Summary: The good news of Christmas is that God comes into our world. He breaks into our history as a child, the Spirit, and King of kings.
Luke 21:25-36 “He Comes”
A frequent occurrence when I was going to school was the fire drill. The alarm would blare. We would line up two by two, and our teacher would lead us out of the building to a predetermined place. We’d wait for everyone to get out of the building and then we’d learn if we had done it fast enough to survive a real emergency. The administration and teachers didn’t believe that a fire would ever occur, but they wanted everyone to know what to do if a fire did break out in the building. The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” was in effect.
In a sense, Jesus is preparing his disciples (and us), like teachers do their student in a fire drill, for his return. He doesn’t want his disciples to be surprised. He wants them to be able to act calmly and intentionally when the world begins to fall apart around them.
Luke repeats the story that we heard two Sundays ago, only from the gospel of Mark. Jesus tells his disciples that there will be signs in the sun, moon, stars, and on earth. People will be overwhelmed with fear and foreboding.
The disciples do not need to fear. Things are under control. Jesus has told them what will happen so that they know that these events haven’t caught God unawares. Quite the opposite. These events are part of God’s plan. The world is moving to a conclusion when the Son of Man will return and establish his kingdom.
The disciples do not need to fear, because Jesus is with them in the person of the Holy Spirit. They are not alone. God will take care of them.
When people are fearful, Christians can shine brightly for their Lord by our calmness, peace, faith and hope. In the midst of upheaval the life of a Christian will be qualitatively different from those who are not followers of Jesus Christ.
THE FIG TREE
Christians live within a paradox. Jesus tells his disciples that no one will know when the Son of Man will return. Then moments later he tells his disciples that they should keep watch. Jesus points out a fig tree. When it begins to sprout leaves the time of the coming of the Son of Man will be near. The fig tree was the last plant to sprout leaves and thus truly proclaim that summer was near.
Christians are to be aware of what is going on around them. Their heads can’t be in heaven and focused on heavenly things so that they are not knowledgeable of current events. But knowledge of events is not necessarily enough. Christians are also challenged to see these events through the eyes of faith and understand them according to what Jesus has spoken.
At the same time, Christians are not called to dwell on the coming of Jesus. We are not to speculate on when he will come—take office pools, or place bets. We live each day in the knowledge that the day might be our last. We live, laugh and love. We fully enjoy the gift that each day provides.
Christians are able to do this because of what Jesus has done on the cross. He has forgiven us and freed us. He has empowered us for mission and his has assured us of his constant presence.
Jesus tells his disciples that they are to be watchful. Like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, they are to be prepared. Jesus then gives them specific ways that they can be prepared.
• They are not to waste their time in dissipation—an extravagant “eat, drink and be merry” lifestyle. Such a lifestyle is selfish, and self-centered. It is not what disciples of Jesus Christ are call to.
• They are not to get drunk. Usually we drink to escape and escape is not a part of the calling of a Christian. We are called to be engaged—incarnate—like Jesus was engaged in our world and our lives.
• They are not to be weighed down with worry. Because of God’s promise to care for us, we do not need to worry. Because God embraces us and cares for us, we do not need to be anxious.
These traps keep us from watching and being prepared. Our eyes are turned toward ourselves rather than toward God.
Instead of drunkenness and anxiety, we are invited to be in prayer. In prayer we receive strength to face life. In prayer God assures us of his love. In prayer we can experience the peace that is beyond understanding.
Like children who have gong through several fire drills we are prepared. We may never have to practice what we were taught in those drills. But, if a fire does break out, we will know what to do.
Christ may not return in our lifetime. But if he does, we will know what to do and will be able to welcome him with open arms and hearts.