Sunday, December 04, 2011
Advent 2 Sermon Notes
Note: Summary notes only given in parts. Also omits some extemporaneous comments about relevant OT prophecies at the beginning, noting that they combine predictions regarding the First Advent with predictions relating mainly to the Second Advent.
“the powers of heaven shall be shaken” +
The Scriptures tell us here and elsewhere that just before Christ returns to Earth, there will be signs in the heavens, even effecting the stars. Now, in Jesus’ day people did not know how big space was, or how far away the stars were. [Illustrate: At least 100 billion of galaxies in observable universe, each with 100 billion stars or so, closest Andromeda, 2 M l.yr. away. Light seven times around Earth in a second.]
Nevertheless, God knew how big the universe was, since he made it, and Jesus, God the Son, through whom the Father made the universe, knew that at the end of this world, the whole universe would be coming to an end. (Some people think that God and the Big Bang or “Science” are competitors for the title of Creator. This is to misunderstand science completely. Science can explain much, even how one might get from a quantum vacuum to all of this via a Big Bang, for example. In other words it always must assume the existence of and start with some sort of physical reality, no matter how basic early on, and a set of physical laws. What it cannot do is tell us why any of this, why anything at all, actually exists. The fundamental questions of existence thus take us to a deeper level.)
The whole of Creation will be transformed by God the Creator. It may be that the beginning of that process is what will be seen by people then. And then, perhaps almost straight away since Jesus tells us in other places that his return will catch the human race by surprise, Jesus will arrive and begin the final judgement.
Now even some Christians have a hard time believing that such an end will come, that the whole Creation will be subject to Death and Resurrection, so to speak. But, if we are truly rational, we will understand that if God is the Creator of everything, who brought the whole Cosmos into being, undeniably he must be capable of such a final and complete transformation of that Creation. And if he is capable, and has promised repeatedly to do so, it is foolishness to doubt it, no matter how much it beggars the imagination and stretches the credulity of our human, limited common-sense. To accept God as Creator but disbelieve as too extreme or outlandish the Apocalyptic End makes no sense. (Let's not forget that there is much even in modern physics that defies so-called common-sense as well. Indeed, one speculative but quite possible range of scenarios modern physics has worked out are “vacuum metastability events”, where the Universe can unexpectedly undergo “quantum tunnelling” that leads to the destruction of the Universe as we know it, and release of enormous energy. Not unlike some descriptions in the Bible. Some of these scenarios would involve very little warning as an expanding “bubble” travels almost as fast as the light reaching us from its path of destruction. Others could have a more extended period of frightening oscillations. There is even a video on Youtube simulating the spread of such a process.) In any case, whatever method God uses to “dissolve” (2 Peter 3:12) the Old and bring in the New Creation, it will involve visible astronomical precursors and supernatural acts.
And the reaction to all of this by those who have deliberately ignored or rejected Christ will be fear, as mentioned in today’s Gospel (“distress of nations, with perplexity … men's hearts failing them for fear”). In Revelation it says “all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him”. Why? At first, the terror will be due to the approach of the end, with everything that seemed so stable and reliable, the very fabric of the Cosmos, “coming apart at the seams”, so to speak. But then it will be because they realise judgement is coming as was predicted, and that the hardness, self-deception and pride of their hearts, along with the evil of their deeds, are to be exposed and given their just reward.
But our response, if we have followed Christ till the end, is not fear but joyful expectation, the hope talked about in today’s Epistle. “Our redemption draws near” as Jesus puts it.
Why the difference? Those who have said yes to Jesus’ Gospel challenge in this world, who have responded to the Christ-light by turning towards it and letting it flood their souls will be able to welcome that fuller showing/manifestation of the light when they see Him face to face. But those who have avoided or rejected the light, who prefer to be their own gods, will be terrified of the truth that is about to be revealed.
You see, what finally condemns humans in the end is not any of their particular sins, because they have been dealt with potentially at least on the Cross. What condemns them is that, despite the fact God has done everything necessary to save them from themselves, even given the life of His Son, they still refuse the forgiveness and love offered. The divine mercy is spurned, despised, and so all that is left, by their own choice, is divine judgement.
We don’t know when the universe will be changed and Christ will return, but we do know that if it doesn’t happen in our lifetime, our death will happen first: and we can’t be sure that won’t be today or tomorrow. At death “particular judgement” occurs, before the final judgement. [Expand: Cp. Parable of Lazarus and the rich man, with reward and punishment before end.] Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler do not have the same fate awaiting them on the other side! So, we all need to be ready for judgement day today.
If we trust in Christ and follow him in love, we need not fear what is coming, even if we see signs in the heavens.+