Advent II Sermon

The Second Sunday In Advent
December 4, 2005
Verses 25-28 of St. Luke 21:25-33
“Our Redemption Draweth Nigh”

Predictions – Some people treat them seriously. King Louis XI of France was a devout believer in astrology. He was impressed when an astrologer foretold that a lady of the court would die in eight day’s time – and she did! Deciding that the too-accurate prophet should be disposed of, Louis summoned the man to his private apartments, having first told the palace servants to throw the visitor out of the window when he gave the signal. ‘You claim to understand astrology and to know the fate of others,’ Louis said to the man, ‘so tell me at once what your fate will be and how long you have to live.’ ‘I shall die just three days before Your Majesty,’ answered the astrologer. Louis decided against having the man thrown out of the window! Some people take predictions seriously. Or at the least, they do not want to risk discovering whether they are accurate!
Predictions – some folks don’t take them seriously! Ralph Waldo Emerson was once warned by a member of a religious cult that the world was going to end in ten days’ time. Emerson calmly replied, ‘Well, no doubt we will get on very well without it.’
Predictions – There are some people who will not believe in them at all – until they come true! And then, of course, it may be too late. A year ago, a scientific study attempted to predict the results of a category five hurricane hitting the city of New Orleans. It was an interesting bit of research, but many laughingly dismissed the possibility of such a doomsday catastrophe ever occurring. Not surprisingly, as Katrina approached the coastlines of Louisiana and Mississippi, many did not believe the prediction it was headed straight for New Orleans. A prediction which was based on scientifically monitored atmospheric calculations. Amongst the doubters were those who believe that because something hasn’t happened so far, it won’t happen ever.
Do you believe in predictions? Do you take them seriously? And what about prophecy? Do you take prophecy seriously? What is the difference between the two? Prediction is to foretell a future event or events. Prophecy is the prediction of the future under the influence of divine guidance. Our Lord prophesied some very serious predictions in this account from St. Luke’s Gospel. I wonder how seriously we take them?
‘And there will be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars…’ At the parish I served in Placentia many years ago, there was a delightful retired gentleman, by the name of Bill Schaeffer, who was very much interested in astronomy. Long before retirement Bill began to build his own telescopes. And in his retirement, he enjoyed studying the heavens nightly. Along with the youth group, I once had the privilege of looking through one of Bill’s telescopes at a portion of the heavens. We were utilizing the largest telescope Bill had ever built. Both the mirror and lens were the diameter of an automobile steering wheel. The view it gave one was breathtaking. As good as you might get this side of going up to the Griffith Park Observatory. Well, that was many years ago when Bill was then in his mid-eighties. I am confident that he is now viewing the stars and the heavens from a much better and closer perspective.
Our Lord seems to be telling those within earshot that when the End time comes, you won’t need the assistance of a telescope to observe what is coming our way. If you are still around at that time, what you will need is faith and hope and courage!
Observing the heavens! King David observed them and he recorded what he observed; ‘When I consider the heavens, even the work of thy fingers; the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou visitest him?’ In other words, contemplating the heavens and the God who made them made David further reflect on man’s purpose and destiny. He says of man, ‘thou madest him a little lower than the angels, to crown him with glory and worship. Thou makest him to have dominion over all the works of thy hands; and thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet…’ And he affirms, ‘O Lord our Governor, how excellent is thy Name in all the world!’ Others took in observing the heavens, have been moved to reflect and comment on man’s purpose, his mortality and destiny. Here in speaking of the heavens, Jesus is speaking with reference to man’s final destiny. And he says that its time is drawing near. And he speaks of watching for the signs of it.
He speaks not only of the heavens, but also of things to watch for that are coming on the earth. ‘Upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth…’ We have all watched our televisions and have recently seen what the power of the fierceness of the winds, the sea and the roaring waves can do. And too, other global events of recent have occurred which have been truly earth shaking in their scope.
Since the arrival of Hurricane Katrina along the Southern Coast last August, we’ve experienced two more major disastrous hurricanes, Rita and Wilma, a couple of tornadoes which wreaked havoc in parts of the Mid-West United States and a colossal earthquake which devastated a large portion of Afghanistan.
As 2005 draws to a close, we have seen destruction, devastation and death on a massive scale. One might well ponder, are these some of the signs of the approaching End time? Recently on a documentary on Hurricanes (and Katrina in particular) one atmospheric scientist predicted that we might be in store for a ten-year-long period of colossal hurricanes. Can you imagine what effects ten-years-worth of category five hurricanes would have on the coastline and landscape of the South East United States and the economy of this nation?
As terrible as the recent past catastrophes have been, these are not the final events. But could they be the beginning of those final events? If they are, ‘this generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.’
It is worth noting that an important part of the formula he predicted is conspicuously absent. That is to say: He has also promised that the final events will involve the sun, the moon and the stars! ‘The powers of the heavens shall be shaken,’ prophesies Jesus. In other words, there will be chaos of universal proportions! Indeed at that time it is to be expected that ‘men’s hearts will fail them for fear and for looking upon those things which are coming on the earth.’
But there is a bright spot. A colossal bright spot in the heavens. The Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory! For the unbeliever who has denied the existence of God, who has ignored the need of salvation, and has not believed the teachings of Christ, and who has discounted his promised Return, there can be only grief and fear at what is coming. Even some sincere Christians may have had reservations about the ‘final days,’ the ‘end time’ and even his ‘return.’ If these things are truly to come, their philosophy might be, ‘Not in my life-time, please!’ Insufficiently prepared, they do not want to risk discovering whether they are true!
But for the believer Jesus says, ‘When these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.’ To the believer, he says, Have no fear! ‘So likewise, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.’ Let there be joy and hope. Let your ‘alleluias’ resound with praise! For, the Son of Man is coming in power and great glory! All this clearly visible to the naked eye; no telescopes required! What a sight for believers to behold! Jesus coming in power and great glory! Small wonder the Early Church constantly prayed, ‘Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!’
The Christian Believer therefore should have no fear. He is prepared. For if one is prepared to meet the Lord there is nothing to fear. Which begs the question: Are you prepared to meet him, whether when he comes to us, or perhaps more likely, when we depart this life and go to meet him?
These are his words; these are his prophecies, his divine predictions! And the Church purposely reminds us of them during this special and holy season of Advent. It might behoove us then, as we scurry about making our Christmas preparations to include the preparation of our souls to receive him not only at the manger, but when he comes again at the End time with power and great glory! So look up, and lift up your heads. Our King and Savior draweth nigh; O come, let us adore him!