advent sermon series

 


Waiting for the Day of the Lord
by Ted Schroder

David Germain of Associated Press, (Florida Times-Union, November 16, 2009) writes, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and Hollywood feels fine. Global warming, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, continuing terrorist threats and the economic meltdown have people in a gloomy, even end-of-days frame of mind. Filmmakers are tapping into worries about humanity’s future with apocalyptic sagas such as ‘2012,’ ‘The Road’ and ‘The Book of Eli,’ along with documentaries about environmental or economic doom.

End-of-the-world stories have been a cinema subgenre since the early Cold War days with such nuclear-war movies as ‘On the Beach,’ ‘Fail-Safe’ and ‘Dr. Strangelove.’ The advent of environmentalism and overpopulation concerns resulted in another wave of films depicting bleak futures. 

‘We always need a boogey-man, we always need the end of the world,’ said Terry Gilliam, whose films include 1995’s ‘Twelve Monkeys,’ about a world where plague has wiped out most of humanity. ‘I think it’s the problem of being in a Christian society. It’s based on it. If you don’t have the end of the world, you don’t get heaven and eternity.’”

What does the future hold? What are we waiting for? It all depends who you listen to. There are false prophets as well as true prophets. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) The false prophet calls us to worship false gods, by confusing our proper priorities, and leading us to turn from the way of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5) The Biblical prophets guided the people of their time, and prepared them for the future. Their prophecies also looked forward to the future, called the day of the Lord, which was partially fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, and which also speaks to his second coming. 

The day of the Lord is going to be both a day of judgment and a day of salvation. There is a message of gloom and disaster for the wicked and unbelieving. But there are also prophecies of light and hope. Isaiah balances his prophecies. Isaiah 9:1-7 predicts a dawning of light, an increase of joy due to the defeat of oppression, the shattering of the yoke that burdens them. The time of despair would be succeeded by a time of peace and prosperity due to the coming of the Messiah at the end of time. A child will be born, a son will be given, and he will rule the world. He will bring peace and justice through the wisdom of his counsel, through the power of his presence, and through his eternal love. When Jesus came he exhibited these characteristics: wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, and prince of peace, in the midst of a corrupt, and violent world. What he began at his first coming he will complete at the end of time. Meanwhile we must wait in patience, and have the eyes to see his light shining in the darkness. 

Isaiah 11:1-9 predicts the day of the Lord in terms of a new heaven and a new earth. He gives us a vision of the world as God intends it to be when all the promises of final salvation are fulfilled. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on the Messiah, the Anointed One: the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by appearances, but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will slay the wicked. The animal kingdom will live in harmony with each another. There will be no more predation; one species devouring another. Instead we will live together, man and beast, in mutual society, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

We wait for this utopia, this heaven, to be consummated, by being good stewards of the world in which we find ourselves today, and working for peace between races, reconciliation between enemies, through the proclamation of the knowledge of the Lord over the whole earth. We look forward to the time when “the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped, the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.” (Isaiah 35:5,6) 

Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic, says, “I still can hardly believe it. I, with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed in righteousness – powerful and dazzling. Can you imagine the hope this gives someone spinal-cord injured like me? Or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain-injured, or who has multiple sclerosis? Imagine the hope this gives someone who is manic-depressive. No other religion, no other philosophy promises new bodies, hearts, and minds. Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope.” (Heaven: Your Real Home, 53) 

As we wait for the day of the Lord to come in these terms we infuse our present time with these truths. We do not capitulate to the doomsday prophecies, which see the end of this world as the ultimate, final tragedy. Even present day movies have to end on hope that a few survivors will make it, and a fresh start will be made. As Harold Closer, producer, co-writer and composer of “2012” said: “The disaster on our film, I see as a backdrop of a much bigger story, which is a new beginning, not the end.”

We live in the light of a much bigger story, of a great hope, a new heaven and a new earth, foretold by the prophets. Jesus prophesied, “Following those hard times, ‘Sun will fade out, moon cloud over, Stars fall out of the sky, cosmic powers tremble.’ Then, the arrival of the Son of Man! It will fill the skies – no one will miss it. Unready people all over the world, outsiders to the splendor and power, will raise a huge lament as they watch the Son of Man blazing out of heaven. At that same moment, he’ll dispatch his angels with a trumpet-blast summons, pulling in God’s chosen from the four winds, from pole to pole.” (The Message, Matthew 24:30,31)

How do we wait for this day of the Lord? We live in the light of these prophecies. We live in hope, not despair; light not darkness; anticipation not dread. We live every day under the rule of Christ, in his peaceable kingdom of righteousness, seeking to do the will of God, in the power of His Spirit. We are ready for the coming of the Lord for us. We are watching and waiting with joyful expectation for the final fulfillment of the prophecies. In the meanwhile we are seeking to be good stewards of all that is committed to us. 

As John Donne prayed: “Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate, and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitations of your glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.” 

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advent sermon series

 

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