Transplant this idea of no traffic signs to the
Though they can be an annoyance from time to time, traffic signs serve a very important function. They alert us to potential dangers in the road ahead, denote busy routes, and protect other drivers on the road.
Friends, this morning’s text from Luke’s gospel reminds us of the importance of signs in the world around us. To be sure, this is not an easy passage to start the Advent season off with – we all want to get into the Christmas spirit – to feel the joy the season inspires, to spend time visiting with family and friends, and to drink in the holiday cheer. But this passage makes us step back for a moment. It says, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” This doesn’t sound like a very happy message – it seems more awe and fear inspiring. Terrifying. Frightening. These signs…do not look good. And Jesus is telling the disciples, to “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Now I can tell you, I’m not about to go out celebrating if I see the end of the world coming at me, and I’m certainly not going to think that any sort of redemption is near.
However, I don’t think these signs merely point to a cataclysmic second coming akin to what one might find in the “Left Behind” series. Jesus reminds the disciples that these signs signal the nearness of the
One of the professors at
So what are the signs in our society that tell us God’s kingdom is at hand? That tell us our world needs God’s presence? One sign arises from all of the media attention given to the release of the new gaming systems by Sony and Nintendo, particularly that of the Playstation 3. If you’ve been following the news, you’ve heard not just how popular these new consoles are (and how much fun they’re supposed to be!), but also how people have come to blows over getting one. A man stole a seventeen year-old’s Playstation 3 at gunpoint in a mall on November 18th. A Super WalMart in
These stories show that our society values materialism, the belief that “the one who dies with the most toys wins.” However, Jesus calls us not to be attached to our worldly possessions, because they have no lasting claim on our lives. Our culture’s over-indulgent materialism is a sign to us that God is sorely needed in our society. We need God to reorganize our priorities and our values – to help us take care of our neighbor instead of being concerned with merely ourselves.
This is only one sign that tells us how desperately our world needs the love of Jesus. Almost everywhere we look there are others: the war in
Yet, there are also signs in our world that point to the presence of God’s kingdom in our time and place. Take the same phenomenon of the Playstation 3. year-old in
These signs constantly remind us of how much the world needs God and how close God’s kingdom really is to us. These signs are all around us, and at this time of year, when we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus, they remind us of why he came to earth in the first place. Jesus came to proclaim the nearness of God’s kingdom, and it is our job to be watching for how God’s kingdom on earth is already coming about.
Even more than this, however, is that we are not only supposed to watch for the signs, but we ourselves are called to be signs to other people of God’s kingdom. We are signs of God’s presence among us and the people around us will look for signs of this kingdom in our lives. Just like the teenager who donated his Playstation 3 for a greater cause, Christ calls us to make our families, our workplaces, our schools, and our communities more like God’s kingdom. Through our actions, other people will be able to see glimpses of the
There a lot of small ways to do this as we prepare for the coming of Christ this Advent season. For instance, instead of buying another Christmas present for someone, make a donation in their name to a local charity. Donate food to the Helping Hands Food Pantry. In a season where heating costs can be a terrible burden, help lighten that load by donating to charities that help low income families with that cost. There are lots of other things that you can do to be signs to other people of the
In a season where it’s easy to get swept up in the shopping, the Christmas concerts, and the other trappings of the holiday season, our world needs this assurance of God’s presence. Whereas society gives us signs of greed: huge holiday sales, must-have gadgets, and images of piles of presents around the Christmas tree as “signs of the times,” we must be signs to the true meaning of the season: that God in Jesus Christ has come among us to proclaim the arrival of the kingdom of God. So rejoice! For our redemption, the
BENEDICTION: Friends, the