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He's Coming!

Pastor Robin Fish
Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church  
Laurie, MO

view DOC file

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 

He sees you when you're sleeping.  He knows when you're awake.  He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness' sake!

I can name that song in four notes!  But the odd thing is that it is describing Jesus.  Let's face it, if Santa is peeping in your bedroom, that is just a little creepy!  It is also strange that people object to talking about God, and often want to limit His knowledge about their behavior and situation, but they are perfectly comfortable with the idea that some "right jolly, old elf" has the same powers and awareness.  I suspect that they are more comfortable with Santa having those abilities because they no longer really believe in Santa, but we are hard-wired to know that God is true and real, no matter how hard we work at dismissing such thoughts.

That "hard-wiring" is demonstrated by the attitude of the most adamant atheists.  They are not at peace with the idea that there is no God, and then go about life without a thought.  They are aggressively and militantly - even evangelistically - atheistic.  They cannot abide the thought of God in another person.  They have to preach it, and argue it, and advertise it, and do their utmost to squish the idea of God, particularly the God of Christians, out of the public consciousness.  They don't believe there is no God, they ardently wish it to be so!

Welcome to the modern Christmas season.  Actually it began a couple of weeks before Halloween, this year.  Not only did we begin to see Christmas sales and Christmas advertising, the Christmas specials began that early, too.  One cable network was doing their "run-up to the twenty-five days of Christmas" specials and movies already a week or more before Thanksgiving.  There has been an ever-increasing number of Christmas specials - usually dealing with Santa or one of his many children and the "true meaning of Christmas".

Apparently, Christmas is all about love, or giving, or family, or magic, or believing (although the content of that "believing" was never actually defined), or something all warm and fuzzy - don't forget "Santa Paws".  It is amazing how many ways one can speak about the wonder and magic of Christmas without actually mentioning the One whose name is the foundation of the word, Christ.  To be honest, though, once in a blue moon, the Christmas special will allude to the Babe of Bethlehem, or mention Jesus, but even when they do, He bears little likeness to the One mentioned in Scripture (I should say, the One who is the Heart and Center and Meaning of the entire Scriptures).

It is difficult to escape the awareness that Christmas is coming, and, with Christmas, someone is coming.  The real challenge is to discover who is coming, and for what purpose.  You will never find that question answered on Television!

Advent is the season for the Church to share the message that Someone is coming.  He is not coming as the Babe at Bethlehem.  He did that once.  We celebrate that coming, and gifts He brought and the gifts He gives on Christmas.  That celebration has been almost completely lost in the secular celebration which borrows the name but disavows the meaning of Christmas.  Churches annually experience the near paradox of the influx of visitors and of the "C & E (Christmas and Easter) crowd", and the absence of so many of their regular members, who take the holiday as a valid reason to abandon worship with their congregations in favor of family and travel and gifts. 

The "C & E crowd" gathers for nostalgia - the pretty lights, and the familiar old Christmas music, and the feeling that this is how Mom and Dad used to mark these special days.  How sweet to remember something that clearly doesn't mean anything real to them any longer, because they don't take time for it each week, as Christians would - and do.

The absent members of the congregations forget that the people they worship with each week, that fellowship of the saints, is their true family.  They imagine that the giving of gifts and the joy of their families and the warm and familiar fellowship of the flesh is the heart of Christmas.  If they are ardent members of the church, they will attend the service of a congregation local to their families, and imagine that the substitute fellowship is the same, or pretty close to the same as the family of believers they left behind at the season in which we celebrate the coming of Him who made our faith, our fellowship, and the holiday possible and important.  At the time of our deepest celebration, they have separated themselves from the body with which they ordinarily celebrate the sublime mysteries of the faith.

Meanwhile, our society pummels us with the messages of its faith and values.  Christmas - they proclaim - is the time of year when the greatest number of people endure the deepest despair because they invest the season with such hope and so many memories, and the present reality does not live up to their expectations.  Besides, they say, the real meaning of Christmas is family - while many have no access to their own families.  The real meaning of Christmas is magic in a world utterly devoid of the magic that the movies have suggested might really be out there.  The real meaning of Christmas is love in a society we witness celebrating greed and hatred in the excesses of Christmas advertising on the one hand and the depressing violence of such things as the Occupy Wall Street proto-revolution going on in the streets and on the news today.

What we need is reality - the reality of Advent and the very real comforts of genuine Christian faith.  Christmas does not mean that life, day-to-day, is somehow becoming a fairy-tale.  It means that God loves us enough to send His Son into our world and our reality, to take on our human nature and flesh and blood as a part of His plan of salvation.  The birth of Jesus is wonderful because He is God in human flesh and He came to live for us and to die on the cross for our sins to redeem us.  We celebrate love, alright, just not our love for one another or for God.  We celebrate God's love for us!  We don't celebrate magic, we celebrate mystery and miracle - that God became Incarnate, that is, He took on human flesh and blood and became true man - without giving up being true God as well.  It is a mystery because we could not calculate it or reason our way to the truth, it had to be revealed to us.  It is a miracle because it is beyond reason and nature.  Men - some of them calling themselves Christians - are still saying that what God accomplished in the Incarnation is impossible.  But God did it!

We celebrate history when we celebrate Christmas.  But Advent is not about history.  It is about what - and who - is coming.  He is coming.  Again.  Jesus is not done with us yet.  He did not just come at Bethlehem to make Hallmark rich or provide beautiful, touching tableaus.  He came and did the most marvelous thing, which we celebrate on Easter.  He died for our sins, and rose from the dead to prove and proclaim that sin and death have been defeated.  Our sins are forgiven and our deaths are now but temporary things that happen to our bodies, but not to our souls.  We, too, shall rise again.  It is such a big celebration that we cannot confine it to Easter Sunday, one day each year.  We celebrate it every Sunday - every Sunday is our Easter celebration!  This year we get to celebrate Easter and Christmas on the same day!

Advent is about looking forward to that day when Jesus will return and raise our bodies from the dead, just as He raised His own on that first Easter, and re-unite our bodies and our souls for everlasting life in glory, joy, and peace, with Him and with all those who have known Him and believed and trusted Him to do what He said He would do.  The Church has set aside an entire month to celebrate and rehearse and remember and look forward to that coming day when Jesus, the Lord of Life, the Creator of all that exists, will come again and claim us as His own publicly and bring us to Himself in eternity - what is commonly called "heaven".

God has chosen for us to live in this world.  We have the easiest world in terms of the daily business of life that mankind has ever known, particularly here in America.  We have abundant food, abundant clothing, readily available shelter.  We have devices to do many of the onerous things of life, or make them easier.  We have fantastic resources of technology and information freely available to us.  The poorest among us have riches that the kings of just a couple centuries ago could only dream about, and could not purchase for any cost.

One the down-side, we have a world with such awful dangers, and the enemies of the truth of God are more numerous and rapacious than ever, and the tools of propaganda and disinformation in the modern media are appalling.  Men can now manipulate images and audio recordings so effectively that you cannot tell if what you are seeing or hearing is real.  We have been made dependent on technology which can be limited or withdrawn, and the old ways and skills are fast being forgotten.  The technology which is a blessing has also provided tools for manipulating people and information and waging war.  It is a dangerous and often confusing world in which we have been called upon to live.  It helps to recall that our loving heavenly Father chose for us to live in this world of blessing and danger.

The comforts of the Gospel, the hope of Advent, and the fellowship of the Saints are our greatest strengths in the world in which we live.  Knowing that life is never really out of control is precious when world events, and even the events in our own personal lives, are seemingly spinning out of control.  God knows us and loves us, and has His eyes upon us for blessing and salvation.  We have nothing to fear when the world threatens us because God is with us, and the worst the world can do is send us home to the arms of our Savior.

The world around us is in almost permanent panic mode.  But we have no cause for fear because God is actually in charge. The weird weather we have been seeing is in His hands.  Could it strike us?  Yes.  But it cannot destroy us.  God knows where we are, and He will feed us and clothe us, just as He always has.  We have seen those nations that stood up and cursed God fall apart in a day, without a shot, without a war.  Do dangers threaten?  Yes.  But they cannot get around God.  And He loves us!  We see that in Christmas, and Easter.

He has given us one another in the Church to console each other, and remind one another of His love, and to help one another in times of need.  Each week we sing to one another about His grace and love.  We confess His goodness and forgiveness.  We pray for each other and the world around us.  We listen to one another and hear about our joys and our sorrows.  When life gets to be a bit too much, we have each other's shoulders to cry on.  God meant our fellowship to be a very present reminder of Him and His love, and for us to take care of each other as His agents in this world.

He has given us the Gospel to comfort us.  He forgives us our sins, so that we may never fear that He will withdraw his love or aid from us.  He feeds us in the Holy Supper for our strength and comfort.

And then there are the promises of the future, the promises of Advent.  Jesus is coming.  The day is surely drawing near, to quote a hymn, when God's Son will return to announce to the world that we are His, and to take us out of this world of uncertainty and fear and set us in His presence in glory where there is no fear, no more sorrow, no uncertainty, no more sickness, and no more death - just life, and joy, and peace, and the full awareness of His love and approval.  Advent invites us to keep in mind that day when the clouds will part, and Jesus will be there, in the sky, with His angels visibly gathered around Him, and He will separate those that believe from the rest of mankind.  And we will rise to meet the Lord in the air - without fear, but with great joy.

"You better not shout.  You better not cry.  You better not pout.  I'm telling you why, . . ."  Actually, we can shout - - for joy.  God understands our tears in this veil of tears, as long as they are not hopeless tears.  Pouting?  Probably not worth the time.  But it is not Santa we look forward to.  Jesus is coming again!  That is something to look forward to!

Yours in the Lord,

Pastor Fish

These sermons are for the Church. If you find it useful, go ahead and use it -- but give credit where credit is due. Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church's Website can be found by clicking here.

Send Pastor Robin Fish an email.

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