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Sermon December 2, 2018

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1376

December 3, 2018 Psalm 25:1-10

Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus Luke 21:25-36

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

Advent – The New Reality”

 

You know this already, but something happened in a manger over two thousand years ago that changed the world forever. A new reality was revealed. The facade of the world was exposed and the true reality of God’s kingdom came in the life of a baby. On this first Sunday of the season called Advent, we set our sights on the advent of God. The advent of God is the coming of God into the world. We know that God has appeared or revealed Himself in one way or another on many occasions throughout history, but the one we are drawn to this time of year and throughout our lives because we are Christians, is the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet His birth is not our only celebration. We also look forward to what Christ has promised in that He will come again in the Second Advent. Advent is about these two events.

 

 

  • Expectations – Sometimes too much, Sometimes too little

 

 

There are two dangers for us in advent. One is expecting too much and the other is expecting too little. Expecting too much is getting caught up in thinking that we can know more than God has revealed, in thinking that we can determine the day of Christ’s return. Some people have certainly tried to nail that down with certainty. Many of those days projected have come and gone. But the other danger is no expectation of Christ’s return. Those folks think nothing of the time of Christ’s second advent. This too is an extreme we should avoid. Perhaps Jesus had these people in mind in Luke 21,

 

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

 

I don’t know when Christ will return, but I know He will. He said He would. We should be expectant. We should be looking for the signs of His coming. I hope it is within our lifetime, but I will not be disappointed if the day is delayed longer than my own expectation. But I believe we should strike a balance between our expectations and our waiting for that return. We do indeed pray for Christ to return when we pray the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” It is a prayer of expectancy and a prayer of confidence that the kingdom has come in the first advent and will come in its fullness in the second advent.

The balance is to expect Christ to return at any moment, even to watch for signs of His coming. It is what Jesus expected of us in Luke 21, 28Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. We are called to pay attention and to let that expectation help to shape our energy for sharing the gospel and shape our love for one anther and the world. Too much expectation and we lose perspective, too little and we lose energy for the gospel.

Those times when we have too much expectation of when, we might focus more on the what of God’s kingdom in Advent. What has already entered into the world – the child, the kingdom, the Messiah. For those times when we expect too little the answer is the same, what God has done and will do again. Jesus has come into the world and will come again. We need not be overly anxious about the when because God has already provided the what – what we need.

 

 

  • We Wait

 

So, one of the things we do is wait. Psalm 25 speaks of waiting.

Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

 

The waiting is made possible because of what God has already done. This Psalm is remarkably applicable to Advent because the waiting is not without activity, the activity of knowing God’s ways, being led in truth, walking in God’s paths. The waiting is not passive, not sitting around with nothing to do but look at our phones. The waiting is filled with activity and made possible because God is our salvation. You see, Jesus came to save us and to teach us and to lead us that we might walk in His ways, because He is our salvation. We are able to wait for God in all kinds of circumstances and in all kinds of opposition because we know the salvation of Jesus Christ and we know His promise to come again. We are able to wait because God is our present reality and our future reality. His kingdom has come and will come again. Our waiting is filled with opportunities to get our lives in tune with the new reality. We line up our lives with the invisible reality of God’s kingdom, unseen by the world. This makes us look foolish to the world. This makes us look out of touch with their reality, the perceived reality of greed and lust and rage and certitude. The world thinks it knows so much about itself, but is totally blind to the new reality of God. We wait in the midst of a world that seeks to draw us into its deathly existence. The only way out of that “reality” is repentance. And the only way they might come to repentance is by our words and actions and God’s Spirit moving in their lives.

We need not be preoccupied with the facade of the world, a facade that claims a certain reality which masks a broken and darkened existence. We wait in the midst of a broken world because we know the true reality of Jesus Christ. We are able to wait because we know that this perceived reality that is visible is not the final reality.

 

  • Direct our Focus to Jesus Christ

 

Instead we direct our focus on Jesus Christ and His advent into the world. We look to Christmas for the new reality that is the only reality for our lives. Our view of this world comes from a manger scene where we see kingdoms fall because the new kingdom has come. The end of Herod and Caesar and all other powers of the earth are precisely because the power of God came in the birth of a child. Kingdoms rise and fall because they live in a false reality that have no connection to the new reality of Jesus.

Our lives are defined by Jesus because He is our life. By His life we are able to discern the ways of the world and the ways of God and see the signs of the kingdom of God and the signs of Christ’s return. So while we wait, we direct our focus on the One on whom we wait. We read about Jesus and we follow Him and do what He directs us to do. We seek to grow in love and hope and faith and we do so in order to keep us from falling into the false reality that is the way of the world. We focus on Jesus, born in a manger, because that marks the new reality of God in our midst. We focus on Christmas, not because of gifts given and received, but because love has come and kingdom has come and life has come. We focus on Christmas in order to stop focusing on the commercialism and frenzy of consumer “Christmas”. We focus on Christmas to renew our lives toward God and the new reality of Christ born in a manger.

 

 

  • The New Reality

 

I’m fascinated by science fiction that creates alternate realities. We can sometimes escape into those fantasy worlds and imagine living on a space ship or on another planet or even in an alternate reality on earth. But they are not real. In one sense they are only slightly less real than the “real” world we see every day. There is something more real than sci-fi or this world in which we live. That reality has come in the birth of Christ. That reality is God’s reality. This reality was seen for a time while Christ physically walked this earth, but it is now hidden. It is revealed in a word, the gospel. It is revealed in actions of love and kindness and worship and all that opens the heart and mind to the good news of the kingdom come. It breaks forth in the story of Advent to change the world forever. And the promise to come again will also change the world forever. This reality is the one true source for life. We are not fooled by the false promises of the false reality that is tied to the love of money or fame or power or status. We live in another reality that sees the world differently and thus we are, in some parts of the world, persecuted, and in our part of the world, sometimes ridiculed and scorned.

But we know that there is something more to what is seen. We know that Christmas is the new reality that has transformed a people and will one day upon another advent, reshape everything.

 

  • Don’t Know When But Surely Know What!

 

 

The what that we know is that Jesus Christ has forever changed reality as we know it. People may indeed think that we are behind the times or on the wrong side of history as some have insisted. But I would rather be on the right side with God even is it is the wrong side of history. The question is seldom asked directly, where is your God?, but it is implied with those who live in the false reality of this world, a world filled with the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life (1 John 2:16). But that is not the world we see. We see and know what God has done in sending His only Son to be born into this world, to usher in a new reality of God’s reign in our hearts and minds and perspective from which we live and breath and have our being. The kingdom has come and will come again in the fullness of time and the fullness of complete redemption. That is the reality in which we live. That is the new reality of Advent. Happy Advent and Merry Christmas. Amen.

 

 

 

 

* This message was inspired by a series of sermons from The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann, Vol. 2, Pgs. 3-24.