In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Armageddon. 2012. The Day after Tomorrow. Terminator….All of the them. The Day the Earth Stood Still. I could continue, but I think you have quickly deduced where I’m going. Hollywood has been perpetually occupied and enamored with stories about the end of the world. There have been various movies of various stripes from various genres depicting the fate of our planet and its ultimate demise. Whether it be an asteroid, man made machines rising up and overthrowing man, or those darn Mayan’s whose calendar ran out of dates, the idea of the end of the world makes a good basis or starting point for a blockbuster movie. And in each of those films the point is always two fold—#1 the world will end and #2 WE MUST STOP IT!!!!
For every arch-nemesis of the world there is the protagonist, the hero the John Conner (no relation, right Becky?), Harry Stamper, Jackson Curtis, or some version of Keanu Reaves. They each, hearing the pleas and cries from the world, begin a mission each lasting about 100-120 minutes to redeem and rescue humanity from itself or from nature. We even see in most if not all of these stories the basic Christ-motif as Bruce Willis looses his life on an asteroid, dying just in time for the sake of the world. But the hero may be a “Christ” figure in a literary sense, he or she is usually far from the authentic Christ and His response to the end of the world scenario.
We now find ourselves in Luke’s Gospel, and will for most of the Church’s year. The setting is Jerusalem. The date is not quite for certain, but it is the final week of our Lord’s ministry in His 33rd year of life. The palms have been waved, the chants cried, “Hosannah in the Highest! Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!” And now He is imparting his final divine wisdom to his beloved apostolic band. The subject has turned from the upcoming and foretelling of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem to a rather important topic, the coming or rather the return of the Son of Man. In other words Jesus speaks about that famous Hollywood topic, the end of the world. But there is a drastic change in both content and plot from the movie adaptations to the coming reality put forward by our Lord.
There is a saying, “truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction at least has to make sense.” If the end is coming, stop it. That seems to make logical sense. Rush forward Bruce! SAVE THE DAY! But that is not the truth of Christ’s witness and the Christian vision for that time. In fact Jesus puts forward for us a rather simple and plotless response to such a time. “Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing hear.” There is no anxiety or fear in the falling of the world, but rather a dramatic pause and the only thing that truly needs to be done is to look up. Now that would be a rather boring movie, but it is a powerful response of faith to the true even that is happening. It is not the end of the world you see, my brothers and sisters, it is the in breaking of the New One. The New Heaven, the New Earth, ushered in by our Lord’s return, bringing the New Jerusalem.
Nothing needs be done, for in the glory of Christ’s return everything has already been done. The Church doesn’t wish to stop Armageddon or the End of the World, we actually pray for it to come. Amen. Come Lord Jesus. This is the Advent of our God and in this season of advent we prepare, we keep watch, we stay awake, and we wait for our Lord’s return. Lifting heads to the sky, looking up for our redemption drawing nigh as the world crumbles around us.
There is no doubt that that great and glorious Day is drawing closer, in fact we are closer to it today than we were yesterday. Though it still remains elusive and out of our comprehension as to when, we see the signs of this fallen world growing darker every day. There is much in the world over which we too might faint with fear and foreboding. War, plague, pestilence, and death surrounds us each and every day. From the terrorist’s threat to the doctor’s diagnosis, death and darkness lurks around every corner and every moment of time. As millions struggle to find work, struggle to provide for their family, there seems to be no hope of recovery on the horizon. We are trapped in a time of bleak economics with even bleaker resources to straighten our fiscal cliff. So what are we to do in this time of growing darkness? Jesus tells us at the last, when the world ends, to raise our heads. So what do we do now? It’s simple…we practice. Indeed all of the Church's life, her worship, prayer, and participation in the life of the Trinity is done as preparation for that great and final Day.
Jesus' command to his disciples, echoes the refrain of David in the Psalms, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” In the time of Advent, in the generation of the Church we spend out time lifting our eyes upward, beholding our redemption which draws ever nearer to us. As the candles are lit, we straighten up and stand. As the Gospel is read, we stand again lifting up our eyes opening our ears to the hearing of the precious Word of God as it comes to give us life and redemption. And as Bread and Wine are lifted up above the altar, suspended between heaven and earth, reminiscent of the holy cross, our heads and eyes are once more lifted up to behold our Lord. His body broken, his blood shed. Behold here is the Lamb of God. Here is our salvation and our redemption. For Christ does not wait until the end of time to come to us, but He comes now through holy Word and holy Sacrament. Bringing about the end of this world, the end of the old adam in us, crushing sin and defeat the power of death in us, and raising us to new life in His kingdom today. Here and now at this time and in this sacred place the Son of Man draws near to us with the holy angels and with His saints.
For this reason we have absolutely no reason to groan and be fearful as the world is fearful. Drinking itself into oblivion and weighed down by the cares of this life, because this life is not the end all be all. It is transitory. It is meant and destined for renewal since the fall and it will come when Christ returns in glory and power. Light will banish darkness. Life will obliterate death. And the powers of this world will be vanquished, by the rule of the Son of God. Therefore we watch with great joy and hope, standing up and praying with the whole church and all of creation...
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.