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Stir Up Our Hearts, O Lord (St. Luke 21.25-36)

Second Sunday in Advent – Populus Zion

“Stir Up Our Hearts, O Lord”
Seminarian Paul Norris, Vicar 

St. Luke 21.25-36

05 December 2021

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The dictionary defines stirred up as: “to change the arrangement or position of, to provoke, or to cause an unpleasant emotion.” We need to be stirred up. When we are stirred up we are caused to move into action. But being stirred up can have negative or positive implications. In today’s culture “stirring up the pot” usually involves some sort of fomenting or rioting. Sometimes in anger,  Old Adam is stirred up and moved to commit sinful acts while ignoring the consequences. Yet at other times we are stirred up to do good things for our neighbors and help them in their time of need.

In our daily lives, we become like stagnant water, still and without movement. How frequently we think something is boring –  There are three hundred cable channels to watch and there’s nothing on, I’m so bored. Catechesis class is so boring, the Divine Service is too long, the church board meeting is a yawn-fest, or at work, the third meeting of the week to schedule more meetings makes us think that playing in traffic just might be fun.

And when boredom sets in, so does sameness, blah-ness, distraction, and blandness. We become so bored and distracted during the ‘long’ sermon that instead of listening to what God is trying to say to us, we are counting the pieces of wood filigree on the reredos. [Don’t bother counting them during this sermon. I’ve already counted them for you; there are 118.] Sometimes during the sermon, we even think to ourselves “the preacher’s not talking to me, he must be talking to someone else.” We’re complacent, lethargic, and vapid in our lives.Today for the second Sunday in Advent we prayed in the Collect, “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of your only-begotten Son.” Stir up our hearts, or another way of putting it: “Make us uncomfortable.” This is a bold and perhaps scary prayer and one that will make us uncomfortable. Do you really want God looking around in your heart? Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matt 15:19) What would God see in your heart? Would he see his Word, Spirit, and Son, or would he see evil? Would he only see wickedness as he saw in the hearts of men in the time of Noah before the great flood?

Despite this terrifying thought that God sees into our hearts and all the wickedness that comes from it, we are dull and indifferent during Confession and Absolution. As a child, when listening to corporate Confession and Absolution, I often thought  the words were, “And I am hardly sorry for them…” But this is an honest reflection of how we become so numb to the severity of our sin. If we’re being honest, Old Adam is hardly sorry for the sins he commits. We have become complacent and secure in our sins.

Pastor Meyer rightly pointed out last Sunday that Advent is a season in its own right. Advent is a penitential season. It is not Christmas. It is a time of repentance and preparation for the coming of our Lord, and this is exactly what we need. Now is the time to repent. Now is the time to ask God to prepare our hearts and make us ready for the coming of our Lord Jesus. We need God to stir up our hearts and help us to overcome the dullness and distractions, and to focus on his Word and the coming of his Son. We offer this prayer not on the basis of our own merits and achievements (not that we have any!) but through the one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom and through whom alone there will be the reward for the faithful in the age to come.

Jesus said, “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.” (Matt 21:34) Jesus is admonishing his disciples and us to not get carried away with the things of this life. Our text uses the word “dissipation” but a better way to translate this is “headache or nausea” which is brought upon by heavy drinking. The cares and worries of this world can be so distracting that we stumble around in a fog like someone who has had too much to drink.What is most important to you and your family? The things of God or the things of the world? Instead of attending catechesis where children learn about the Christian faith, we allow our children to go to soccer practice or some other activity.  Perhaps we are “too tired” to get up on Sunday morning and we skip Sunday School or Divine Service on Sunday mornings.

We allow the anxieties, cares, and things of this world to take precedence over coming to church. It is here where we hear God’s Word for us, and receive his life-giving gifts in the sacraments. But we put ourselves in front of God, making ourselves more important than God. It’s very easy to get caught up in the anxieties and cares of daily life which distract us from God and his Word. But we are not to be weighed down with the things of this life but to be awake in watching and praying. Our Lord’s return will come upon the world when we least expect it.

Jesus said that there will be cosmic signs of his return. His return will be apparent to all of the people of the earth. No one, both the dead and the living, will escape the final judgment. These cosmic signs will cause fear and foreboding in the unbelieving world, but cosmic signs are not that strange concerning the coming of our Lord. When Jesus first came to earth, there was a cosmic sign. After the angels announced the birth of our Savior to the shepherds, a star guided the Magi to the infant Jesus. At Jesus’ crucifixion, there were the cosmic signs of the sun going dark and earthquakes. And so also when Jesus returns on the Last day the world will bear witness again to cosmic signs.

God’s goodwill towards the originally good creation of his hands is turning to anger at an increasingly corrupt and perverse mankind. The coming of the Son of Man will cause unbelievers to tremble with fear, as they see him descending from the clouds with his awesome glory, power, and might. And at that time, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).

Jesus uses the short parable of the fig tree to illustrate the signs of his return. Leaves change color and fall off trees. But when spring arrives, they send out buds and grow new leaves. When we see these new leaves we know not only is spring here, but the hot and humid summers are not too far off. In the same way, we will know that the advent of the kingdom of God is near from these signs God reveals to us. Don’t ignore the signs and Word of his return.  Jesus instructs us to abide in his Word and promises because his promises and truths will outlast creation itself.  These signs will not be ominous or scary to believers in Christ, but a comfort to all the faithful.  You who were once cast down in misery and persecution in this world will be able to stand with your heads lifted high. You will be glad in anticipation of the coming of your Lord, for your deliverance and redemption approaches!

It may seem unusual to us that the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday in Advent is about the return of Christ on the Last Day. But Advent isn’t just about the first coming of our Lord Jesus at Christmas. Christ has come, Christ comes today, and Christ will come again. Advent is about all the comings of our Lord Jesus: Past, present, and future. In his first coming, he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary to be the savior of the world.  Jesus became both God and man. He suffered under Pontius Pilot and was crucified on the cross where he became the curse and redeemed us by his death. And in his glorious resurrection on the third day, he vanquished sin, death, and Satan forever.Therefore, we continue to pray, “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of your only-begotten Son.” Staying awake and praying as we wait for our Lord’s coming with repentance during this Advent season, God promises to renew our hearts. And on the Last Day when Jesus returns, without fear, but with great joy and gladness, we shall straighten up, lift up our heads and we shall stand at the coming of our redemption, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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