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Saturday, December 1, 2012

for Sunday (December 2nd): look up




Luke 21:25-28,34-3625
 "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."34 "But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; 35 for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. 36 But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man."

Reflection
How good are you at reading signs, especially signs which God sends our way? The people of Jesus' time expected that the coming of the Messiah would be accompanied by extraordinary signs and wonders. Jesus' first coming was clouded in mystery and surprising wonderment: Even though he was the rightful heir to the throne of King David, he was born in obscurity in a cave at Bethlehem, near the place where David had watched over his father's sheep some 1000 years before.

A choir of mighty angels chose to announce the good news to a small band of lowly shepherds keeping their night watch nearby. Learned magi from the East, who recognized a great omen in the heavenly sky, followed the star until it led them to Bethlehem.

They alone found the child with his mother and paid him homage as the newborn king of Israel. When Jesus humbly submitted to baptism at the River Jordan, the heavenly Father spoke audibly for those nearby who were willing to listen, "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."

Jesus, during his public ministry performed numerous signs: turning water into wine, calming the storm at sea and walking on water, multiplying seven loaves of bread in the wilderness to feed 5000 people, healing the blind and the lame, expelling demons, and raising the dead.

While many believed in Jesus, many also questioned his signs and refused to believe his claim to be the Messiah sent by the heavenly Father to suffer and die for our sake and for our salvation on the cross of Calvary. Jesus' last and greatest sign during his earthly ministry was his rising from the tomb on the third day after his crucifixion.

This sign demonstrated his power to defeat death itself and to give abundant everlasting life to all who believed in him.

Jesus told his disciples that his final great sign would be his return in glory at the end of the age. He would come this second time as Judge and Merciful Redeemer to vindicate those who accepted him as Lord and Savior and to punish those who rejected him. Jesus declared that this last sign at the end of the world would be unmistakable.

All would recognize and "see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (Luke 21:27). The title which Jesus most often used to describe his Messianic role was the expression "Son of Man".

This title comes from the Book of the prophet Daniel, chapter 7.

The image of a "Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" was given in a vision where the prophet Daniel saw heaven opened before the throne of God (Daniel 7:13-14).

In this vision God showed Daniel a royal investiture of a human king before God's throne. This king was invested with God's authority and was given power to judge and rule over the whole earth. His reign would last for all ages.

The Jews of Jesus' day were looking for a Messiah King who would free them from the oppressive rule of pagan Rome. Many had hoped that Jesus would be their victorious conquerer.

They missed, however, the most important sign and reason for the Messiah's first coming – his death on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world and his triumphant victory over death and Satan when he rose on the third day.

The Lord Jesus is both the "Son of David", the rightful heir and Messiah King of Israel whose reign will endure for all ages (Psalm 89:3-4,29,36-37) – and the "Son of Man", chosen by God as the annointed ruler who will come at the end of the age to establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for all the nations and peoples of the earth.

The prophet Jeremiah fortold the day when God would send his Messiah King to "execute justice and righteousness in the land" (Jeremiah 33:15). Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise and every promise which God has made.

The Lord Jesus, through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, assures us of his abiding presence and the promise that he will return again. His Holy Spirit gives us supernatural hope, and the strength to persevere with joyful confidence until the Lord comes again. What kind of hope does the Lord offer us?

He gives us the hope of heaven, seeing God face to face, sharing in the fulness of his glory and everlasting life. When the Lord comes again as our Judge and merciful Redeemer he will right every wrong, vindicate every person who has accepted him as Lord and Savior, and remove all sorrow, pain, and death itself (Revelations 21:4).

The world around us is plagued with greed, envy, strife, and uncertainty. It has lost hope in God and in his promise to restore the human race and all of creation when the Lord Jesus comes again.

Jesus' prophetic description of the end of time and the day of judgment was not new to the people of Israel. The prophets had foretold these events many centuries before. "Behold the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger to make the earth a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it" (Isaiah 13:9-13; see also Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18).

Jesus speaks of the second coming as a known fact, a for certain event we can expect to take place. This coming will be marked by signs that all will recognize; signs which will strike terror in those unprepared and wonder in those who are ready to meet the Lord.

When the Lord returns he will establish final justice and righteousness over the earth by overthrowing his enemies and by vindicating those who have been faithful to him. The anticipation of his final judgment is a sign of hope for all who trust in him.

What can keep us from recognizing the signs of the Lord's presence and action today? Indifference and the temptation to slacken off – to become passive and lethargic or to fall asleep spiritually. It is very easy to get caught up in the things of the present moment or to be weighed down with troubles.

The Lord knows our shortcomings and struggles and he gives us the strength to bear our burdens and to walk in his way of holiness. But there is one thing he doesn't tolerate: an attitude of indifference, being passive, not caring, and doing nothing when we could be actively seeking God and his kingdom! God is ready to give us fresh vision, hope, and grace to walk in his ways.

He wants to work in and through us for his glory. That is why he expects more of us than we can do by ourselves. His grace enables us to actively watch for his action in our lives, and to actively pray for perseverance and endurance when we face trials and difficulties.

The Lord gives us his strength to overcome temptation, especially from apostasy – the denial of the Lord Jesus out of fear or pride. God is ever ready to fill us with his strength and divine power. Is your heart hungry for God or is it weighed down by other things?

Many churches in the East and West, since the early first centuries of the Christian era, have marked special seasons to celebrate the central truths of the Christian faith. The Advent season which precedes Christmas and Epiphany reminds us that we are a pilgrim people, aliens and exiles in this age who long for our true home with God in his heavenly kingdom, and who await with joyful hope the return of the Lord Jesus at the end of the age.

When will the Lord Jesus come again? No one but the Father in heaven knows the day. But it is a certain fact that we are living in the end times, the close of this present age!

The end times begin with the first coming of Jesus Christ (his Incarnation which we celebrate at Christmas and Epiphany) and culminates in his final return on the Day of Judgment.

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