Summary: "Heads Up!" 1) Advent warning 2) Advent rejoicing
“Heads up!” (Toss nerf ball to someone in the congregation.) It’s a good thing NAME took my warning seriously otherwise the ball would have bounced off his bean. Balls flying into crowds are not uncommon at baseball games. At the stadium I frequented as a boy in Japan, the ushers blew a whistle whenever a ball was coming towards them. That shriek was a warning: “Incoming baseball. Heads up!” At the same time that whistle blast was a cause of genuine excitement for fans like me. “A ball is coming my way. Maybe I’ll catch it and get to take it home!”
I’m sure you’re glad that I’m not in the habit of throwing baseballs at you while I preach - though it would keep you on your toes. Thankfully Jesus himself works hard to keep believers on their toes and ready for his return. In our text today we’ll see how Jesus calls out: “Heads up!” - a cry that is both Advent warning and Advent rejoicing.
Jesus spoke the words of our text just days before his crucifixion. The disciples had been gushing about how wonderful the temple building was so Jesus told them that one day not one of those stones would be left standing on top of each other. Stunned, the disciples wanted to know when this would happen. After speaking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus told his disciples about the coming end of the world. He said: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Luke 21:25, 26).
Just as God wants us to recall his promise never to send a world-wide flood again whenever we see a rainbow, so whenever we observe or experience a natural disaster like the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northern coast of Japan in 2011, God wants us to recall that Jesus is coming to judge the world. These natural disasters will only increase in number and power as the end draws closer. They will be so bad that people will faint, even die from fear – especially when the sun stops shining and the stars fall from the sky (Matthew 24:29). When such disasters happen it’s a warning from God: “Heads up! My Son is coming back to judge the world. Are you ready?”
Oh, I’m sure you feel ready. You’re here in church right? You know that this world will not last forever. You know that Jesus is coming back. The disciples too knew those things and yet Jesus saw fit to further warn them and us: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with [carousing], drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap…36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:33, 36).
Everyone knows that you shouldn’t text while driving or even while walking. So why do so many people do those things? It’s because they think that they can safely multitask even though others can’t and shouldn’t. Are we spiritually like these people? Do we think we can keep one eye on the look out for Jesus while pouring our time and energy into making the starting line-up, earning a bonus, or watching the latest hits on YouTube? This desire to become popular and to remain relevant to our friends can lead to the more obvious sins that Jesus speaks about in our text: carousing and drunkenness.
Then again you might not be a partier, but are you a worrier? Jesus also warns against this sin of letting our hearts be weighed down by the anxieties of this life. It’s good for you to watch what you spend and watch what you eat but if you watch these things more closely than you watch for Jesus’ return, his appearance on Judgment Day will snap down on you like a metal trap breaking the spine of a mouse that was most concerned about filling its belly with cheese.
How do we guard against becoming distracted? Be always on the watch Jesus said, and pray. If you’re not in the habit of praying through the Lord’s Prayer daily, start doing so. When you get to the petition: “your kingdom come,” pause and add: “Today, Lord? Are you coming back today?” Then think about all you have planned for the day and ask yourself, “If Jesus was to return at 10 am, would I eagerly welcome him or would I be embarrassed by what I have planned then? And what if he came at 10 pm?”