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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Let's Get Ready For the Rumble

2015-11-29 Lk 21:25-36 and Jl 2:21-27 Are You Ready to Rumble?

Last week, people were asking me, "Are you ready for Thanksgiving?"

Really? I'm a guy.

How much preparation does this take?

You mean am I ready to eat until I can't breathe and then lie on the couch falling asleep to football games I don't care about?

Yeah, I think I got this.


But Thanksgiving is so last Thursday.

From here and for the next 25 days, it's full-frontal Nativity.

Christmas is coming.

Comin' atcha.

Gonna getcha.

Are you ready?

Are you ready to rumbulll???


Lucy: Linus, you've got to get rid of that stupid blanket, and here, memorize these lines.

Linus: I can't memorize these lines. This is ridiculous.

Lucy: Memorize it and be ready to recite when your cue comes.

Linus: I can't memorize something like this so quickly. Why should I be put through such agony? Give me one good reason why I should memorize this.

Lucy: I'll give you five good reasons.

[proceeds to make a fist out of her fingers]

Lucy: One, two, three, four, FIVE!

Linus: Those are good reasons. Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it's getting too dangerous.


That's what Charlie Brown said in 1965.

I wonder what he'd say today.

Christmas IS a rumble.



Venti-sized in paganized red coffee cups.


And this year, Linus, it IS dangerous. Really.

From Last Monday's news:


The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da'esh), al-Qa'ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions.  These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests.  This Travel Alert expires on February 24, 2016.


Rumble? Hardly.

Rumble makes it sound like West Side Story.

No, the news is more like signs of the apocalypse.

Which is exactly where Jesus was going with this.


They call his sermon the, "Little Apocalypse."

Cute name.

Jesus said,


'There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see "the Son of Man coming in a cloud" with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.'


Jesus goes on:

'Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place….'


This is Highest Alert.

Yes, Linus: Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it's getting too dangerous.

But according to Jesus, it always has been.


Are you ready for THIS rumble?

The roaring of the seas?

The shaking of the heavens?

The redemption and the judgment that catches you like a trap?

Are you ready?

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… No.

Of course I'm not.

I can barely imagine it.

How in the world can I be ready for it?


And that, again, is where I think Jesus is going with this.



I am definitely not ready for Christmas.

I want to be.

I really do.

I want to be good this year.

I want to stand in front of a fireplace, one hand on the mantle, sipping cider while wearing a plaid vest and a Walgreen's elf hat.

"Oh, daughters. Play us a yuletide carol on flute and cello, that Mrs. McTyre and I might harmonize vocally."

"Oh, Father! Shall we?"

And this would be yet another sign of the apocalypse.


I hear they're putting up Christmas wreaths in Paris and surrounding cities this weekend.

They're putting them on lampposts and in windows.

They're putting them up in view of surveillance cameras, studied through the figure-eight sights of military binoculars watching for things they can't prepare for and don't want to imagine. 

When you're not ready, when you're scared of what you can't see, good cheer is an act of defiance.

Jesus doesn't call us to be cheerful at his Advent.

He calls us to be defiant.

He calls us to stand up and raise our heads when heaven and earth crumble.

He says to look for what's on the other side of the fear.

To see through the smoke and the fire of the explosive belts to what might – might – come next.

These little apocalypses have always been with us.

This we know.

What we don't know, what we can't imagine until they surround us, is how we will choose to face them.


Are you ready for the purifying redemption?

Are you prepared for the fires of judgment?

Of course not.

But that's NOT where Jesus is going with this.

Oh, it may be a stop along the way, but it doesn't end there.

It doesn't end there.

It never ends there.

Jesus's question is: are you ready for what comes after?

Do you yearn for the hope that endures?

Do you cling to the promise of joy?

Can you hang that wreath as a bold act of faithful defiance?

Not because you're acting jolly, but because you want to believe God WILL act upon this world that is so more than ready for hope, peace, joy, and love?

Christmas is not some cartoon caricature of commercialism.

It's not about coffee cups or whether retail workers are allowed to say, "Merry Christmas."

Christmas is not some safe house of silent nights.

According to Jesus, his coming is dangerous.

He arrives in a dangerous world.

Be ready.

Be ready for the rumble.

But be more ready for what comes after.


Pull up the news and what you see is patently awful.

Acts of terror on scales grand and small.

But every now and then, you'll also see coverage of people gathering in the night, carrying candles, linking arms, singing.

And you think, "Well, that's nice. Hope it makes them feel better."

But here's where Jesus is going with that walk.

The message of Christ, the message of Christmas, the point of his Advent is to stand defiant.

To lift that tiny candle of hope in the face of humanity's worst.

To announce to the world that not even the fires of hell can snuff the flames of hope.

Because no matter what the world wants to throw at us, the light of hope, peace, joy and love is what comes after.


Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us;

-             Psalm 46

When you hear the rumbling, look for the candles of hope.