The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
The lessons appointed for this first Sunday in Advent set the tone, not only for today, but for the entire Advent season. This is what Advent is all about, and these lessons get right after it! Let there be no confusion or distraction! Our Lord Christ draws near. In fact, the Gospel lesson really sets this tone in the fact that we hear, not of Christ’s nativity or the events immediately preceding that miraculous day, but of Christ’s Palm Sunday procession, which led ultimately to the cross six days later. This is what Advent is all about. This is what Christmas is all about. This is what the faith is all about. Jesus Christ took on flesh for the sole purpose of taking that flesh to the cross as an all-redeeming sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. God in the flesh came to earth in order to keep His promise of salvation, which He first made to our first parents in the Garden of Eden after the fall into sin, death, and damnation. Right off the bat; immediately out of the gate, this Gospel orients us to this; to what it’s all about.
This is why I also love how the Old Testament text lays it out. Jeremiah, preaching roughly 600 years before Christ would be born, speaks of God’s grace and mercy in all three tenses—past, present, and future. He speaks of what God did with the Israelites in the past when they came out of Egypt. He speaks of the future, when “the days will come” and God will make good on His promise by raising up a messianic heir of King David. Most importantly, he speaks of God’s gift of grace, mercy, and peace in the ever-present tense—“God IS our salvation.” It’s not “God will be our salvation,” nor is it “God became our salvation.” “God IS our salvation.”
Folks: These past, present, and future tenses regarding God’s salvation are what Advent is all about. Yes, 2,000-some years ago Christ did come to earth and took on our flesh. He did go to the cross and die and rise again. “It is finished!” He spoke those words in the past, but note how they are present tense. This means that “it” (the all-atoning sacrifice for all sin) is never to be repeated. There’s no expiration date. This means that God is presently our salvation. Two-thousand years on this side of the cross and we can say the same thing that Jeremiah said 600 years before Christ: “God IS our salvation.”
Look to this font. Look to this rail. Look to the altar, the pulpit, and the lectern. Your Lord still presently comes to you and draws near to you by means of His Word and His sacraments. “Where two or three gather in My name, there I am.” Well…here He is! And just like that first Palm Sunday, it’s not exactly a big, glorious event filled with all kinds of royal pomp and circumstance, is it? The Greenwood football team enters onto the field to face off against Alma to a bigger show/greater fanfare. No royal procession. No chariots. No warhorses. It’s not like a head of state is coming to visit. The welcoming committee isn’t a delegation of the best and brightest. No one “important” is there to meet Him or welcome Him in. Rather, the welcoming committee consists of the lowliest of the townsfolk throwing down their cloaks or waving palm branches.
Again, look to this rail. Look to the font. Look to the altar, the pulpit, the lectern. No royal fanfare. The heavens don’t rend. The earth doesn’t quake. The lights don’t even flicker. All you see is lowly bread and wine. You see plain ordinary water. You see a donkey in a robe reading words from a book. Not very impressive, is it? Certainly nothing to stop the presses. As far as a welcoming committee, let’s face it: It’s not even enough to get people out of bed or to look up from their phones or whatever else it is that we do that we deem “more important.” This is it. And yet…here is Christ. Here is the King of kings, with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven. Here is our salvation, in our midst, executing His justice and righteousness, making us holy and righteous in His sight. By faith, we know this, but we also know that this isn’t the end of the story.
We know that Christ will return again in glory and might. When will that be? That we don’t know. Nobody but the Father knows. This is why St. Paul urges the Christians in Rome (and all who hear these words) to basically “wake up.” Paul speaks with a tremendous sense of urgency. “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The day is at hand.” I know you’ve already heard it more than a few times over the past couple of weeks, but it bears repeating: If you knew when Jesus would return in Judgment, would it change you? Would you stop doing certain things, and start doing other things? Would your sense of urgency shift from your shopping lists to God and His means of grace? Would your priorities change? If so, why?
Folks: That’s what the season of Advent is really all about. That’s the tone these passages are so clearly setting forth today in our hearing. Look to the past, and praise God for His great workings and gifts of salvation. Look to the present, and praise God for His great workings and gifts of salvation. Look to the future, and rejoice, for Christ, who IS your salvation, is coming to take you home to Him—body and soul complete—and He will be your salvation throughout all eternity.
May this past, present, and future advent reality of your Lord, your King, and your salvation help you to “wake up” and have your priorities straight. May the first and most important things be first and most important, not just on Sunday mornings, not just in Advent, but always. Most especially, may this Christocentric Advent reality give you repentant hope, joy, and peace, now and into all eternity.
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.
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