Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our readings for today deal again with the theme of the second coming of Jesus Christ. In this season of Advent, we remember and celebrate the first coming, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem to humble parents. We also anticipate His return in glory when He comes from the side of Almighty God the Father to judge the living and the dead.
In our reading of the Old Testament (Malachi 4: 1-6) we have the prophecy of both appearances of the Lord. "For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the proud, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and that day shall come and burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, which shall leave them neither root nor branch. " Here the prophet speaks of the final judgment, the end of the world. "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of righteousness will arise, and in its wings it will bring salvation; and ye shall go forth, and ye shall leap like calves of the herd. " Here he speaks of the Savior's birth, to rescue those who believe from their sins.
Malachi wrote his prophecy centuries before Christ. He had a view like a man looking at the mountains from afar. A peak close by and one further away are part of the same view. So, the prophet anticipated the fulfillment of the promises of God in the Messiah of Israel. He would come once in the manger for salvation, again in the clouds for judgment. Both events are part of God's plan.
In our text for today, we have the words of the Lord himself written by Saint Luke. "Then there will be signs in the sun, in the moon and in the stars, and in the earth, anguish of nations in confusion, the sea roars and the waves, men failing because of fear and expectation of the things that will come upon the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then they will see the Son of Man, coming in a cloud with power and great glory, and when these things begin to happen, stand up and lift your heads, because your redemption is near. He told them a parable: Look at the fig tree and all the trees: When they are already sprouting, seeing it, of yourselves you know that summer is already near, so you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away until all these things come to pass: heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. "
You recognize some of these words of the hymn, "God is our refuge." The Lord speaks of the completion of the Lord's plan. But he told them, "This generation will not pass away until all this happens." What it means, when He won the victory on the cross over the devil, sin and the world, everything began to happen. We are living between the resurrection and ascension of the Lord and his return in glory. Everything is part of the same process. The mission of the Son of God began with His Incarnation in Bethlehem and will culminate in the final judgment.
Therefore, let us live in the time of grace before the final judgment. Now is the opportunity to repent of our sins and live as children of God with the sure promise of eternal life. For the wicked, the end of the world will be a day of fear. We anticipate the end of the world with joy because we have the promise. For us, the plan of salvation began with our baptism and will culminate in our resurrection. We anticipate on the final day the reward of all the trials and difficulties of this life.
St. Paul says in our epistle (Romans 15: 4-13), "For the things that were written before were written for our teaching; so that through the patience and consolation of the Scriptures, we may have hope." The signs in heaven and earth that the Lord spoke of are sources of anguish and fear for many people, but for us they mean that salvation is near.
Our Lord also says, "And take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be laden with gluttony and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly." We must be prepared for the second coming of the Lord, living each moment in this hope. In this, we will have the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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