Isaiah 60:1-7, Acts 1:1-11
December 9, 2018
I wanted to use, as my title today, “The Once and Future King!” That comes from one of the stories of King Arthur. But I already used that title a number of years ago. It was on “Christ the King Sunday.” So, I couldn’t use the same thing. (Ah, who would have known? Right?)
But that is what we’re talking about today. As we said a few weeks ago – on “Christ the King Sunday” – Jesus will reign as King on earth at the end of all time. One day, “The kingdom of this world shall become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. And he shall reign for ever and ever!” (Thank you, George Frederic!)
So we await that time. And this is then the second of our traditional “theme’s” for the Advent Season – the Second Advent of Christ. Of course, how that will look, and when it will be, is up for debate. And it has been up for debate, ever since Jesus departed this earth in the scripture we read today from Acts. It was his Ascension. And when it happened, the angels said to the disciples, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way you saw him go.”
And so, we are now in the time of the Second Advent of Christ! We are in another time of “waiting,” another time of “anticipation.” And we’ve talked about that “anticipation.” It’s part of the Advent Season. That anticipation grows as Christmas draws closer. We may find within us some of that excitement we had when we were kids. Do you remember? It seemed like Christmas was never going to get here! It’s a little different now, though. Instead of Christmas seeming like it will never get here, now it seems like it comes way too soon!
So that’s what I’m asking today. Do we have that same feeling about the Second Advent that we have about the First? Do we even feel like we are in “the end times.” As you may know there are some people who like to talk about that a lot! And there’s nothing wrong with that. Back in the ‘7-s I read “The Late Great Planet Earth.” Did any of you? There was a time when I thought a lot about Hal Lindsay’s prediction of when Jesus’ would return. It was to be in 1998, I believe.
The problem in thinking about all that is that nobody really knows. Hal Lindsay was wrong! (Sorry, Hal!) And so were a lot of other people over the centuries. I sometimes wonder about those who wear white robes and go to the mountaintop to await the end. What do they do when they’re coming back down the mountain? Do they still wear the robes, or do they roll them up and tuck them under their arms!
Nobody really knows when that time will be. In fact, I would remind you that we’re told – by Jesus himself! – that the end of all time is something which the Father alone knows, not even the Son, not even himself! (Which is an interesting statement, if you think about it!)
So I have to admit, that I have a little “something” about those who preach about then end times exclusively. And you know they do! They take the cryptic references in Revelation and try to figure out who is Gog and who is Magog and who the Antichrist may be. And again, that’s all fine. There are worse things to think about. But, I think such people just might be missing out on some other important things – maybe a lot of important things! There’s a lot of things to do as a church in order to be “The Light of the World” as Jesus called us to be.
In the early days of the Church there were those who focused on this too much. And remember, in those days, they didn’t have the book of Revelation to read. They didn’t even have the New Testament! But they believed the return of Jesus was imminent! And so they did nothing! They ceased to be productive members of society or the church.
I don’t believe that’s what God wants for us. In fact, I think Jesus would say, as he told his disciples at the Temple when they asked, “Don’t think about this too much.” (and certainly not to the exclusion of all else!) “The time will come, but you aren’t to know when. In the meantime, you are to continue my ministry!” “You are to do my work here on earth, knowing that, yes, some day I will return!”
Now, having said that, I also think he would tell us, “Don’t not think of it at all! (Sorry about the double negative!) Jesus did tell his disciples to recognize the signs of his coming. He said, “You recognize the signs of the Seasons changing. So recognize the signs of the “latter days.”
I was talking to someone just the other day, right after the big earthquake in Alaska. (With my brother-in-law being up there, it’s been a little bit more relevant to us!) I mentioned that such things are to increase in the latter days. In fact, Jesus describes those things in the end times, comparing them to the birth pains of a woman in labor! They would happen more and more frequently (You can read Jesus’ words about a lot of this in Matthew chapter 24)
I say this, because the other side of this coin is that, though there are those who think about this too much, there are also those who never think about it. Even when they say “Thy kingdom come” – and they mean it, (which is not easy!) what they really mean is, “Thy kingdom come… but not yet, Lord!”
I have to tell you that we “Presby’s” tend to be in that category. We tend to not think about the Second Advent. And we tend to have a funny look on our faces when we experience those who we think “talk about the Second Coming a bit too much.” We tend to be people who are very comfortable in this life, and we’re not ready to give it up too soon!
So what’s the message here? I think the message is that we need to strike a balance. And this Season of Advent is a good time to do just that. Jesus would tell us, as he told his disciples, to live our lives as though the Second Advent were today! And yes, I did just use the subjunctive mood, denoting unlikelihood! But… maybe it isn’t so unlikely! But likely or unlikely, be God’ people! Keep the faith! Be engaged with the world. In fact, be the light of the world!
And as you “anticipate” the coming of Christmas this year, think about the world’s anticipation of that First Advent. Think about your own anticipation. And use this time of Advent to get your thoughts in the “mode” of thinking about and anticipating the Second Advent!
Eternal God, you once humbled yourself and became one like us. Help us to realize better your great love, to know your infinite mercy, and to see better your kingdom, as it exists in our midst, and as it looms on the horizon. Hear this, our prayer of praise and adoration, for we pray in our Savior’s name, Amen.