12.02.12 A Light-Hearted Christmas, Luke 21:25-36, Sermon
Now for something a little bit different.
- The heavy heart at Christmas
- Words that pass away and those that don’t
- Generations spent waiting for Jesus
- What makes the Son of Man worth waiting for
- What to do if we cannot “stand” to wait any longer
- What a “light-hearted” Christmas means
Paul: may God strengthen your hearts that we may be blameless and holy when Jesus comes again.
Jesus: be careful that your hearts are not weighed down.
Strong hearts, good. Heavy hearts, bad. What makes for a heavy heart? Low density lipoproteins – that’s bad cholesterol for those who don’t know. Too many LDLs is heavy on your heart. Jesus the cardiologists? Prescribing statins, reduced diet, more exercise? Different kind of heart. Not the heart that pumps blood. But the heart that pumps spirit.
What makes for a heavy heart, Jesus? “The worries of this life,” he says. Mortgage payment, due yesterday. The rattling under the car. Those 10 extra pounds. Will I have enough for retirement? The Jones’ new iPad. What to get the boss for Christmas. “These worries all pass away,” Jesus says. Earth will pass away And heaven, too. But Jesus’ words will never pass away.
Other words pass away. Scripture is read, and then forgotten. Sermons are heard, and then fade into silence. Even powerful words of lifelong promise pass away. “Do you take this woman to be your wife?” “I do.” Some hurtful words take a lifetime to pass away. “I wish you weren’t my father.” But even these words, in time and in eternity, will pass away. But Jesus’ words will never pass away.
Which words, Jesus? “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” “Neither do I condemn you.” “Today you will be with me in paradise.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “I go to prepare a place for you.” “Whoever builds upon these words of mine is wise.” You have said many things, Jesus. The psalm says you instruct sinners in God’s ways. It says you guide the humble. May none of your words pass away in our lives.
You said something else will not pass away. This generation will not pass away, until these things are done. Which generation, Jesus? The generation that heard you say this? They are long gone. The generation that first read this in Luke? They are long gone. The generation that first sees the signs? The signs have come, and they are still here. So it is this generation? Our generation? My generation? Is it every generation?
“Generation,” definition 7, thefreedictionary.com: “The act or process of generating.” God generated the world. Mary generated Jesus. The United Nations generated Israel in 1948. They generated Palestine in 2012. I’ve generated some things. I have dreams. I have visions. A church you can see from the street. A congregation thanked by its neighbors. A ministry supported by pledges of tithes. Which of these generations will not pass away?
How long are we to wait? You promised the signs will be obvious Like a fig tree sprouting leaves. Like aspen trees growing in Waldo Canyon. Like houses being rebuilt, and lives too. Like a teenage unwed mother pregnant in Palestine.
The Son of Man will come on a cloud. “I see the cloud,” says Moses, as he led the ancients through the desert by day. “I see the cloud,” says Elijah, as rain ends the judgment drought of God. “I see the cloud,” says Peter, as he prepares to build a temple on the Mount of Transfiguration. “I see the cloud,” says Paul Tibbits, as he pilots the Enola Gay away from Hiroshima. “I see the cloud,” say the disciples, as Jesus ascends to the Father after the resurrection. When will we see the cloud? What kind of cloud will it be? And the Son of Man upon it?
Who is the Son of Man? Is he not also the Son of Woman? Does not the woman’s body generate the child? We know we are sons and daughters of woman. Nine months of biological generation guarantees that. We must assume we are sons and daughters of man.
But the one coming on the cloud, merely a son of man? Why hope for, look for, light candles for merely a son of man? Don’t we hope for, look for, light candles for God? Jeremiah says that day is called, “The LORD is our righteous savior.” The Psalm begins, “In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.”
The Son of Man, coming on a cloud is the Son of God because he is the son of woman. A particular woman. A special woman. Whom all generations will call blessed. A woman chosen by God. A young woman, according to Isaiah. A virgin woman, according to Matthew’s interpretation. This is the one we await on the clouds.
And the strong heart will stand when he comes.
“But what if I am not strong in heart? What if my heart is heavy-laden? What if I cannot stand? What if I want to run away in shame? What if I turn my back in rebellion? What if I fall prostrate in fear? What if I curl into a fetal position in weakness and pain? What if I cannot stand?”
Paul answers: If you cannot stand, fall on your knees in prayer.
Jesus answers: If you cannot stand, fall on your knees in prayer.
This Advent, let us not have hearts weighed down. Let us have light hearts. Let us have a light-hearted Christmas. Light-hearted, but he doesn’t mean frivolous. Light-hearted, but he doesn’t mean superficial. Light-hearted, he says, and he means a heart that is light in our chests because it is held up by the hand of God.
Jesus assures us, “Your redemption is near.” “Be always on the watch.” Light your candles. Jesus has come. His Spirit remains. Jesus is coming again.
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
- What are some of the “worries of this life” that cause your heart to be heavy? What will it take, and how long will it be, before these worries pass away?
- Which of Jesus’ words, some listed here or others you know, are among the words which are particularly meaningful to you?
- What are some things you’ve “generated,” that will not pass away? Are there things in your life that God is calling you to “generate,” things of eternal value?
- What kinds of “clouds” do you see in your sky? Clouds of promise? Clouds of judgment? How is the Son of Man riding on those clouds?
- How likely are you to stand when Jesus arrives? What other posture might you take? From those postures, will you accept Christ’s outstretched hand to help you stand?