First Sunday in Advent

by Crossings

Luke 21:25-36
(First Sunday in Advent)
Analysis by Robin Morgan

“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. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then 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.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

DIAGNOSIS: Our Weariness

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis:
Weary Watching of Signs The signs of the end times are coming. That is the advent. “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” (21:7) Jesus speaks openly of natural signs, political signs, even cosmic signs. None of these have the same kind of conclusive historicity that would have satisfied the disciples–nor can they satisfy us. Nevertheless, the temptation for the disciples and for us is to remain seated and to grow weary before the plethora of these signs. “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (v. 26). Will the tragedies never end? Will there only be “distress among the nations?” Will there never be a cessation of “the roaring of the sea and the waves?” Doesn’t it all get to be a bit too much to endure? So we let the world go on without us, every day growing weary in the signs of these times.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis:
Weighed-Down These signs of which Jesus speaks (and which we experience) are weighty, indeed, and Jesus knows it (“Be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down…,” v. 34). The end times weigh on our whole being. And we, more often than we care to admit, are not prepared for what we are facing. Life in these times can be so overwhelming and any hope of remedy so distant that we just don’t want to get up again. We are not only getting weary-eyed. We just don’t have the heart anymore to stand against the pressures. We allow ourselves to be tossed to-and-fro by the roaring sea and waves and get caught up in the undertow, the trap, of dissipation, drunkenness, worry, without any sense of alertness. We are without hope.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis:
Not Standing When all is said and done, from all our sitting around and from all our half-hearted (at best) efforts to stand before the onslaught, we are ultimately immobilized and disabled. Do we pass the buck, claiming that it is not our fault? That we are somehow the perpetual victims of all that has gone before us or around us? Isn’t that the ultimate disregard of our responsibility as God’s human creatures–that activity of our first (fallen) parents? And when the day comes to give an account, how can we plead in that final end time? Before the Creator’s judgment, we do not stand, and our sorry state of being is confirmed.

PROGNOSIS: Wariness in Christ

Step 4–Initial Prognosis:
The Sign of the Out-standing Son of Man One of the signs of the end time of which Jesus speaks, amidst all the other signs mentioned above, is seeing “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” The fact that this Son of Man comes in judgment might also be an element of terror were is not also for the fact that Jesus, who tells us all that is to come, is that Son of Man. When Jesus would conclude this message to his disciples, he would go next to the final Passover with them. What awaited was Jesus’ own passing through and over the end time–to take the consequences of his guilty association with weary-eyed, heavy-hearted dullards such as ourselves. But he would emerge, and he gives the assurance that he will come again, not to chastise, but to bless us. When we see this outstanding Son of Man coming in power and glory, then is the time to “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is taking place.”

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis:
Uplifted by the Sign Our hope is replenished by the advent of this sign of the Son of Man. We know the sign that he has left us with in his earthly presence, even the sign of his own dying and rising. We know the sign of the cross by which our Lord was lifted up. That sign is also the means by which we are uplifted. It is the symbol of Jesus’ promise to overcome the critical signs of the end times, including the judgment before our ultimate Critic. Before that sign, even now we raise our heads and find our hearts renewed. We know, we trust that our redemption is taking place, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Indeed, we trust that when the Son of Man comes in a cloud with power and great glory, he is coming to take us home.

Step 6–Final Prognosis:
Standing Watch With this outstanding Lord behind us and before us, what have we to fear? Using Jesus’ parable, when the trees begin to sprout leaves, we know that summer is near. So in the midst of the signs around us, we know that the kingdom of God is near. We stand alert, ready, watching the signs as testimonies to a promise that is coming to fruition. And in our standing watch in the strength of our Lord, we become the trees of our times spouting branches and leaves of hope for all who are fearing and fainting. “Stand up! Raise your heads! Your redemption is drawing near!”


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