Sober Up For Your Redemption Draws Near

Texts:  Luke 21:25-36 and Romans 15:4-13

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus warns us about the end of the world.  He calls us to be watchful and alert for that coming great Last Day.  He says,

“Stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place.” 

Indeed, Jesus is warning us about the Last Day of Judgment, along with its great wonders and terrors.  He is warning us to be ready to meet Him when He comes back again to judge the living and the dead.  He calls us to be observant to the signs of His coming. 

However, we humans have this problem of not listening to warnings.  It isn’t that warnings are bad, for they do us good by alerting us to the fact that something troubling is about to happen.  Indeed, we do not disregard warnings because they are bad, but rather, we either have this tendency to shrug these warnings off, or we are too distracted with life to even hear the warnings in the first place. 

Take California as one of the many examples.  It seems that everyone knows about the mega California earthquake warning – that warning of the impending 8.2 magnitude earthquake that is supposed to hit the San Andreas fault next to Los Angeles.  Californians have heard this warning for years, nod their heads, shrug their shoulders, and then go on with their lives.  They do this because the warning does not give them the time or the hour of the earthquake.  That is to say; because the warning is not precise, it does not change anything in their daily lives. 

You see, when warnings are not specific or pressing at the moment, we typically end up writing them off and shrugging our shoulders, saying, “Yes, these warnings may be true, but it won’t happen anytime soon, so I need not be alarmed.”

While there may be some wisdom to not getting weighed down with things out of our control, Jesus, on the other hand, warns us about the Last Day and calls us to be alert and ready. Yes, even though we do not know when that Last Day will be, we must guard ourselves against shrugging our shoulders and saying, “The Last Day won’t happen anytime soon, so I need not be alarmed.”

Dear friends, the Last Day could be here today, tomorrow, next year, or a thousand years from now.  But regardless, we must not be so foolish to write Jesus’ warning off as something that will happen in some distant future and need not concern us in the present time. 

There is also another side to this as well.  Like a drunk, we can drink up life so much that we will not even see the signs or hear the warnings about the Last Day.  That is to say; we can become so incredibly consumed with life itself that we become dizzy and intoxicated with carelessness, so that we will neither hear the warnings nor see the signs of the Last Day.  Like a college student jumping from frat party to frat party ignoring his upcoming college examine, we ignore the warnings and signs of the Last Day and let the good times supposedly roll. 

And let us not forget what happens after we become intoxicated with life.  Jesus says in verse 35 of our Gospel Reading from Luke that we can become so dissipated that the Last Day will come upon us like a trap.  In other words, when Jesus uses the word ‘dissipated,’ He means that we can become so intoxicated with life that we will become sick and unresponsive.  Stated crassly, when we binge drink and guzzle down life (non-redemptive and empty things of life), we will become so hungover and sick that we won’t even open our eyes to see the signs or hear the warnings of the Last Day. 

Dear friends, Jesus is coming, and if not careful, we can be so intoxicated with the things of this life that we will be left in our drunken stupor clinging to the empty bottle of life.

Take a moment and look around you.

Marketers have been busy since Halloween trying to get you into the holiday spirit. 

“Get the tree up!  Get your presents!  Get those lights up!  Don’t miss Black Friday! Go, go, go, go!” 

The commercials are trying to amp you up.

“Buy this; buy that; spend that money!  Use this coupon!  30% off now!” 

Your cell phones are continually dinging, giving you news alerts. 

This just in!  Newsflash!  Breaking News!

Social media is continuously giving you updates about everyone else’s remarkable lives. 

The Jones’ just posted a picture from Italy, click “LIKE!” and share!

And to make things even more intense, you have unfinished Christmas lists, you have bank accounts, you have budgets, you have kids’ schedules, you have overflowing mailboxes, you have unwrapped presents, you have vacation plans, you have Christmas parties, you have Christmas programs, you have gift exchanges, you have gift returns, you have New Year’s Parties, and you have family get-togethers.  You have all of these things that you care very deeply about, things that easily consume you and can spiritually intoxicate you so that your senses are distracted and dulled to the Lord’s signs and warnings. 

Dear friends, you have not been called to have your hearts weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness from the cares of this life. You have not been called to brush the Lord’s warnings off to the side as if they are not urgent.  You have not been called to dullness or apathy.  But instead, Jesus has called you to be sober and awake and alert.  He calls you to raise up your heads and to stand firm for the Last Day draws near.  He calls you to be on guard so that the Last Day does not catch you off guard.  He calls you to be prepared at all times. 

But how on earth are we to stay alert and sober?  How can we raise up our heads when we do not even know when the Last Day will come?  How do we remain steadfast and not fall asleep in apathy or get drunk on life, when we do not know when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead? 

The answer we are given is in our Epistle reading from Romans that says,

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Dear friends, what this means is that the Holy Scriptures – the Bible – is not only written for our instruction but is written because the Scriptures give the power of God that works steadfast endurance and comforting encouragement in us.   

You see, if we are left to ourselves, we cannot stay alert.  Left to ourselves, we will write the warnings off and fall asleep in apathy.  Left to ourselves, we will not remain steadfast and firm, but will become flimsy and weak from the drunkenness of life.  Left to ourselves, we will dull the warnings of the Last Day and be left alone to face all the things that will take place. 

However, you are not alone.  The Lord has given you His Word.  And even though this Word was written long ago, you can be sure that it was and is written for you, for God wants to give you steady endurance and encouragement that comforts you as He keeps you alert for whatever He will do next.

So, Baptized Saints of Zion, stand up, lift up your heads, open your ears, and sober up, for your redemption draws near to you in the Word! 

Listen to Jesus’ Word, which is for you: “It is finished!”

Listen to this great resurrection Gospel promise: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Look at the altar and see these very simple things (Bread and Wine) through the lens of this blessed Gospel promise:  “This is My body.  This My blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sin.” 

Remember your baptismal reality, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 

Hear the voice of Jesus who speaks to you through a sinful pastor, “I now forgive you of all of your sins.”

Dear Baptized Saints, what you hear and hold fast to in faith not only prepares you for the future warnings but encourages you and comforts you as you journey to the Last Day. 

Indeed, the Lord gives you His Word not because you deserve it; not because you’ve made the “nice” list and stayed off the “naughty” list, but because you need it; because He loves you…in spite of you. 

And when you hold fast to His Word, you are promised not dissipation or apathy or drunkenness, but hope.  Yes, the Word gives you great hope that no matter what comes before you from now to that Last Day, that you are not alone.  Even when the world completely comes apart at the seams in the dark and chaotic days immediately preceding Christ’s return in Judgment, you shall not fear, for the Lord is with you.

Baptized Saints, lift up your heads.  Lift up your eyes.  Behold!  The Christ, the almighty Son of God, is in your midst and is with you always, even to the very end of the ages. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

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