Those of you who remember your teaching about the church year will remember that the word Advent is from Latin and has something to do with coming. The season of Advent is all about God coming to us. In fact, we think about God coming in past, present, and future. We think about how He came. We think about how He comes. We think about how He will come again. This teaching that God comes to us is one of the things that makes Christianity totally different from all the other religions of the world.
It is natural for sinful pride to think that it can work out its own salvation. That is the reason that all the religions that rise out of man’s imagination teach that it is man who must do the work of saving himself. Buddhists follow the “Eight-fold path” to eliminate desire and so come to deliverance. Moslems embrace the Five Pillars in order to earn favor with Allah. Hindus practice various disciplines in order to work off their Karma and so come into a state of oneness with the Brahman. These are but three examples of teachings of false religion … that man must do some sort of work in order to earn some sort of reward in this life or the next. The sad thing about all these false religions is that they never tell us the truth … that it is impossible for mere human beings to do the work that produces salvation. They all point to a path that is impossible and then urge us to try harder when we fail.
Christianity is not that way. If God transcends all things, then there is no way that we can even learn about Him on our own, much less what it takes to obtain salvation from Him. If we are to know God, then He must show Himself to us. If we have favor in God’s eyes, it is because God has extended His favor to us. If we are to be in God’s presence, then He must come to us. He must make His presence known to us. If we are to be righteous in God’s sight, then God must give His righteousness to us. If God is above us, then there is no way that we can interact with Him. He must initiate the interaction with us. God coming to give His gifts to us is what the coming of Advent is about.
God contacts us through the word that He gave to His apostles and prophets, for men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21) Even more so, when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law. (Galatians 4:4) The Son of God born of woman is the ultimate communication and revelation between God and man as the writer to the Hebrews proclaimed, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” (Hebrews 1:1–2) Jesus, the Christ, the son of the Living God, is the ultimate communicator from God to man.
Not only is Jesus the ultimate communicator from God to man, but He is also the one who makes it possible for God to come to man in grace, mercy, and peace, instead of disfavor, harshness, and punishment. The coming of Jesus is all about the forgiveness of sins.
When the church fathers chose to focus on the coming of Jesus to Jerusalem on this First Sunday in Advent, they gave us a special gift. As we prepare for Christmas, we rejoice in anticipation of God lying in a manger … and rightly so. Never the less, the temptation will be for us to leave Him in the manger … to forget the reason that He came in the flesh of an infant. Today’s Gospel of Jesus coming to Jerusalem reminds us that Jesus came to offer Himself up as a sacrifice in Jerusalem for the forgiveness of all our sins. Today’s Gospel reminds us that when Jesus came, He not only came to a manger, but He also came to grow up. He came to live a life of perfection without sin. He came to die in Jerusalem. He came to rise from the dead. When he came, He came to do everything it takes to earn salvation for us.
We rejoice that Jesus came to earn forgiveness, life, and salvation for us, but that is not enough Advent for us. The fact that Jesus came does us no good if Jesus does not also come to us today. It is as He comes today that He delivers the benefit of the forgiveness that He earned for us when He came to Jerusalem as a sacrifice for our sins.
Martin Luther put it this way:
Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe on Him, and have Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel [1 Corinthians 12:3; Galatians 4:6]. The work of redemption is done and accomplished [John 19:30]. Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, and so on [Colossians 2:3]. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew about it, then it would be useless and lost. So that this treasure might not stay buried, but be received and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed. In the Word He has the Holy Spirit bring this treasure home and make it our own. 39 Therefore, sanctifying is just bringing us to Christ so we receive this good, which we could not get ourselves [1 Peter 3:18]. (Large Cat.: Creed, art. iii, par. 38–39)
As important as it is that God the Son came to earn forgiveness for us, it is just as important that that forgiveness be delivered to us. Therefore, Jesus comes to us today as the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith. Jesus comes to us as the Holy Spirit proclaims Him when you hear the Word read or read it for yourself, when you hear preaching based on the Word of God, when you feel the wet Word of Holy Baptism, when you eat and drink the very body and blood of Jesus at the Lord’s Table. These are the ways that the Holy spirit delivers Jesus to us. These are the ways in which Jesus comes to us today. So, the benefits that Jesus earned when He came, He now delivers by the power of the Holy Spirit as He now comes to you.
So it is that we now have salvation: 1.) because Christ came to earn it; and 2.) because he still comes as the Holy Spirit delivers Him to us by the Gospel.
Jesus has also promised to come at the end of time and raise all the dead. On that day, He will reunite our bodies and souls into eternity.
On that Last Day, He will come and the situation will be the same as always. There will be peace for some and condemnation for others. In order to prepare for this last coming, Jesus invites us to listen to His words as He says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
That is what Advent is really all about. It is a season of repentance and belief while Jesus serves us with His coming. Just as Lent is a season of repentance and belief in preparation for Good Friday and Easter, so also Advent is a season of repentance and belief in preparation for the coming of Jesus, not just as He came at Christmas, but also as He comes to us now and will come to raise us from the dead and live with us forever.
The Collect of the Day begins with the words: “Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come.” May the Holy Spirit keep us in the one, true faith that we may rejoice in the Lord who came at Christmas, who comes in Word and Sacrament, and who will come to raise us from the dead. May He also lead us in a life of repentance so that our Lord will always come to us in peace. Amen
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