Populus Zion – Advent II
“The Sun of Man”
Seminarian Brendan Harris, Vicar
St. Luke 21.25-36; Malachi 4.1-6; Romans 15.4-13
06 December 2020
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus ☩ Christ; Amen.
All the signs tell us that winter is coming. The nights are growing longer and colder, and we’ve seen these signs before: we know well what’s about to happen. Complain as one might, the snows will still fall and the cold will have its day, or rather, its night. Although it might seem unfortunate that the world has to freeze like this, it’s nothing new for us; in fact, the more you think about it, the more it seems appropriate. The season outside might be winter for about a quarter of the year, but the season of the human heart is always winter, it is ever cold. Winter is just the temperature and the weather catching up to match the state of things internally. Do we really deserve anything but winter when we can’t even manage to avoid killing each other? To keep the world fed? To be civil even between friends and family, to raise our kids rightly, to speak truth to power? To even come to church? In all of these facets it has been winter for a very long time now, and it’s been a harsher winter than has ever covered Michigan or Alaska or Siberia, and it’s not going to get any better on this side of eternity. We know for a fact that things will be dark before the dawn, for Jesus tells us this morning: “there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” The very skies, the seas, the seasons, are railing against us and our iniquities, and they point us to something to come, to something that will restore them, that will restore us, and set all aright.
But Jesus does not really talk about winter in our Gospel today. The teaching He gives us here rather, is one about trees. “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near.” Now, the fig tree is a fruit-bearing tree that is native to the Mediterranean region, including ancient Palestine, and it has been known for doing something which to us is very common in our northern climate. When winter comes around, the fig tree sheds its leaves and remains barren for the season. Yet everyone knows that these trees are not dead, just as we know most of our currently barren, leafless trees are not dead, but that it’s just winter. With these words, Jesus acknowledges that this world too is in winter, but that it is not a pitch-black night. “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” Yes, the world is barren, cold, and full of evil, and so are we. We too were once leafless, fruitless, barren trees in the middle of an Arctic blast, who still daily sin much and act in bitterness, in accordance with the outside temperatures.
And yet, you are not barren. You are not dead. You might have been children born of the winter, but you now belong to the Lord, you have been baptized into His marvelous light, and His eternal Summer is drawing near. In this dark night, we can still see that great northern star which He has given us, and it’s resting over a stable in Bethlehem. Although it’s night, we can see the sun beginning to rise on the horizon, and this is the Sun of righteousness who has come to banish all winter. Although the powers of heaven are shaking, Jesus declares, “your redemption is drawing near.” And this is precisely what the season of Advent is all about, it is about the advent, the coming, the arrival of redemption, of salvation, of the Incarnation of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. It has everything to do with the Son of Man, the only begotten Son of God the Father taking human flesh, and coming in loving warmth to purge away the frozen sins of this world. In this wonderful scene we call Christmas, in this very event, all of the works and aspects of Jesus are there in the manger: His conception, His birth, His life and ministry, His death, resurrection, ascension, and even His Second Coming on the Last Day, which Jesus is explicitly telling us about in our Gospel here. When you see a Nativity scene, when you see that little child laid in a manger, never forget that the Cross is always on a hill in the horizon shining over the whole picture, sort of like we see nicely depicted in the center of our banner here. When you see a manger, you must see the Son of Man, the Sun of righteousness, the Sun who burns ten-thousand times hotter than the sun in our sky, for He has submitted His fiery glory to human flesh in order to bring us, His brothers and sisters, an eternal Summer in every sense of the word.
“But watch yourselves,” Jesus continues, “lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life.” Even though we may have to live in this winter for now, we do not live as if it will always be this way. If you truly believe that Jesus has delivered you, do you think it’s right to continue living like everyone else? To live lives like dead logs who have no regard for God or one another? God forbid! You cannot allow that coldness to creep onto you, to allow you to become isolated from God and your brothers. You cannot allow the coldness of sin to cause you to look at your brothers and sisters in Christ as inconveniences, as dangers just waiting to inflict you with disease and harm whether wittingly or not. No, you ought to be clinging together now more than ever, to share your warmth and lift each other up out of this gloom, to lead each other to the blessed gathering of His Church. Jesus, that Sun of Man, shines upon you with His Word, and with His very self He binds you, not just to Himself, but to one another. Even though Heaven and earth will pass away, He promises, “my words will not pass away,” and these Words are not just yours as an individual, but rather we confess “Our Father” together like an everlasting wedding vow. You are not called to live like empty trees, but rather like a sunflower, which even though the sky is completely clouded over or even though it’s the dead of night, you still face towards the Sun of righteousness, towards the Sun of Man, and where He is found in His Church, where He is found in your brothers and sisters, and in the midst of you all in Word and Sacrament.
Now, “straighten up and raise your heads,” Jesus says, “watch yourselves,” stand guard, keep vigil like a sunflower, and be ever facing this Son of Man, for He is your redemption, and He is here. Because He is the Sun of Man, the Church where He deigns to dwell is like a burning hearth, a roaring woodstove, and all who take shelter here will always have heat in abundance and safety from the chilling world, from sin, and the devil. Even though the world and all of mankind may hurl its flurries, you have a Savior who is warm flesh and hot blood, a Savior who through His Words, given and shed for you, gives you molten strength in the form of His very lifeblood. And even though you must again walk out into the blizzards of this world, you will go out leaping, with the snows melting around your blazing feet, and all the world’s troubles will be trampled as ashes underfoot.
So “watch yourselves,” don’t be carried away with the concerns of this life, “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.” Receive this Son of Man, believe His Word, affirm Him and pray, and His Advent will be a joy to you. And not only this Advent season looking forward to Christmas, but also the Advent season which coincides with the winter of this life, for we look forward to Christ’s coming again on the Last Day, and do so with the prayer, Maranatha, “Come Lord,” come quickly. Fear not, brothers and sisters, this winter won’t last forever. In Jesus’ ☩ Name; Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; Amen.