WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? – REV. PAUL DAKIN

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
An Advent sermon based on Luke 21:25-36
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
November 28, 2021
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our
Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.


Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is
drawing near. Luke 21:28


Here we are on the first Sunday of Advent, four Sundays before Christmas Day. The season of
Advent is regarded as one of the most important times of the year in the church calendar, since it is the
run up to Christmas Day.
Advent is a season that has many dimensions in the life of the church. First of all, it is a time of
preparation. As a church and as individual believers, Advent is a time to get ready. Perhaps one of the
more obvious signs of the arrival of the Advent season in the church is the decorations in the sanctuary.
Wreaths…greens…garlands…the Advent wreath…and Chrismons hanging on the tree. When you see
those things in the sanctuary, then you know that Advent has arrived and that Christmas is just around
the corner…
There is a note of gaiety and celebration during the Advent season. And well there should be.
Advent is the time when we are anticipating the arrival of the Christ Child. It is an event which changed
the course of history forever. And it signaled that God was making his presence known and felt once
more in a unique way in Jesus. In a world full of heartache and bad news, that is certainly something
worth celebrating!
But Advent is also a time for reflection. It is a time to examine and take stock of our lives in
preparation to make room for Jesus once more. This is a part of Advent that I think kind of gets lost in
the tinsel and the parties and the feasting of the season. This emphasis on personal reflection is a more
somber aspect to Advent that, in some ways, resembles Lent. It did not occur to me until just a few
years ago that there is a connection between Advent and Lent.
As you all know, Lent is the forty day period before Easter when we meditate on Christ’s
sacrifice and all that he endured on our behalf as the Son of God. Lent is a solemn time. It is a time for
pausing to consider one’s spiritual condition in light of the Cross. The thing that pointed up to me the
similarity between Advent and Lent is the fact that the major liturgical color for both seasons is the
same. That color is purple. Purple is the color of royalty, for sure. But often, it is also the color most
associated with penitence. So Advent, like Lent, is a time for Christian believers to reflect upon their
lives as they consider the meaning of the Christ event…
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One of the most important aspects of Advent is that of waiting. We wait together as a
congregation, counting down the days before Christmas. That is really the point of Advent calendars,
isn’t it? To count down the days until Christmas while we wait…
You know, the older that I get, the faster that the Advent/Christmas season seems to come
around each year. I imagine that I am not alone in feeling that way. It is probably true for many of you as
well.
But it wasn’t always so. The calendar did not always speed by so fast. When I was a kid,
Christmas seemed like it took forever to get here. And the last couple of weeks before Christmas? They
always seemed to be unbearably long. It was pure torture! Sometimes it seemed like Christmas would
never get here. During other parts of the year, when someone was dawdling around and we wanted to
hurry them up, it was not uncommon to encourage the slow person by saying, “Come on—you’re slower
than Christmas!” Everybody knew what that meant. And no one wanted to be thought of as being
“slower than Christmas”…
The waiting reaches a climax on Christmas Eve. Adults understand exactly what Nat King Cole
was singing about in that classic Christmas song, “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow/ Will find it hard to
sleep tonight.” We all know what that is like. That’s especially true if you are trying to get small children
to bed early on Christmas Eve. It is nearly impossible, isn’t it? And yet, you need for them to fall asleep
because you need enough time to assemble the bicycle, put it under the tree and then hopefully get a
few hours of rest before sunrise. Because, at the first light of dawn, you know what’s going to happen.
The kids are going to come bouncing into your bedroom with exciting news of what Santa came and of
the gifts that he has brought them…
There is one other aspect of the Advent season that needs to be mentioned. This understanding
of Advent is on full display in today’s gospel text from Luke 21. As we have discussed up to this point,
Advent is a time when we await the arrival of the Christ child at Christmas. That is certainly true. But
there is an additional emphasis as well. And that is an emphasis on Christ’s Second Coming. If Christmas
is all about Christ’s First Advent, then Christ’s second coming can be termed his “Second Advent”… And
in the lectionary readings, the first Sunday of Advent is usually dedicated to proclaiming Christ’s Second
Advent…
Let’s set the scene for today’s text: it is the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He is in the city
of Jerusalem with his disciples, teaching in the Temple. All the while, his enemies are plotting ways on
how to rid themselves of Jesus once and for all. In the verses immediately preceding our text, Jesus tells
his disciples that soon the Temple will be destroyed. Not one stone will be left upon another. His
disciples are astonished and they ask him when this will take place. Jesus gives them a lengthy answer. It
runs a full 28 verses. But curiously, it is an answer that is lacking in concrete details…
Jesus tells them that Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies before it is destroyed. He warns
them of false prophets who will claim to know when the time for persecution and destruction will arrive.
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But Jesus tells them not to believe those people claiming to be prophets because they are imposters. He
warns his disciples that there will be wars and earthquakes and famines and all other kinds of calamities
that will strike. In addition, he tells his disciples that his followers will be violently persecuted. Then he
wraps up his discussion of the end times with today’s text…
In today’s passage, Jesus tells his disciples that when the Son of Man returns, he will return in
the clouds with power and great glory. He tells them to not be afraid when they see it. There is no
reason to be afraid because his return means that their redemption is close at hand.
Jesus ends his discussion of what is to come with a parable of a fig tree. It is a fairly
straightforward parable, as the parables of Jesus go. He says that you can tell that summer is on the way
when fig trees, along with other trees, begin to sprout their leaves. In the same way, Jesus says that,
when the disciples see all the things that he has mentioned going on in the world, then they know that
the time for his Second Advent is near.
Because of what will happen, Jesus then gives his disciples these instructions. He tells them to
be alert and to be watchful. He warns them not to be idle while they wait. This is the part of the text
that I wish to focus on in our remaining time together this morning. Verse 34 and 35 say, “Be on guard
so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life,
and that the day does not catch you unexpectedly like a trap.”
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with…the worries of this life.” What
Jesus is telling us is that our knowledge of when he will return is not so important. He has promised that
he will return and that should be sufficient. The important thing is that he wants us to focus on our
behavior in the meantime.
We are to wait, but this waiting is not to be a passive waiting. There are things that you need to
do as you wait…
It is not like sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. You all know how that is. You
schedule an appointment with the doctor. You arrive early, as you have been requested to do. But in
spite of that, you seldom are able to see the doctor right at your appointment time, right?
No—instead you are asked to wait. And while you are waiting, you look around for something to
occupy your time. You can look through some of the six-month-old magazines that have been left on the
table. Or if you thought ahead and brought a book with you, perhaps you can spend your time reading
that. Or you can watch the waiting room television—although in that case, you are left to the mercy of
whatever channel the staff happens to choose. (It is seldom anything that I would watch…)Or you can
spend your time checking your emails on your cell phone or engage in whatever apps you have
downloaded. Or you can quietly chat with the companion who came with you. Or you might just sit
quietly in your chair, dozing off or daydreaming until the nurse calls your name and comes to take you
back to the examination room. The point is that, while you are waiting in the doctor’s office, you are
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essentially treading water…twiddling your thumbs…wasting time ahead of your visit with the doctor. It is
a passive kind of waiting…
As we await Jesus’ return, Jesus said his followers are not to be like that. We are not to be idle—
spinning our wheels in the meantime. Our waiting is not to be a passive waiting. It is to be an active
waiting. It is to be a period of time when we are to be about the Kingdom’s business and deepening our
relationship to Jesus. We are to fill our time with fulfilling what Jesus said were the two great
commandments—to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength—and to love our neighbor as
ourselves. In essence, Jesus’ followers are to keep themselves busy with the work of the Kingdom until
the day of his return…
It is not always easy to do, is it? Ever the realist, Jesus knew that. In today’s passage, he warns us
about the dangers that threaten to distract us from the active waiting that he desires us to do. He wants
to make sure that we are not weighed down with the worries of life…
Keeping one’s attention focused on the Kingdom of God is a theme that Jesus returned to time
and time again. In Luke 8, Jesus’ teaching is commonly known as “The Parable of the Sower.” You
probably remember how the story goes.
Jesus relates the story of a farmer planting seeds in the ground. All of the seed is good seed. But
not all of it is productive. Some of the seed fell on hard hearts in which the seed could not penetrate.
Some of the seed fell on ground that was too shallow to support and sustain life. And some of the seed
fell on soil that was good ground, but weeds and thorns grew up beside the seed and choked it.
Consequently it did not bear any fruit. And some of the seed fell into good ground which produced an
abundant crop.
In explaining the parable to his disciples later in that same chapter, Jesus explained that the
third type of soil was representative of “those who hear, but as they go on their way, they are choked by
life’s worries, riches, and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (Verse 14)
That is what Jesus is warning his disciples about in today’s text. Just as weeds and thorns can
stifle the growth of seeds planted by the farmer, dissipation, drunkenness and the worries of this life can
stifle the growth of the Spirit in our lives as we await his return. Jesus says that we are to avoid those
three things.
In considering this warning to the disciples, I do not imagine that many of us here have problems
with carousing stifling the work of the Spirit in our lives. I just do not think that is who we are. And, while
I admit that I could be wrong on this, I suspect that drunkenness is not something which plagues our
congregation either. Again it’s just not who we are. But that final warning about “the worries of this
life”? That is something that I imagine is a temptation for all of us. Obligations to family, work, school,
finances, social life and lots of other things compete for our attention each and every day. Jesus does
not condemn those things, but he says to not let those things crowd your vision. Do not give them
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undue influence in your life. Do not let them distract you from your responsibility in working for the
coming kingdom…
As an antidote to passive waiting, Jesus offers us two things to do in the meantime. The first
thing he says to do is to be alert. Keep watching. So if we are to be watching, what should we be looking
for? I do not think he meant that we should be watching for the signs to be fulfilled before he returns.
Jesus said no one knows when that day or hour will be. Frankly, it seems to me to be a fool’s errand to
even try to “decode” events and pin them as signs of the Second Coming. Lots of people have tried to do
that throughout the history of the church. And they have all failed miserably. The sad thing is that there
are still some in the church who are still trying to do that today.
Instead, we should be alert to the signs of God working in the world right now. Even though, in
some ways, the coming kingdom of God is a promise that is not quite realized, the kingdom of God is
also something that is a present reality. God is working in the world and in the lives of his people to
bring his kingdom here on earth. We pray for that when we recite the Lord’s Prayer each Sunday. “Thy
kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The coming Kingdom of God is what we are
praying for when we say those words…
So the question is: Have you been alert…watching for it? What are some of the ways in which
you can see God working in the world? How have you been a participant in the revealing of the coming
kingdom?
The second thing that Jesus says we are to do is to pray. He tells us to pray for the strength to
bear up under the struggles that we face. Along with that goes praying for wisdom as we seek out what
God wants us to do as we actively await Christ’s return. Staying in regular touch with God through
prayer is a key element of what active waiting is all about. To neglect life-changing, life-affirming
prayer is to deprive oneself of one of the most important tools that God has in transforming you into the
person that God intends for you to be…and of transforming you into the person that God intends for
you to become…
As we enter into this Advent season today, it is my prayer that God will give us hearts full of
longing to remind us of the deeper mysteries of the season—for the anticipation of the coming Child
King who delivers us from bondage of both law and sin…and for the anticipation of the One who comes
to make all things new—even our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…
To God alone be the glory! Amen