Advent 1 HOPE

Luke 21:25-36; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Jeremiah 33:14-17

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent. If you have been doing the devotions in  your “Daily Discipleship” Booklet, you would have started on Thursday already … but officially today is the start of Advent.

Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches. It is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for our Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus. The word “Advent” is a version of the Latin word “adventus” meaning “coming”. Adventus in itself is a translation of the New Testament Greek word parousia, which is commonly used by scholars to specifically refer to the Second Coming of Christ.

Bernard of Clairvaux (d.1153) suggested that Christians should recognise three comings of Christ:

  1. in the flesh in Bethlehem,
  2. in our hearts daily, and
  3. in glory at the end of time.

Advent offers us the opportunity to deliberately focus on … and increase in our own hearts … the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah … and to be alert for his Second Coming.

And so it is always part of the tradition that on the first Sunday of Advent we read a Gospel passage in which Jesus predicted His return in glory – His 2nd Coming. This year our reading is from Luke 21.

The part of Luke 21 we read is situated at the end of a long response Jesus was giving to His disciples. They were in Jerusalem and the disciples marveled at the enormous stones in the Temple walls. Jesus replied that a time was coming when not one of those stones would remain on top of another. They would all be torn down. The disciples … quite naturally … ask when that will come to pass … and what would be the signs that these things were about to happen.

In the context of that question Jesus speaks … and it becomes evident that He is mixing together a prophesy about the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (which in fact happened in AD 66-70) with a prophecy of His 2nd Coming. Both of these cataclysmic events, it would appear, would be foreshadowed by:

  • wars
  • natural disasters like earthquakes, famines and diseases, and
  • cosmic signs

But here is the heart of the matter in Luke 21 for us as 21st Century observers of Advent … more importantly, as 21st Century disciples longing for Jesus to come … here is the heart of the matter:

Jesus who came in the flesh, lived, died and rose again from the dead … IS COMING AGAIN to the earth in great power and great glory.

In His first coming, He gave up the glory and power that was His as God the Son … and He came in weakness and fragility as a baby born to the virgin Mary.

When He returns it will be in the glory and power that He reclaimed when He was raised from the dead and glorified to the Father’s right hand in heaven again.

AWESOME! So how should this affect us today? AI want to highlight two things I believe Jesus indicates in the passage:

  1. CONFIDENT HOPE

In this world of darkness, it is easy to lose hope. When we see footage of wars in Syria, famine in Yemen, bombs exploding on the streets of Mogadishu, an Ebola epidemic in the DRC, radical Islamic militant attacks in Mozambique, earthquakes and tsunami horror in the Pacific Rim, drug resistant super-bacteria and all manner of other horrors … it is easy to lose heart.

The very same signs which Jesus mentioned as being signs that His return was coming closer, can cause us to lose hope.

Yet, Jesus says: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (v.28)

It is as though Jesus is encouraging us … you can choose which way you see this. You can choose to look at these events with despair … or with hope.

Human sin has thrown the world into a state of brokenness from which it will NOT recover until Christ returns and God makes all things new.

The brokenness of the world will only intensify as the end draws nearer. Like birth-pains when a woman is in labour … the groaning of the natural world … the pains and horrors of its falleness will only grow more intense as time goes by.

So, instead of looking at that with horror … we are invited by Jesus to see it as a sign of HOPE … that Christ’s return is nearer now than ever before.

Jesus says: Stand up … lift up your heads … look to me in the midst of the raging and turmoil of this world … and have HOPE!! Cultivate in your heart a JOYFUL EXPECTATION that my coming is nearer now than ever before!

As Advent people, we are called to be a people of CONFIDENT HOPE!

We are also called by Jesus, in this passage, to be a people of CAREFUL HOLINESS!

  1. CAREFUL HOLINESS

In the Biblical sense, to be holy means to be different … to be separated and set apart for God.

Every Christian believer … every disciple of Jesus … is therefore already holy.

When we make the decision to place our faith in Jesus Christ and to entrust our lives in their entirety to Him as Saviour and Master … we are set apart as the adopted children of God … and we therefore have the status of holiness … “set-apartness”.

We are different in status and position.

And for the rest of our lives as believing disciples of Jesus we are simply called to live out that new status of holiness. We are called to live up to who we already are in Christ … the set-apart, holy children of God.

Now, in a word to both the 1st and 21st century Christians, Jesus says, in Luke 21: 34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will come upon you unexpectedly.”

In other words, if we are not careful to choose to live out our HOPE in Jesus through holy lifestyles … we will drift down … pulled by the gravity of the sinful brokenness of the world … into lifestyles of … 3 things:

  1. dissipation: “an overindulgence in sensual pleasures”
  2. drunkenness: “intoxication”
  3. distractions: the word translated by the NIV as anxieties can also be translated as “distractions”

Now I think that reveals the heart of the problem. If we are not facing the tremendous brokenness of this world with our HOPE and faith in Jesus .. .we will turn to all sorts of other methods of escape … ways to distract ourselves from the truth of the brokenness of our world. It may be that we distract ourselves by indulging in physical pleasure … or intoxicating substances … thereby forgetting for a time about the reality of the pain of our world … but they are merely , ultimately, distractions.

Rather than choosing to live like this, Jesus invites us in v. 36, “Be always on the watch, and pray … so that you will be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Now my understanding is that here Jesus has a word of instruction for all His followers throughout time … along with a specific promise to the 1st Century Christians … followed by a promise for us all … including us 21st Century Christians.

Jesus’ invitation is to a lifestyle of holy fellowship with God through watchful prayer.

And His PROMISES were:

  1. To His 1st Century followers: If you live watchfully and prayerfully, you will recognise the signs that Jerusalem is about to be destroyed and you will flee in time and “escape all that is about to happen.” Now history proves that this is what happened. The early Christian historians Eusebius and Epiphanius report that, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, the Jerusalem Christians fled to the Decapolis city of Pella. They saw the signs that Jesus had spoken of and they obeyed His instruction that when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies you will know that its destruction is near, then “FLEE to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the countryside not enter the city.” (Luke 21:20-21) The Christians were watchful … they obeyed the word of Jesus … and they escaped all that was about to happen. Just as Jesus prophesied.
  2. To us all 1st and 21st Century believers … Jesus promises … if you live watchful, prayerful lives … you will be able to stand before the Son of Man. The day is certainly approaching, for ALL of us, when we will meet out Maker face to face. For some of us, it will be through death … for others it may possibly be through the 2nd Coming of Christ during our lifetime … we do not know. But what we know is that the only foundation upon which we may confidently stand before God on that day is our faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us on the cross.

Therefore even now … this very day … this very hour … make it your top priority to keep your relationship with Jesus Christ firm and steadfast.

Do not be careless … be careful! Be careful to live in step with the Spirit of Jesus … who is leading us into all holiness.

Do now be prayerless … be prayerful! Be prayerfully attentive to the Spirit of Jesus … who is leading us into all holiness!

CONCLUSION

Jesus who came in the flesh, lived, died and rose again from the dead … IS COMING AGAIN to the earth in great power and great glory.

In His first coming, He gave up the glory and power that was His as God the Son … and He came in weakness and fragility as a baby born to the virgin Mary.

When He returns it will be in the glory and power that He reclaimed when He was raised from the dead and glorified to the Father’s right hand in heaven again.

AWESOME! So how should this affect us today? It should cause us to live lives of:

CONFIDENT HOPE and CAREFUL HOLINESS

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s