If You Are Caught Up in the Things of this World You Will Be Caught Off Guard
Second Sunday in Advent
December 10, 2017
You are the Baptized people of God. You are no longer in your sins. You are not under condemnation. You are forgiven. Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. You do not need to fear evil. You are Baptized. You are the people of God.
Out there, in the world, it’s a different story. There is a mixture of fear, apathy, anxiety, carefreeness, confusion. Out there people have questions or they are very certain of their unbelief. In the world there is denial and there hypocrisy. Out in the world there is no Baptism, no grace, no forgiveness. There is only sin, evil, and condemnation.
What you have is the Word of God. Think about this for a moment: Jesus says in the Gospel reading that heaven and earth will pass away but My word will never pass away! Heaven and earth! Everything you see, everything you depend on, it will all be gone at some point. You will not be able to hold on to it. But the Word of the Lord remains forever.
This is what you have. You have the Word of God. Out in the world there is scoffing at the Word. Fairy tales. A crutch for weak-minded people. Comforting stories for those who don’t rely on reason and logic and science. The Word of God is ancient writings by patriarchal, superstitious, and unenlightened people. We as a human race have evolved beyond such tribal and ancient thinking.
That is the world. The world does not have the Word of God, it rejects the Word of God. You cling to it. You hold fast to your Lord when He tells you you are His, that He will never leave you or forsake you. And you believe it when He tells you that all that is going on in the world is no accident. All the disorderliness, all the disasters, all the things falling apart—they are signs. They are pointing to something, and it is a big something.
The world looks at these things and sees in them signs. But they point to a God who is either not powerful enough to prevent these tragic events or a God who simply is not loving as we Christians claim He is. So the world looks at these signs and they do not see them for what they are, signs pointing to the End, as things to move them to repentance. Instead, they fear, they despair, they give up hope. For some, they mock or simply live and let live.
But when they End comes, Jesus says, they will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with great power and glory. They look at the signs and harden their hearts to them. But when the Son of Man comes they will not mistake it. It will be no sign. It won’t point to anything. It will be It. He will come to judge the living and the dead.
You see the same signs. But you hold fast to the Word of God. Jesus says that when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near. What brings fear and confusion to the world brings to you cause for standing up and facing what comes in peace and confidence. Lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.
The reason you are here is because the Holy Spirit has drawn you here. The world out there is full of sinners, people who reject the one truth that matters, salvation is in Christ alone. But in here, recognize that it is one thing that separates you from the world. It is grace. You are a sinner every bit as much as they are. You were born in sin as they were. But you have been born anew in Baptism. That is the difference. It is grace. It is not that you are better than they are or more worthy or less sinful. You are Baptized, you are saved by grace, you hold fast to your Lord and His word.
At this point you might expect Jesus to say, So, see? Everything is fine. Carry on. But what He says is, Take care. Watch out. Be on guard. If you get caught up in the things of this world you will be caught off guard. The world is not ready. They will be caught off guard. You have taken heed to Jesus’ warning. So stay true to it. Repent of your sins, otherwise you will become weighed down in dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life. You will end up like those who don’t heed the signs and repent. You will be caught off guard when the Son of Man comes in His glory and that day will come upon you suddenly like a trap.
Jesus says it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth. No one will be exempt. So you need to be ready. The word Jesus uses for dwelling on the earth is to sit. All those who sit, in the sense of being situated, dwelling, living. Perhaps He uses that word to sit as a nice contrast with what He is exhorting for you, that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man on that day. He says, Be ready, pray that you may prevail in every time, no matter what is happening, when these things are about to take place and to stand before the Son of Man.
This is why Jesus gives you the things He does in your life. God has given you many good things in your life. As we are taught in the Small Catechism concerning the First Article of the Creed, God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. The things God has given you are good things and they are for your benefit.
It’s when you become consumed with them that you lose sight of the grace of them. Everything you have is a gift. Everything you own is given to you by God purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in you, as we also learn in the Catechism. Whereas the world sees what they have as what they have earned or what they are entitled to, you see it as what God has graciously given to you. When you get caught up in these things you lose sight of the gracious giver. You lose sight of His supreme gift of His own Son.
Nothing you own compares to God becoming a man and offering His life on the cross in your place for you to gain eternal life and all the glory of heaven. This is why He gives you gifts in this life not only for your temporal and physical benefit but also your spiritual and eternal benefit. He blesses you in body and soul. He gives you new life in Baptism. He forgives your sin. Not just once, often. He knows your struggle and weakness. He knows you fall into temptation. He knows you give in to your sinful nature. That is why He forgives you. He proclaims it from the pulpit, He delivers it in His sacred meal.
When you are caught up in these things you won’t be caught off guard when He comes in great power and glory on the Last Day. Until then, His great forgiveness and peace and strength He gives in humble means: living in your Baptism, daily repenting of your sins and rejoicing in new life, hearing the Word of God proclaimed, receiving His body and blood. Unlike the world, you can look forward to that final Day. You will stand before the Son of Man and He will say, welcome into the Kingdom of My Father. Amen.