Posted on December 8th, 2013
Advent II ☩ Populus Zion
The Lord Jesus has an Advent message for you today: “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”
“That Day” is the day of judgment. The world says such an idea is folly – superstition, or a manipulative tool by patriarchal oppressors. Yet they too believe in a day of judgment, for are they not constantly warning about great catastrophes? We must act now, they say, to stop global warming, or overpopulation, or the spread of AIDS. Melting ice caps and holes in the ozone are symbols of a feared day of judgment which will bring dread and sorrow upon the whole earth.
But there is something greater—far greater!—to be feared than earthly calamities. Better to fear the LORD, who made heaven and earth. There is no way to manage or control His judgment. “The day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze” (Mal. 4).
Today’s Gospel reading gives us the signs when this will take place: Disturbances in the sky; “and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear.” Pay attention! All of this has already happened, and is happening now. The point of these signs is not to enable us to calculate a date, but for us to know that His coming draws ever nearer. Truly—truly!—it could be this very day.
All the signs are present. Typhoons and tornadoes, earthquakes and fires afflict our world often. Nations are in uproar. God’s Word also tells us that there will be a great apostasy before the end, and the love of many will grow cold. Is not division among Christians worse than ever, with the love of the baptized growing more cold? False doctrine concerning God’s free salvation in Christ, the forgiveness of sins is rampant. Large swaths of churches openly deny our Lord’s clear teaching concerning Baptism and the Supper. From ministry to marriage, God’s Word is clearly rejected by more and more churches each day. C.F.W. Walther, a great 19th-century pastor, said, “There can be no doubt: All of the signs that precede the coming of the Last Day appeared long ago.”
But who takes God’s coming judgment seriously? “As at the time of Sodom and Gomorrah, sinners regard themselves as secure and carefree. They seek money, bigger houses, and other worldly pleasures. They dismiss as laughable those who witness to the truth of God’s anger and punishment.” (Walther)
Wake up! How much time do you have left? What are you living for?
“The world is drowned in blindness and abuses all the good things and God’s gifts only for its own pride, greed, lust, and luxury.” (Luther, Large Catechism)
At least to some extent, you are also drowned in this blindness. That is revealed by how you abuse the good things God gives you. You use them for your own pride, your own greed, your own lust, your own luxury.
And yet the deeper into such a life you go, the more cares you have. “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with … cares of this life.”
The cares of life have troubled man’s heart since he was condemned to hard labor under the sun. Rent and mortgage, insurance and tuition, prescriptions and payments of every type all lead to cares. Items come on to the to-do list faster than they go off, and we are bombarded by phone calls and emails and text messages, little electronic jolts that make us frayed, frazzled, and frenetic. We long for a life free from cares.
But you will never be completely free from cares in this life. “There are three things that are never satisfied, Four never say, “Enough!”: The grave, The barren womb, The earth that is not satisfied with water— And the fire never says, “Enough!”” (Proverbs 30:15–16 NKJV)
When Jesus says, “Take heed to yourselves,” He calls us to put all of our anxieties in the light of the hope of His Advent, the hope of His coming.
Is it possible to not care about the cares of this life? No. Some of your worries are foolish. Others are quite significant. The Lord doesn’t tell you not to care. Holy Scripture is very clear in how we are to deal with our cares:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NKJV)
Anxiety should drive you to prayer. And in this prayer, which is coupled “with thanksgiving,” you become increasingly detached from the problem. There is great liberty in knowing that God is handling the cause of your anxiety.
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7 NKJV)
God is not a genie who grants whatever you wish. And be glad! For our desires would ruin us. Cast your cares upon Him, knowing that He will do for you what is best, at the right time. For God’s time is always the very best time.
It is natural, in a fallen world, to have anxiety about food and drink, house and home, clothing and shoes. For we are sentenced to hard labor: “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread.” God’s Word exhorts us to work, and work hard. “If a man will not work, neither shall he eat.”
But you cannot secure your life by your work, or your fretting. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Not only does your life not come from yourself, but God, the more you worry about the cares of this life, the more those cares will weigh you down and make you a victim of the world-system, the worldly way of thinking which is excessive either in hedonistic pleasure or anxiety-ridden frenzy.
But you are a disciple of Jesus. You see the world differently. Everything is passing away. Only the Word of Jesus endures. Only the kingdom which is to come, the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells, matters.
The moment of judgment is very near. You must be ready. Repent. Spend the remainder of your days in prayer and meditation upon the Scriptures. Meditate on God’s Word every day. Work hard and honestly. Love your wife, care for your children every day to the best of your ability. Do not let the world’s cares become your cares. Your Lord has already overcome every worry and anxiety that you have. In Jesus your sin is forgiven, your death is dead, your life is secure.
This world is coming to an end. There will be a judgment. The Son of Man, our Lord JESUS Christ, is coming with power and great glory. Everything you trusted in here is going to be burned up in the fire. But as you see all things collapsing even now: Do. Not. Worry. “Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” That word “redemption” tells you everything: He redeems sinners, rescuing them, pardoning them, and saying, “Go, and sin no more.”