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Somethingís Coming
based on Luke 21:25-36; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Rev. Karen A. Goltz

            Whenever I read this text, I canít help but think of a song from West Side Story.  ďCould be, Who knows?  Thereís somethiní due any day, I will know right away, soon as it shows!Ē  Thereís a strong sense of excited anticipation through that whole song.  Tonyís been dreaming at night that heís reaching out for something, something he hasnít experienced yet, but that he will soon.  Itís just barely out of reach for him, and he doesnít even know what it is heís reaching for.  But he canít wait until it happens.  As Riff is leaving after heís convinced Tony to be his lieutenant at the war council that night, Riff casually says, ďWho knows, maybe what youíre looking for will be at the dance tonight.Ē  And Tony repeats, ďWho knows?Ē  And then it strikes him, really.  ďWho knows?Ē  And then he starts his song.

            Excited anticipation.  We live in a world of endless possibilities.  Some experiences we seek out, others just sort of happen, sometimes as expected, sometimes out of nowhere, cannon-balling down through the sky, gleam in its eye, bright as a rose.  Who knows?

            Sometimes there are indications that somethingís going to happen.  Tony had his dreams each night.  He didnít know what they meant or what they indicated, but they were enough of a sign to let him know that something was coming.  Lukeís gospel uses trees as an example.  As soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already approaching.  The week before Halloween week I saw the employees at the Hallmark Store putting out their Christmas inventory, and I knew that Christmas was coming.  Now that weíre past Thanksgiving, it seems like Christmas has already taken over.  I havenít needed to look at a calendar for that; the decorations are signs enough that itís coming, and itís coming soon. 

            Could it be?  Yes it could.  Somethinís cominí, somethiní good, if I can wait.  Advent is often mistaken as a time of preparation for Christmas.  I mean, look at the timing.  Christmas is a big event in our culture, and it can require a lot of preparation.  The Hallmark Storeís been preparing since before Halloween.  Other businesses waited until just before Thanksgiving.  Even our lectionary reading for today talks about the coming of the Son of Man, and we understand that to mean Jesus is coming into the world as our Savior.  The next two Sundays, weíll read about John the Baptist and how heís preparing the way of the Lord, giving people a heads up that Jesus is coming.  The Sunday before Christmas weíll meet the pregnant Mary as she visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is actually at that time pregnant herself with the child who will grow to be John the Baptist.  And then the reading appointed for Christmas Eve is Lukeís birth narrative, complete with the inn that had no room for Mary and Joseph, the manger, and the shepherds in the field who come to see, at the direction of the angel.  Itís easy to mistake Advent as a time to prepare for Christmas.

            And I donít want to diminish that celebration.  Iíve already started planning how to decorate my new place because Iím ready for Christmas.  The nativity scene I painted in ceramics several years ago will be set up in my living room as soon as I unpack it, and I love driving around and looking at the lights on the houses.  But this excited anticipation we have for Christmas only coincides with Advent.  Advent actually reminds us that the living and resurrected Christ is coming into the world again.

            As Lutherans, we generally donít talk too much about the second coming of Christ.  I have yet to hear two Lutherans heatedly arguing about whether the rapture will be pre- or post-tribulation, and a good number of Lutherans I know have no idea what exactly people are talking about when I use words like Ďtribulationí and Ďrapture.í  As Lutherans, we donít give too much thought to the end of the world.  When we come to an apocalyptic text like this one, or like the one we heard two weeks ago that told us that wars, famines, and earthquakes are only the beginning of the birth pangs, we tend to pick a different part of the text to focus on.  Like I did two weeks ago.  I chose instead to talk about faith and the temple.

            But now weíre in the season of Advent, a season which is dedicated to the excited anticipation of Christís return, and the coming of the kingdom of God.  We canít get around it.  Somethinís cominí, donít know when, but itís soon, catch the moon, one-handed catch!

            Jesus said that when we see the signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among the nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves, these things will tell us that the kingdom of God is near, and people will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.  Itís tempting to get caught up in looking for those signs.  As a child I vacationed nearly every summer at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire, and Iíve seen how both the moon and storms at sea have significant effects on the tides, and on the fierceness of the waves.  If we know what weíre looking for, if we know how weíre going to interpret what weíre going to see, itís easy to find patterns that maybe arenít really there.  How many times have people claimed to know that the world would end on a particular date because of various signs they have seen?  Iíve heard of several just during my lifetime, yet weíre still here.  But people are still looking, and interpreting what they see as signs, and except for those who are convinced that they will be taken up in the rapture, the end of the world is something that is generally thought about with fear.

            Somethinís cominí, I donít know what it is but it is gonna be great.  Why do we fear?  Jesus tells us, ďBe on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life.Ē  Paulís prayer for the Thessalonians is, ďMay the Lord make you increase and bound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.  And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.Ē  The coming of Christ means freedom from all the garbage that weighs us down.  It means focusing on important things, like pure and holy love.  It means Christ will rule ultimately, with righteousness and compassion.

I think we miss the point of the apocalyptic texts when we try to decode what signs weíre supposed to be looking for.  There are so many things in Godís great universe that we simply donít understand, that God hasnít revealed to us, and our presuming to decipher the mind of God is the same sin that Adam and Eve committed when they ate the forbidden fruit, striving to be like God themselves.  All we can really know about God is what he revealed about himself through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  In a few weeks weíll celebrate the birth of that Son into our world, the birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who came to us as a poor, helpless newborn baby.  But in the meantime, as it should be throughout the whole year, we need to remember that the world as it is right now is not all there is to hope for.  We can wait with excited anticipation for the return of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, who will execute justice and righteousness throughout all the lands, and who will reign with mercy, and who will bring his peace.  No, we donít know when that day will be, nor can we.  Nor does it matter.  As we wait for his coming with our excited anticipation, we can allow Christ to rule already in our hearts, putting his justice and his righteousness above all the other idols we face each day, and we can live as though that kingdom were already here.  And we can trust in Godís mercy through his Son Jesus Christ that when the end of the world that we know does come, it wonít be a matter of who correctly interpreted the signs, but a matter of having looked to God that we may abound in love for one another and for all.

            Come on somethiní, come on in, donít be shy, meet a guy, pull up a chair.  The air is humminí, and something great is cominí.  Who knows?  Itís only just out of reach, down a block, on a beach, maybe tonight.  Maybe tonight.  Maybe tonight.