“You Better Watch Out!”

Luke 21:25-36

December 2, 2018


     I’ve gotten into the habit of tracking orders that I place online. While most orders move through in a timely fashion, there’s always the possibility that something could go wrong.


     Just the other day, I put in an order for some Christmas gifts (I won’t say for whom.). According to Amazon, the order is being processed. It’s supposed to arrive at the Albany Post Office between December 5th and December 7th.


     As of yesterday afternoon, the Amazon system wasn’t updating any new progress. So for now, I’m going to have to trust them. But as part of my daily routine, I’m going to have to keep track of the signs that show my order is coming. It’s just a part of the new reality of shopping for things online.


     Jesus talks about a new reality coming online for his followers. At least, it’s a new reality in relation to the coming of the Kingdom. His words certainly build upon belief that has held together the Jews for centuries. It’s just taking on a new wrinkle with the arrival of the Son of Man – namely, him.


     As he winds up teaching in the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus talks about the coming of the end of the age. It’s God’s advent. God comes to render the promised judgment on unbelievers and to exact vengeance on those who opposed the chosen people. It’s pretty grisly.


     However, there’s an addition to the words of the previous prophets. This day of reckoning is going to hold off until the times of the gentiles among the faithful are fulfilled. What this means isn’t exactly clear. It’s best to say that when all has come to pass for non-Jewish believers, then everything that has been foretold shall be fulfilled.


     There are going to be signs. There are going to be all kinds of signs. The stars, even the sun and the moon, are going to reflect the distress of the Earth as the Lord comes. With such signs, the redemption of God’s faithful is drawing near.


     “You better watch out!” Jesus says. He urges them to consider the signs of a ripening fig tree. When its leaves come out, summer is near. In like fashion, when the signs show something is coming to pass in the universe, the Kingdom of God is drawing near.


     “Don’t be dulled to this reality!” Jesus says. “Don’t let yourselves become drunk on the cares of this life. You may get caught up in a spiritual snare when that day comes.”


     “Watch!”, he says. “Pray that you have the strength to escape all the things that are going to take place. Pray that you can stand before the Son of Man.”


     It’s one thing to watch out for a package of Christmas gifts. It’s another to watch out for Santa Claus. But it’s quite another to watch for the coming of the Son of Man.


     We know the old Santa song:


“You better watch out, you better not cry;

You better not pout, I’m telling you why;

Santa Claus is comin’ to town!”

(“You Better Watch Out!”, v. 1, from memory)


     Most of us are Santa Claus conditioned. We’ve heard the song. We can sing at least this verse from memory. We’ve lived with the regular reality that at Christmastime, we need to be on our guard. We must have our Santa antennae up and functioning. Santa comes at Christmas. We must be ready and watching!


     A lifetime of “better watching out” has kept us on our toes when it comes to Christmas and to Santa Claus.


     Supposedly, we should be equally adept at being on our watch for the coming of Christ. We should be able to discern the signs that point to the day of his arrival.


     As Christians, we should have a lifetime of watching to prepare us for Jesus’ coming – whenever it actually takes place. We’ve been given the signs. And we’ve been warned to watch.


     I was catching up on my Christmas reading online this morning. I wanted to remind myself about a tradition that’s done by the folks at NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense). I came across an article entitled, “NORAD Tracks Santa”.


     In that article, the story was told of how a mistake on a phone number in the newspaper about tracking Santa sent more than one child to the NORAD Center. The colonel in charge decided to respond to the kids inquiries by doing updates of Santa’s trip around the world on Christmas Eve.


     CONAD started this service in December of 1955. It was taken up by NORAD in 1958. And they’ve been doing it ever since.


     The idea behind this “Santa Watch” is to serve children. It uses the best of technology to track the old elf as he whisks his way across the Christmas Eve sky.


     In our more sophisticated age, we can rely on more than just our eyesight to look for the signs of the times. We have the knowledge. We have the means. We have the technology.


     But do we have the will?


     Jesus’ words aren’t just a warning to those who aren’t paying attention to the mighty acts of God. They’re a challenge. They challenge the people of that time – and ours – to consider the same spiritual truth that was put before our ancestors in the faith.


     Do we have the will to wait?


     We know how to wait for the things and people that matter. We’ll wait for an Amazon package. We’ll wait for Santa to arrive. We’ll wait because the signs point to their coming. We believe the signs. And we wait.


     Today, there are signs that point towards God. God is coming. God is coming in Christ Jesus, the Son. Will we watch out for Jesus? Will we wait for him in a way we won’t do for anything or anyone else?