November 29, 2015 • The First Sunday in Advent • Audio
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36
Not many of you may remember the old song, “Signs,” by The Five-man Electrical Band. The lyrics begin, “And the sign said, ‘Long-haired freaky people need not apply,’ so I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why.” The refrain goes, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind, do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” The closing verse sings, “So, I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign. I said, ‘Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ‘bout me, I’m alive and doin’ fine.”
Signs are important. Our thanks to RJ Efird for installing a sign at our parking lot entrance that asks Loflin Elementary School faculty, staff, and parents to only park on the far side of the lot, so that we have some spaces too. The sign at the corner announces to passersby that this is where the Lutheran Church in Asheboro meets to worship the Lord and sing words that mean about the same thing as, “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ‘bout me, I’m alive and doin’ fine.”
In our Old Testament lesson, Jeremiah announces that the days are coming when God will fulfill his promise to execute righteousness and justice through the Savior. Many people were prone to ask, in Jeremiah’s time and in Christ’s time, what will be the sign when this thing comes to pass?
The Gospel lesson speaks of such signs. Jesus said there will be signs in the last days. These signs will appear in the heavens, the sun and moon and stars. Of course, we know of one such star, the Star of Bethlehem, that was a sign to the magi and shepherds that God had kept his promise of a Messiah. Such signs tell us to pay attention, to look up and see that our redemption is drawing near. This is what we celebrate in Advent. It is a time for us to look up, to pay attention to the redemption that is drawing near to us in Christ. So Advent itself is a kind of sign.
Jesus said to look to the fig tree because it too, is a sign. When leaves come upon the fig tree, it is an indication that summer is near. Just like the leaves on the fig tree, when we see signs in the heavens, or even signs here at Saint John’s—such as our Advent services—we should take heed. “The kingdom of God is near.”
Advent is a time see the signs that the time has come.
God’s kingdom comes near in Jesus. It is “at hand” (Mark 1:15), as Jesus said. So, Advent is a time see the signs that the time has come. It is a time to repent and believe in the gospel. We should take advantage of the warning signs of Advent, and turn from our sins. For Advent does not only remind us that Jesus came into the world as a man. It also reminds us that he is returning soon, and that we should be found on guard and awake when he comes again. We will want our hearts to be established in peace and blameless in the holiness of Jesus.
But this can only happen if we believe that he is our righteousness, and that he instructs sinners in the way. How can we believe that poor sinners such as ourselves could possibly be found blameless at the second advent of Christ? We could work really hard at being good and religious, hoping that this will provide us with confident peace. We know better. We have tried this before and found little peace because we continue to sin. So what can we do?
We can turn to the greatest sign of them all. There is a sign that we must not ignore. Its words are eternal life. This greatest sign is God’s word. In it, we discover that God so loved this world of sinners that he sent his only begotten Son to redeem them. His word is the greatest sign, as we sometimes state before the Gospel reading in our service: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
This greatest sign is God’s word.
“The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved” (2 Pet 3:10). RJ’s sign will be gone. Fig trees, Loflin Elementary, our parking lot, and even our church building will all pass away. The Five-man Electrical Band’s song will be long-forgotten for the “Holy, Holy, Holy” of the angels. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but [God’s word] will not pass away.” It is the greatest sign. Believe it and live. Forever.