The New Year is fast approaching. Colors will change, special music will be played, and we’ll all join together to usher in the New Year. No, I’m not talking about December 31 and January 1. I’m talking about the Church’s New Year. The Church Year is coming to a close and Advent is fast approaching. In just a few weeks, the New Church Year will begin. Our churches will bring out the blue or purple paraments, stoles, and chasubles. This marks the time of Advent visually for us. Our organists will play Advent hymns like “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” or “Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People.” We’ll get ready. We’ll get ready for the Babe of Bethlehem, of course, but Advent is also a time to get ready for the Second Coming of the Savior of the Nations. So as we wind down this church year and pass into the next, we reflect on the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior. These last few weeks before Advent begins, the lectionary focuses on “End Times” texts like this one from Luke:
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. 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. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:25-28 ESV).
These texts have a lot in them that seem frightening and foreboding, to use a word from the text itself. Signs in the sun and the moon and the stars. Roaring of sea and waves. People fainting from fear. The heavens shaking. But Christ calls us not to fear, but to expectant hope: “when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (28). How can we possibly do that as the seas roar, the wars rage on, the earth groans in longing, loved ones die, typhoons ravage more than 10,000 lives? How can we straighten up our heads instead of running for cover to wait out the storms of life?
We can’t. Not in our own power, not in and of ourselves. When we see these things, our instinct will be to hunker down and duck our heads and run for cover. But Jesus faced the terrors of the sea and the shaking of the earth and heavens. He stood and proclaimed that the sea be calm and it was. He was lifted up upon the cross after being brutally whipped and mocked. A crown of thorns punctured his head. But he did not duck and run. He did not come down from the cross. He did not merely hunker down. He spoke words of forgiveness and life from the cross as he hung there to die. He went into the grave clinging only to the promises of God that his body would not see decay although all around him seemed chaos, darkness, and despair. Then the earth shook and Jesus burst forth from the tomb. He did all this so that we, too, may cling to the promise and lift up our heads to look and to see that our redemption is drawing nigh. So that we may have hope. The words of St. Paul:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:18-25, ESV).
And so we hope. We hope in the Babe of Bethlehem who came to die and rise for our sins. We hope in the Risen Lord who comes to us now in his Body and Blood, who daily intercedes for and attends to us. We hope in the Savior who is to come in great power and glory to give us the resurrection of our bodies, to redeem this creation that groans and storms and sighs, and to take us to himself. We wait. We hope. And he will fulfill our hope in him.
Let us pray with St. Paul: Heavenly Father, you are “the God of all hope,” please ” fill [us] with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit [we] may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13); through your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, you in whom we hope, abide with those in the Philippines who have been devastated by the recent typhoon, provide the funds, food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and other needs to help in the recovery. Please put a special measure of your protection on the team from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod who is traveling there in order to assess what is needed and how we as a church can assist those who have been devastated. Grant that through them and through the church the people of the Philippines would be provided for both physically and spiritually in the days, months, and years ahead. Amen.
- Give Now to the relief efforts being organized by the disaster response department of the LCMS.
- Learn more about the $150,000 the LCMS has already pledged (they will donate more as the funds are raised).
- Did you miss last week’s devotion? You can read it here.
- Please pray for the five person team from the LCMS, currently scheduled to leave for the Philippines on Friday. At this time, this team includes Communications and Project Manager of the Eurasia Region, Rick Steenbock. Please keep Rick in your prayers as he travels and helps to serve the people there.