Luke 21:25-36 (Common English Bible)
25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, there will be dismay among nations in their confusion over the roaring of the sea and surging waves. 26 The planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken, causing people to faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world. 27 Then they will see the Human One coming on a cloud with power and great splendor. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is near.”
A lesson from the fig tree
29 Jesus told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that God’s kingdom is near. 32 I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until everything has happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.
34 “Take care that your hearts aren’t dulled by drinking parties, drunkenness, and the anxieties of day-to-day life. Don’t let that day fall upon you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. It will come upon everyone who lives on the face of the whole earth. 36 Stay alert at all times, praying that you are strong enough to escape everything that is about to happen and to stand before the Human One.”
Thoughts on the passage:
“Having a child changes everything.” Once Marianne and I announced we were pregnant with our first child I heard this same thing over and over again. Let me tell you, it got old. It is also true, having a child changes everything. It is true in our own lives and it is true when it comes to the birth of the Son of God. Mary having a child changes everything for everyone, everywhere. For the next four weeks we are looking at how we can get ready for such a life changing event.
Having a baby means you need to spend a lot of work getting your house ready. In this day and age that means putting covers over outlets, it means putting up gates near the stairs, it means assembling a crib, and so many other little projects to make your home safe. If you are more ambitious it can also mean decorating the nursery, converting that second bathroom from a formal look to a child friendly look, and maybe rethinking some of the items you have out in public areas that are not baby-friendly. A lot of work goes into getting your home ready for a new child.
When I was looking at colleges, I remembering get a booklet from Emory University in Atlanta. All I knew about the school was that it was funded by money from Coco-Cola and that it was a school with United Methodist roots. On the surface it sounded interesting. The problem was that it was in Atlanta. For a good Minnesotan like me, I could not imagine getting ready for Christmas in the south. For it to be Christmas it needs to be cold and there needs to be snow. The environment is part of Christmas to me.
While we do not have any control over what the weather is like, most of us do different things to get our homes ready for Christmas. For Marianne and I, that means getting out the Christmas tree right away and putting the lights up, because we both really enjoy that. Growing up one of the things we would do is to take down some pieces of art to put up various Christmas themed pictures instead. Off and on, both as a child and an adult we have tried to decorate the banisters. No matter what the objects are, the goal is the same, helping get us in the mood for Christmas.
It could be easy as a pastor to attack all the gaudy excesses of Christmas. We eat more than we need. We buy things we don’t really need. All of it can seem so foreign compared with the story of a simple family, far from home, giving birth to the Son of God in a stable of all places. What does any of this have to do with Christmas?
If you start to look you can find deeper meanings to many of the symbols of Christmas. Wreathes are a symbol of eternity. Candles and Christmas lights are reminders that Christ is the Light of the world. The use of the evergreen tree is a reminder of the eternal life promised by Jesus. Even if these things did not have a deeper meaning, the fact is simple, they make us think of Christmas. The physical decorations we surround ourselves with help us get in the mindset of Christmas.
The scripture today reminds us of how the world around us can tell us what is happening. Plants and animals are reminders of the season we are in. When we decorate our homes for Christmas we are hanging up similar signs. We are getting ready for the birth of Christ. We all have special things we do to get our homes ready for the season. Whatever we do, let us make sure it is helping us get ready for the child that will be born to us, Jesus, the Son of God and the Prince of Peace, the child who changes everything.
Questions to Ponder:
What is your favorite tradition that gets you ready for Christmas?
When is a time Christmas came and you were just not in the right mood for it?
When you think about the birth of Christ, what are you hoping for this year?
Prayer: God, every year we talk about getting ready for your birth. Every year we try and prepare our homes, hearts, minds and lives for you. Be with us in this season of Advent as we prepare again for your birth. Help us to prepare ourselves that we can be ready to be faithful followers of you. AMEN