Sermon for Advent II
Text: Luke 21:25-36
Rev. Paul L. Beisel
Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
When someone comes to visit, we usually tidy up the house a bit, put some coffee on, and maybe put on something a little less casual. Depending on who is coming or how many are coming, we might do a little more or less to prepare. If we knew that the President was coming to our house, we might do our Spring-cleaning in December. We don’t want people to think we live like slobs, even though the reality is we probably do. When a visitor comes unannounced, some people might be a little embarrassed about the condition of their house, some might even be a bit angry that there was no warning.
Christ did not come unannounced to this world by any stretch of the imagination. Centuries before He entered our sinful world as true Man, He told His people that He was coming to deliver them. In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets. Through words, through visions, and through historical events, the Son of God revealed the Father’s plan of redemption and prepared the world for His coming. No one could say that they hadn’t been warned ahead of time. He had given them plenty of forewarning.
One of those words of forewarning you heard in the Old Testament lesson from Malachi. Malachi was the last known prophet of Israel before John the Baptist. His words were aimed largely at the priests of Israel, who were not properly conducting the sacrificial rituals of the Temple. They were divorcing the wives of their youth, something that incited the Lord’s anger. The poor and the widows were being oppressed and neglected. Malachi was called to address these desperate situations, and to urge Israel to get their house in order because a day was coming soon, “burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and evildoers would be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze,” He warns, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”
Malachi’s message was not only one of doom and gloom. Not everyone had forsaken the ways of the Lord. Some still feared His name and faithfully served Him. Malachi’s message to them was full of comfort: “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” The Lord would deliver His people. He would lighten their darkness with the sunshine of His grace. He would rescue them from their oppression just as He had done for their fathers who were enslaved to the Egyptians. He would act again for their sake, and for the sake of the whole world. A stump from the shoot of Jesse, a son from David’s line, a Child born of a Virgin, someone called Emmanuel would come to the rescue.
And then there was silence. About four hundred years with no Word of the Lord to His people. The first words to break that divine silence were those spoken by the Angel of the Lord to Zechariah, telling him that Elizabeth his wife would give birth to a son in her old age. They called him John, and he was “Great before the Lord.” He was the first prophet since Malachi and the last before the One who was more than a prophet, Jesus Christ.
John was sent to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God in the person of Jesus. The day of the Lord spoken of by Malachi had come. The sun of righteousness had indeed risen with healing on His wings, or rather, in his pierced hands, feet, and side. The healing of the nations came through the shedding of Christ’s innocent blood. The Sun of Righteousness arose from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and then set for three days when He died on the cross. But mourning turned into dancing on third day, when he rose again.
The day of our Lord’s visitation was not without announcement or forewarning. And neither will the day of His return in glory. No one will be able to say that they didn’t know He was going to visit. Christ has given us plenty of forewarning. From His own lips and from the lips of His apostles, He announced the day when the Son of Man will come in a cloud with power and great glory. Just as you know summer is near when you see the trees already budding, so also You will know that day of your redemption is near when you see “signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
The powers of heaven were shaken mightily when the Son of Man visited Jerusalem with destruction in the year 70 A.D. But this was only a glimpse of what is to come upon the whole earth. This day will come like a trap upon all whose hearts are weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the cares of this world. Christ’s return will not be unannounced, but it will seem unannounced to those who ignored Him. To the faithful, though, this day means redemption. “When these things begin to take place, He says, straighten up and raise up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing on His wings. He is coming to heal you of all your ills of body and soul. As we said in the Introit today: “Daughter of Zion, behold, surely your salvation is coming. The Lord will cause His glorious voice to be heard, and you shall have gladness of heart.” See what wonderful promises our Lord gives to those who faithfully await His coming? Do not our hearts yearn for such gladness, especially in the midst of such sorrow on account of our sins and the wickedness around us?
What better news could there be for us than that the Lord who died, rose, and ascended into heaven is coming again, and with healing in His wings? In that Day will our mourning not also be turned into dancing? Will we not also go out leaping like calves from the stall because of the redemption and salvation the Lord is bringing? Will we not also tread down the wicked on that day when the Lord acts on our behalf once and for all? Indeed, how great will that day be when God will shine forth out of Zion, the perfection of beauty! Are you worried about having a “messy house” when He comes? Do you feel ashamed by the spiritual clutter in your lives? Be of good cheer, for your hearts are already clean of the filth of sin by the power of Baptism.
Your house is already in order if you believe in the Son of God. Christ has already made His home with you by His Spirit who dwells in you. You will stand before the Son of Man on that day not because of your own merit, but because you are reconciled to God through faith in the merits of Christ Jesus. He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who called you is faithful, and He will do it. Amen.