December 2, 2020
Luke 21:25–36 (NIV)
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
The words of Jesus, though clear, were often filled with mystery—not so much when he said this:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Advent offers a marvelous opportunity for awakening to his words in a deeper way; indeed, to awaken to the whole counsel of the Word of God. How might we engage the Scriptures more intentionally in these days of Advent? Try reading each day’s Scripture text aloud, so you can hear it with your ears. Perhaps share readings around the family dinner table. Select particular texts to meditate and ruminate over. Choose a verse, like this one, to write on an index card and commit to memory:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
I am forever indebted to Mrs. Betty Jane, a woman of God from my hometown growing up. It never failed. Every time I visited the small Main Street furniture store, the aging widow asked me the question, “John David, what word are you standing on today?” It brings to mind the old standard hymn, “Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord, bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord, overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword, standing on the promises of God” (Russell Kelso Carter, “Standing on the Promises of Christ My King,” 1886. Public domain). Mrs. Betty Jane always knew the Word on which she stood. It’s where I first learned this word from the prophet Isaiah: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isa. 40:8 NIV). Over the years it’s become a well-grooved word in my soul. For on that day when he comes, the Word will be the only place left to stand. And what a spacious, beautiful place it will be.
Today’s text tells the truth of this prophecy of Isaiah, of withering grass and fading flowers. They point us to the end. The signs seem distressing and even fearful:
“People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
Should we be afraid? No, says the Lord, only prepared. It will not be a time of fainting in fear, but of standing in faith. Speaking of the end of all things broken and the beginning of all things new, Clive Staples Lewis, writing in the middle of the last century, put it ever so eloquently, if not electrifying:
When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else—something it never entered your head to conceive—comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever. We must take it or leave it. (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity [New York: HarperCollins, 2011], 65)
And so we begin again, in a brand new year, with clear vision and renewed hope, somewhere in the middle of the beginning of the end.
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. I confess the thought of your second coming both frightens and comforts me. Root out the fear from my life as so many weeds growing there, sucking up the water, the nutrients, and the energy from the soil of my heart. I want to sow the seeds of faith into the seedbed of my mind. Let this Advent become an extravagant sowing of faith. Come, Holy Spirit, and water those seeds. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who has come, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
Does the second coming of Jesus Christ scare you or stir you? How might you participate in the work of the Spirit to root out the weeds of fear and sow the seeds of faith? How will you engage the Word of God in fresh ways in this new year?
For the Awakening,
For me the words of Jesus that most jump out at me are these: “ Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.” This makes me wonder how much of His prophetic words have already been fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. I firmly believe “From there, He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” There surely seems to be enough evil in the world and the love of many becoming cold, to herald His second coming. The words of Jesus that I tend to ruminate on are these : “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:13). This theme is expressed in the hymn: Wake, awake, for night is flying, based on the parable of the Ten Virgins. My part in this season of Advent is to share the urgency of being prepared.
My reaction to these words of Christ stir me to prepare and warn others to prepare as well. Jesus also said in (Matthew 24:10-13): “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” In my opinion, this accurately describes the times we live in. “Wake, awake, for night is flying “.
I heard the Lord cry out to the half- hearted, those who say they are, but their heart are caught up in the pleasures of this world. When all around is sinking sand, I take pleasure in knowing this is not my home. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Kingdom will remain. For he has promised to prepare a place for me and in this I receive comfort.