Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 26:1-19; 1 John 3:1-24
This Week’s Readings: Malachi 4:1-6; Romans 15:4-13; Luke 21:25-36
“Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:28)
The devil's preachers point to the signs of the end only to frighten you, to pull your eyes off of Christ and put them back on you. Are you prepared? God is coming soon. Will He like what He sees in you when He arrives?
The only Christian answer to that is: “No, He won't!” There's never enough evidence in my life to prove that I am ready for God. Just the opposite. Unless He saves me because of Christ alone, I cannot be saved.
That is the voice of faith, without which no one can be saved. Luther once wrote: “I remember that Staupitz (Luther's father confessor) used to say: 'More than a thousand times I have vowed to God that I would improve, but I have never performed what I have vowed. Hereafter I shall not make such vows, because I know perfectly well that I shall not live up to them. Unless God is gracious and merciful to me for the sake of Christ and grants me a blessed final hour when the time comes for me to depart this miserable life, I shall not be able to stand before Him with all my vows and good works.'” Luther then added, “This despair is not only truthful but is godly and holy. Whoever wants to be saved must make this confession with his mouth and with his heart. The saints do not rely on their own righteousness; they sing with David (Psalm 143:2): 'Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for no man living is justified before Thee'; and (Psalm 130:3): 'If Thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?' Therefore they gaze at Christ, their Propitiator, who gave His life for their sins. And if there is any remnant of sin in their flesh, they know that this is not imputed to them but is pardoned by forgiveness” (Luther's Works, vol.26). Luther is so right!
That is the meaning of Jesus' plea: “Watch, therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things ... and to stand before the Son of Man.” Only His coming can do that for us and make us ready, as His coming tomorrow will show in Word and Supper. So we pray:
“Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son, that by His coming we may be given to serve You with cleansed minds; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” (Collect for Second Sunday in Advent)