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First Sunday in Advent

Luke 19:28–40

James T. Batchelor

Advent 1, series C
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Nov 29, 2015 

This day is the first Sunday in Advent.  Most people who have been members of congregations who follow the church year know that advent comes from a Latin word that means to come. Specifically, Advent is about the three ways God comes to us.  He came in the manger.  He will come again at the end of time.  He reveals Himself to us now as we hear His words and participate in His sacraments.

One of the many themes of the Bible is Gods deep desire to come and dwell with us.  The last book in most Bibles is the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John.  This book expresses the ultimate goal of Gods plan of salvation with these words: Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:3) When God led the Children of Israel out of the slavery of Egypt to the slopes of Mount Sinai, He expressed His plans for Israel by saying, I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. (Exodus 29:45)

Then there is the account of the angel appearing to Joseph in a dream in order to tell him that the child of Mary was of the Holy Spirit.  By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Matthew noted that this was a fulfillment of prophecy.  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:2223) So we see that one of the names for our savior expresses this desire of God to be with us.

Even the Lords Prayer expresses the idea of God coming to be with us in the Second Petition, Thy Kingdom come. Prayer is talking with God, and the best prayers take Gods own words and pray them back to Him.  Our prayer in the Second Petition is a reflection of Gods expressed desire to dwell with us.

There is only one problem with this.  We are no longer the innocent people that God created on the sixth day.  Our ancient parents ate of the forbidden fruit.  They allowed sin and death to enter the world.  Gods presence changed from a presence of joy to a presence of fear.  Shortly after God created Adam and Eve, He came to dwell with them, and they were terrified.  They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8) Later on, Adam explained this desire to hide.  He said, I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid (Genesis 3:10) God came to dwell with His people and they were afraid of Him.  They were afraid because they knew they deserved punishment in Gods holy presence.

That brings us to the reading for today.  Todays reading is about God coming to us in a way that deals with the fear that we sinners have in the presence of the holy and almighty God.  It teaches us that the coming of God is about Jesus entering Jerusalem in order to sacrifice Himself for us.  Eventually it is about Jesus coming to keep His appointment with a cross.  It is about Jesus coming to offer Himself to take away all our sin.  It is about Jesus coming to Jerusalem to pay the price that makes it possible, once again, for God to dwell with us in joy instead of terror.

We need this reminder at this time of year because the world hopes to camouflage the coming of God to a manger in tinsel and lights and Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  The decorations have already been up in the stores for months.  Santa Claus and Rudolph and Frosty stand ready to draw our eyes away from the manger.  And even when we dwell on the manger, the world does all it can to eliminate the knowledge that that cute little baby will grow up to decorate a cross with His own body.  We need this reading to remind us that God came in an act of generosity that transcends all other acts of generosity an act of generosity that we can never even measure.

So we listen to the account of God coming to Jerusalem.  Only God is hidden in a man, Jesus the Christ.  He is lowly, riding on a donkey.  He hides His glory so that those who give Him praise will not flee in terror.  He hides His glory so that mere mortal men will actually have the arrogance to plan His death.  He is the fullness of God in human form so that God can die on a cross and restore the joy of the original creation.  He comes to die so that He can dwell with us in love.

The angels will get it right on Christmas Eve.  Before He is even circumcised and given the name Jesus, they will proclaim that He is Christ, the Lord.  Christ means Messiah, the anointed one.  Already, they know that the little one who lies in swaddling clothes is the Lord of all creation who is anointed for death, even death on a cross.

Perhaps we could also find some help in an ancient tradition preserved by our brothers in the Eastern Church.  They do not refer to this time of year as Advent.  Instead, they refer to it using the term Nativity Fast, or even Nativity Lent.  Such terms would help remind us that Advent is a time in the church when we consider our sin and our need for a savior.  It is a time when we try to walk in the shoes of those who sorrow for their sin and eagerly look for the coming of Messiah to save them.

If we truly wish to put Christ back in Christmas, we must recover Advent.  Advent is a season of preparationnot simply of our homes, meals, and presents, but a time of preparation for our hearts.  A time of assessment and acknowledgment and a time to recognize why our Lord came in the first place.  A time to recognize why that infant child, born to be King, would one day receive a crown of thorns. A time for repentance.

Advent prepares us for Christmas by telling us why the Son of God needed to take on humanity as a single cell in the womb of the Virgin Mary why He had to experience the pain of child birth why, for crying out loud, did He choose to be born into poverty.  We state the reason the Son of God submitted to all these every time we confess our faith using the Nicene Creed: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried.

The Son of God had to become the Son of Man in order to save us from our sin.  It is our sin that placed Jesus in the manger just as much as it was our sin that nailed Jesus to the cross.  Marys miracle pregnancy and Christs birth were but the beginning steps on the road to that cross.

Todays gospel is the beginning of the climax of the first coming the coming of God to His people in order to save them from their sins.  On the Friday after He entered Jerusalem on the donkey, He died on the cross for the forgiveness of all sin.  He died, but He did not remain in the grave.  One week after Jesus entered Jerusalem, He rose from the dead.  With His resurrection, Jesus opened up the way to eternal life.  This promise of eternal life leads us to His coming at the end of time His coming in the clouds with glory.  When He comes, He will gather together all those who believe in Him and take them to live with Him forever.  This is the climax of His last coming.

In the meantime, Jesus still comes to us.  He comes when we hear the word.  He comes as those who are baptized confess their sins and receive the very forgiveness that Jesus earned for us with his death on the cross.  He comes to us at the altar as we eat His body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of sin.  As Jesus comes to us, He brings heaven with Him for where Jesus is, there is heaven.

The Holy Spirit prepares us for all three comings by creating and sustaining faith in us.  By that faith, we believe in the One Who gave Himself for us on the cross.  By that faith we receive the benefits of His coming to us now in His Word.  By that faith, we look forward to the day when we shall see Jesus face-to-face in heaven.

Our redeemer comes, He came, and He is coming.  He sends the Holy Spirit to prepare us for His coming.  Jesus says, Surely I am coming soon. And Gods people reply, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20) Amen

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