Advent I

  • 1 December 2021
  • Stuart Robinson

I Thessalonians 3:9-13

Luke 21:27-37

I’m fascinated by Google Earth. 

It allows me, via satellite and in living colour, to locate – for example, the house where I live and then as I pan out, I can see – right there on my laptop screen, my suburb, city, state, country, hemisphere, world. 

Just this part week I’ve been looking – in living colour at my youngest son, Edward’s, new address just off Marine Drive, Mumbai, India.

If nothing else, Google Earth gives the kind of context and perspective that sitting in the back garden, or looking out the window can never afford. 

Google Earth quite literally enables me to see the big picture.

In some ways, that is what Jesus gives his listeners (in Luke 21). 

He takes them beyond their immediate context – that comprised the aspirations and struggles common to us all (and persecutions) – and helps them see things on a grander scale.

He says that cataclysms and geo-political upheavals are like signposts pointing us towards his return. 

In the same way that the agriculturist knows that leaves on the fig-tree mean summer is approaching, we need to know that wars, and conflagrations, and the breakdown of relationships, and global pandemics, all signal that we are moving closer to that time when all people everywhere will see the Son of Man – the Lord Jesus, returning; his second advent.

This then, is the big picture that our texts brings to us this morning:

  •  how we live now, really matters.

Let me explain.

When my youngest son, the aforementioned Edward, was in fifth grade, he declared that he wasn’t willing to attempt homework anymore. 

‘Why is that Ed?’, we asked, a little surprised. 

‘Because my teacher doesn’t care about me; my work means nothing to her’.

‘Really, how do you know this?’. 

‘Because she does not mark my work; she does not care what I do.” 

Well, Jane and I checked through his books and sadly, Edward, was right. 

His teacher did not appear to care; the work was not marked; there was no accountability.

Therein lies the (many) difference(s) between Edward’s teacher and the returning Lord Jesus. 

The returning Lord Jesus cares very much about what we do, how we live our lives, the way we interact with those in our purview; even what we do in private.

For, not only is he returning to wind up time and life as we know it, he is also coming as Judge. In John 5:22, Jesus said, “The Father judges no-one but has entrusted all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son, just as they do the Father”.

Jesus cares very much about how we live, how we regard each other, how we use our resources to bless our neighbours and advance his Kingdom. 

Christ-followers will stand before the Son of Man – free and forgiven, yes – but accountable for what we did with what we had; our time, talents, our minds, our money and our relationships says II Corinthians 5:10.

So once again, here’s the expanding big picture:

  • The Christ who gave his all for us in humiliation and death is returning, says the text of Luke 21:27, with ‘power and great glory’.
  • With each passing day, and with every global event, indeed with every beat of your heart – that return is drawn inexorably closer.
  • It could come at any moment- ‘suddenly, like a trap’ is the phrase Jesus uses in Luke 21:34. Readiness is the key, you see. 
  • And what is more – every person in creation will see him – and those who are his, those are left on the earth at that time, the people referred to as ‘this generation’ – v.32 (i.e. those who have not already passed through death, into God’s eternal presence) will be ‘redeemed’ (Luke 21:28); bought through Jesus’ shed blood and brought, through his Jesus’ victorious resurrection, into fellowship with God – free from sin, shame, sorrow and sadness.

So that is the big picture.

Let’s zoom back in for a closer look at what all that means for us this morning.

No doubt you’ve heard that slogan, ‘Be Alert, Not Alarmed!’ – it has been used by fire-safety educators, mental toughness trainers, and government terrorist-awareness campaigns in recent years.

And I think it applies to us.

Christ’s return should not alarm us. 

We are to eagerly anticipate the return of Him who has given his all for us; who loves us and redeems us. 

That said, we are to be alert and ready.

We are to identify and turn from those things that impede our witness to Christ and stifle our growing in Christlikeness; things that weigh us down with guilt and self-reproach – such as greed and overindulgence (Luke 21:34).

And our alertness functions best corporately – when we encourage each other in our witness to Christ and our growing in Christlikeness.

Let me illustrate this. 

I now have an early breakfast meeting each Thursday and as I go down NSH road and now that restrictions have been lifted, I see the same cycling club on their weekly ride. 

I note with interest that they talk as they go; they wait when those at the end miss the lights; they assist with punctured tyres or if a rider gets into difficulty; the person in the lead sets a pace appropriate for the group and I also note they encourage and cheer each other along – and then they go to a café to celebrate their achievements that morning.  

And that can only ever happen – if people show up and join in.

A church is not unlike that bunch of cyclists – we show up, we join in, and we encourage each other on the journey. 

St. Paul and his friends do just that in their first letter to the church in Thessalonica. 

In chapter 3, vv. 9-13 Paul tells the believers in Thessalonica that they bring much joy to the community of faith; that they are regularly prayed for and that he longs to spend more time with them; he prays that they may grow in their love for each other and that they’ll also grow in holiness and Christ-likeness – as they anticipate the return of our Lord Jesus.

That’s our charter: to be alert to, and ready for, the return of Christ and to encourage each other in holiness and Christian character – in light of that return. 

And, like those cyclists, it only works when we show up and join in. 

Like you are doing today – in person or on Zoom.

May we pray?

Lord, please gives us the eyes of faith to see that the here and now is passing away; that eternity for all of us is in the horizon.

We believe Jesus is returning. Give us courage, we pray, to live in the light of that truth, to jettison all that might impede us being conformed to Christ’s image, and to encourage one another on the journey. 

In the name of Christ.


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