If you ever find yourself in a group of preachers, and you’re not sure want to talk about, you can always ask, “what are you preaching on this Sunday?” You see Sunday comes every week so a preacher either knows what she is preaching about or he is wondering why he hasn’t yet decided on a topic. I was in a meeting with the preachers this week. They answered the question by decidedly saying they were not preaching on Luke chapter 21 versus 25 and following. The basic reasoning for steering away from Luke’s gospel reading this morning went something like we’ve been living every day in an apocalypse for the last two or so years we don’t need more of that on Sunday morning. Especially on the first Sunday of advent.
I listened attentively to their reasoning, but I still felt that there were a couple of words in our text today and we needed to hear, words that would serve us well as we seek to navigate these troubling times. Preacher friends did make a good point. The times in which we live seem extraordinary on a historic level. Green dark text this morning is apocalyptic in nature. just a little apocalypse. Not a full blown book like Daniel or the Book of Revelation, but enough. enough to frighten us a little. Enough to make us wonder what will become of us.
I thought for a little while about putting current headlines on strips of paper, putting them all into a basket let you draw them out one at a time. In that way we could catalog the forces that would have us faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming up on the world and make clear to ourselves what it is that is shaking the powers of heaven. The disjointed, randomness of our justice system, the acres upon acres of rainforest it seemed to be disappearing at speed of light, workers who were considered radical and revolutionary simply because they desire a wage on which they can live, and now news of a new variant it may be worse and all the ones that have gone before. Signs of the time indeed.
no, these are the times in which we live. Whether we realize it or not they are text for this morning. Our lesson for the day. They provide the context through which and in which we hear God speaking.
Two phrases, both of them found in verse 28. Stand up and raise your head. Your redemption is drawing near
second phrase first, redemption is the question that does not get asked in our text this morning. Rather redemption is assumed to be the good thing that we are waiting for
. If so, what is it? What does it mean? It is big, large, cosmic. Bigger than most Christian thinkers have thought of it over the last 2000 years. For the most part Christian theologians have left the door open for a far too individualized, far too self centered faith. This is allowed for the Christ event to be understood as primarily a personal affair easily compartmentalized and kept separate from day to day duties at the office or easily augmented to allow for actions and attitudes that Christ himself would never sanction. At its best, this emphasis on Christian individualism as left too many with a faith that matters most when life on this earth has ended and the arrangements one has made for eternity finally become top priority. At its worst, this emphasis on Christian individualism leaves some with the notion that because they claim to be Christian that they can off down of acting on behalf of the common good by refusing to get vaccinated.
Yet, the redemption drawing near on for one of us, it is for all of us. But not just for us but for the whole of creation.
At the same time, this redemption is as small and as easily unnoticed it is large and cosmic. That visit to see a dying friend, Redemption drawing near. Making sure that things are in order at the church is the advent season begins, redemption drawing near. Checking to see if there’s food in the little food pantry out by the fellowship hall door, redemption join near. That act of kindness, that demonstration of mercy, that expression of love, redemption drawing near.
Stand up and raise your heads Is the other phrase that we need to hear in our text this morning. It is a good word for us for several reasons. Not the least of which is that it gives us something to do. How many times have you been with a friend who is experiencing some kind of challenge or trial. You wanted to help you wanted to do something, but there just didn’t seem to be much that you could do to help. You are already listening and praying, but that didn’t seem like enough. You wanted to do something more.
Jesus’ admonition to stand up and raise our heads gives us something to do. We’re not powerless. We’re not helpless. We have options. We have a choice.
The second truth that Jesus’ command to stand up and raise our heads communicates to us is that we are part of this thing that God is doing. This is not something that takes place in a sidebar. This is not something that’s going on on some other realm is away from us but we can’t touch or taste or experience. This is happening here and now and we are part of it.
This is so because God has made us God’s sons and daughters. We are children of God. We have a stake in the redemption of the whole of creation. We have a stake in our redemption. She’s not someone elses to do. This is ours, what’s the gift we receive and the legacy we leave.
Stand up and raise your heads, even though the world tells us to keep our heads down and ignore the injustice then others endure.
stand up and raise your heads, see a way where there is no way.
Stand up and raise your heads, offer mercy where the world offers only cruelty.
Stand up and raise your heads, give love when the world spews hate.
stand up and raise your heads, hold on the hope when all else seems to be drowning in despair.
Stand up and raise your heads, see redemption drawing near you children of God. Step toward it, reach for it embrace it, let it embrace you.
listen to the voices everyone else ignores. notice the lives of others, especially those whose lives are different from yours. Nurture, in your heart and in your head and your soul an openness to how and to when you will take your part in drawing this redemption nearer to God’s creation. It begins with standing up and raising your hands.
In each of our lives, there is plenty about which to be concerned. To be stressed, to be weighed down can mean all of our attention and energy is focused on the situation that is weighing us down. These kinds of things have a way of consuming us our creativity our imagination, our strength both physical and mental and spiritual. Our lives begin to orbit around the axis of whatever challenge it is we’re facing. We can see or think of little else. This phrase, stand up and raise your head, Gives us a chance to see the ways, big and small, then I’ll redemption is drawing near. It gives us a chance to see the ways, big and small, that we can join in.
Advent 1934, Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached these words: “But we are only making excuses with that kind of talk. If we really wanted to, if it were not an evasion, we would finally begin to pray that this Advent would make a stop in our hearts. Let us make no mistake about it. Redemption is drawing near. Only the question is: Will we let it come to us as well or will we resist it? Will we let ourselves be pulled into this movement coming down from heaven to earth or will we refuse to have anything to do with it?”
At that first Christmas, God was with us, Immanuel, a baby lying in a manger. As vulnerable and as helpless as any human being could be. What an absurd way for God to come into the world much less to redeem the world. Yet, Jesus was born.
The redemption that is drawing near likely will not look like we think it ought to look. When we stand up and raise our heads, do not be surprised if there is no knight in shining armor riding to our rescue. Remember, God, in Christ, chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; what is weak in the world to shame the strong; what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.
Stand up, raise your heads, your redemption is drawing near if you have eyes to see and ears to hear.