Summary: This sermon will address the attitude with which we “wait” and “watch”. It is with faith, confidence, readiness. It is not with fear, trembling, anxiety!
Why Christmas Is a Big Deal:
Faith, not Fear
Scripture Text: Luke 21.25-36
Since 9-11, I have-flown only two-times. Before 9-11, my wife and I loved-to-fly. It was almost-like-a-high: to check-the-bags and board-the-plane, …to feel the thrust of the plane as it rushed-down the runway, …to feel the pull-against-your-body as the plane lunged-upward into the thin-air, …and to-watch the clouds floating-peacefully beneath the wings of the plane.
Oh, I still enjoy the actual-experience of flying: …looking-down at the patchwork of greens-and-browns, …stained with silver lakes, …laced with ribbons of highways-and-rivers; …and I still-imagine stepping-out on the clouds, …and riding-them like a puffy, pillow-surfboard!
Something’s-changed to make the whole-experience of getting-on-a-plane a distasteful-thing!... Not the actual-flying ~ …But the process of arriving-at-the-airport, …and making your-way-through the obstacles-and checkpoints before you even-get-on the plane! It starts at the ticket-counter, with agents that seem-to-have-gotten-up on the wrong-side of the universe; …then, the threat-of-a forced-strip-tease before you can go-down-the-terminal ~ …take off yours shoes, …and your belt, …empty your pockets, …flip on your electronic devices to prove they are not a ticking-time-bomb ~ …and, don’t-forget: …don’t carry shampoo, …or an extra bottle-of-water ~ …’cause that’s reason-for-suspicion! The whole-thing makes my-stomach knot-up!... “Anxiety” is a good-word for it!
Of course, it’s all for the sake of “safety” ~ …’cause we live in a day-and-time of unimaginable evil; …but, it really makes me wonder whether it’s worth-it! If the stress-and-pressure that go-along-with getting on-a-plane, ..whether it’s worth flying!?! I’d just-as-soon stay-home, …or, better-yet, …take a road-trip, …instead-of risking an involuntary pat-down!
I even-read this-week about a new device they are testing. This new-instrument will measure stress-and-anxiety levels in-a-person. It works similar-to a lie-detector, …except that you don’t-have-to get “hooked-up”; …you just pass-through this magical-measurement ‘thing-a-hoo’, …and it measures skin-temperature …and involuntary muscle-twitches, …and rapid-eye-movement, …and heart-rate to determine whether you’re experiencing heightened-anxiety ~ …presumably to identify possible-terrorists.
I-guess somebody needs-to-tell-them, …Nearly-everyone who takes-off their belt-and-shoes in front of strangers, …Nearly-everyone who empties their pockets and worries-about being pulled-aside for a random “strip-search” ~ …We all have a “heightened-level” of stress-and-anxiety!... This new-machine is going to be chiming-and ringing faster-than the bell-ringer at a Salvation-Army kettle outside of Wal-Mart!
Anxiety-and-stress are responses to many situations-and-factors. Airport-security is just-one. Financial-instability, …job-insecurity, …marital-problems, …health-difficulties, …news-paper headlines ~ …these are all things that may lead to heightened-levels of stress-and-anxiety.
Many-of-us lived during the Cold War. Do you remember the routine-disaster-drills at school? ~ It was the same-drill for tornadoes and-for air-raid or missile-attacks ~ …we would file-out into the hallway, …face the lockers on the wall, …get-down on our knees, …and duck-our-heads as-low-as we could bend-over!
Somehow, I don’t-think that assuming-the-position would help, if a 2,000-pound nuclear-warhead fell within a 10-mile radius of the school ~ …because one-nuclear warhead is approximately 1.9-million-times as-powerful as the truck-bomb that Timothy McVay used in Oklahoma-City; …in-other-words, …those disaster-drills were useless-because, we would’ve-been “dust-i-fied”!…
Growing-up under the threat of nuclear-annihilation caused a general-level of anxiety that ran-throughout our society in-those-days. But, when the Soviet-Union began to fall-apart, …and the Berlin-Wall came crashing-down, …we in the United States took a collective-sigh-of-relief. “Maybe-now”, we thought, “we can live in peace-and-security! “Maybe now, with the fall of-our-enemy and the beginning of disarmament; “…maybe, now-that we don’t have-to-worry about missile-attacks, “…and who has their finger on the big-red-button; “…maybe, now-that we can convert our backyard-bomb-shelters into storm-cellars ~ “…Maybe-now we can enjoy a happy, stress-free life!”
But-then-came the Taliban and thugs-like Saddam Hussein; …and then-came-rumors of mass-exterminations in Rwanda and the melt-down of Yugoslavia; …and then-came hearts-so-full of hate, …that they turned a box-van and passenger-airplanes into portable-bombs that-sparked new-fears and renewed-anxiety throughout our nation, …and-then-came the incredible-greed of corporations and investment-executives, …and the selfishness-of-celebrities, …and the near-financial-collapse, …and almost-double-digit-unemployment, …and the housing- and credit-crises, …and rumors of new-viruses and deadly flu-bugs ~ …and all-of-it just-continues to ratchet-up our stress, anxiety, and fear!
And-although the terminology that Jesus uses in this passage may be a little “out-there” ~ …we get-it! We completely-understand the psychological-and-spiritual condition that Jesus is talking-about: …fear. …anxiety. …unsettled, uneasiness that arises in our hearts-and-minds when the world-around-us is so messed-up!
It’s-enough to make you wanna bury-your-head in the sand (like-an-ostrich). Or, sell all your possessions, and build a mountain-cabin (far-away-from-all-the-chaos). Or, turn to ‘drink’, to try and forget all your troubles!
But Jesus offers us another way to respond to the headlines, …and the confusion, …and the fear …and the chaos of our world: HOPE!
Hope that is based on Him ~ …not on government-intervention, …not on fate, …or good-luck, …or karma …and-not on your own-ability to turn-things-around. In the midst-of-all-this-craziness, …Jesus invites us to put our hope in Him.
I want us to take a quick-look at Jesus’ teaching, …but-first, …we-have-to put it in context.
I. Enthrallment with the World