepare our hearts for Christmas because it is busy time and we can forget about the true reason for the Season of preparation. Some few already have their tree up and decorated and their gifts are already wrapped. But most of us feel behind in our preparation. Marilyn and I were the second in line for a Frazier Fir at Home Depot. It’s in the stand and in the den, but it awaits its decorations. Take heart in knowing that you will soon have your preparations made, and before you know it, you will be ringing in a new year. Advent is a brief but busy time and it is possible to fail to catch even a glimpse of the Christ Child. We have to look for Him in the midst of the shopping malls and the holiday parties.
Will there be time for Jesus? Not so much making room for the Babe of Bethlehem on the tree, but making room for Him in our hearts, and in our priorities.
You may have read about the incident when Warnie Lewis arrived home in suburban Oxford with the story of a lady on the afternoon bus who when passing a rural Anglican Church with bright decorations and a manger scene, commented, “Will you just look out the bus window at that, now the church is trying to take over Christmas too.”
We Christians are caught between two Advents. The First Noel was the first Advent, the first coming of Christ into the world as the Babe of Bethlehem. Since we have lived through the story before, we know that the God-man Jesus gave up His life to redeem us, was Resurrected and was soon received back into heaven at the Ascension. The Angels said that the same Jesus that was taken away would someday come again. So, in today’s world we are caught between the two Advents of Christ. We look back on the historical event and we anticipate his return. The Second Advent, the Second Coming of Christ, is yet to be. It is said that the first liturgical prayer of the young Church was, “Maranatha,” which means, “Come Lord Jesus!” (I Cor. 16: 22) Those first believers looked forward to the return of their Lord with joyful expectancy.
The Advent Season should be a time of Joy Filled Expectation. Throughout the Christian centuries we have had a problem with some misinterpreting the second coming of Christ as a manipulative tool to encourage persons to become believers out of fear. Of course, we do need to, “Be on guard,” so that we will not be so preoccupied with the cares of this world that we miss out on the truly important, and eternal, priorities of life. (34, NASV) However, when we have the inner assurance of salvation we do not need to be afraid, ever.
For two thousand years believers have struggled with the delay of the Second Advent. The debate has continued as to whether Jesus meant that, “this generation will not pass away until all things take place.” (32, NASV) Some have felt that Christ returned for the first believers when they died. It is in a sense true that Jesus will meet each of us at death and take us to our eternal reward; however the world carries on without the general culmination that is a pervasive promise in scripture. The orthodox view has been that when we die our souls go on immediately to be with Jesus in heaven, and that at the Second Advent there will be a further reuniting of soul and body. However, the exact nature of heaven is a great mystery that will not be fully understood until after we arrive. Indeed, if it were explained to us now we could not fathom it. “We will understand it better bye and bye.”
And so we wait for Christmas and the annual pageantry of the remembrance of the first coming of the Savior of the World. And we lift up our heads for the next Advent of Christ, whether it is when we see Him at our death, or whether we are yet alive when the second coming of Christ occurs. And in the meantime, we keep looking up for Him as we journey through this life with the hope of Glory in our hearts.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor