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First Sunday in Advent

Matthew 21:1-11

James T. Batchelor

First Sunday in Advent
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Dec 2, 2007
First Sunday in Advent

Standard LSB A Readings:
First: Isa 2:1-5
Epistle: Rom 13:[8-10]11-14
Gospel: Matt 21:1-11 or Matt 24:36-44
Psalm: Psalm 122


I hate to date myself, but I can remember when doctors made house calls.  House calls are very rare now.  Someone figured out that a doctor can see many more patients by staying in one place and having the patients come to him.  The doctor's office can also house a great deal of medical equipment that would be difficult if not impossible to haul from house to house.  So, these days, we go to the doctor.  He does not normally come to us.

That's the way it is with many people.  We go to see them.  They rarely come to see us.  We go to work.  The work very rarely comes to us.  We go to the lawyer.  The lawyer rarely comes to us.  We go to the banker.  The banker rarely comes to us.  When the candidate wants our vote, he comes to us.  After the election, we go to him.  When a child really misbehaves in school, it's a trip to the principal's office.  The principal doesn't normally come to the student's locker.  It is the way of the world for the inferior to come to the superior - for the small to come to the great - for the subjects to come to the King.

So, right here at the beginning of the church year, we find out that the true God is different.  He - the most superior being in this or any other universe - comes to us.  In the spiritual world of the true God, the great comes to the small - the king comes to His subjects.

Today's Gospel finds God astride a donkey's colt.  The King humbles Himself to come to His subjects.  It is a humble situation, but it is also situation of prophecy.  In today's Introit, we read that prophecy from Zechariah 9.  Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  Jesus, the king of everything, comes to Jerusalem riding in humility on a borrowed donkey. 

As the true unity of God and man came to Jerusalem on a donkey, the Passover pilgrims praised Him.  "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" We do not know all the different reasons these Passover Pilgrims had for praising Jesus as the one who comes to save.  Neither the Bible nor other historical records tells us their motives.  No doubt some expected Jesus to come and start a grass roots movement to remove Roman tyranny from the city.  Others, perhaps, had recently seen Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha; walk forth from the tomb four days after he died and expected the Messiah to come and start a medical revolution.  Still others were from Galilee and expected Jesus to come and be a great prophet and perhaps make Nazareth a respectable town once again.

Few, if any, of these pilgrims expected Jesus to come and do what He actually did.  Few, if any, on that road to Jerusalem expected their Messiah to be the victim of false arrest, kangaroo courts, and a death based on political expediency instead of justice.  Victory by death was the last thing that most, if not all of these Passover pilgrims expected.

During Advent, we especially think about how Jesus comes - how He once came - how He comes now - and how He will come on the last day.  During this season of Advent - during this season when we prepare for Jesus to come - what do we expect Him to come and do?  Are we looking for someone to cure the ills of society?  Are we looking for someone to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise?  Are we looking for someone who will make us a better us?  What are we looking for when Messiah comes?

One need only look to T.V. or the book stores for the things that the world wants Christ to come and do.  Books have titles such as: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day; Lead Like Jesus; King Solomon's Secrets to Success, Wealth, and Happiness; and so forth.  Speakers on T.V. tell us that Jesus wants to come and make us rich, happy, and healthy in this life.  Jesus is very popular in this world when He comes and provides all kinds of personal, health, and financial benefits.  This world cheers the Jesus who can come and solve all sorts of marriage problems and give emotional stability.  The world would be more than happy to have a parade for that kind of Jesus.

The only problem with all of this is that nobody told the Jesus of the Bible about it.  The Jesus of the Bible kept saying things like, [John 16:24] In the world you will have tribulation.  [John 12:25] Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  [Luke 14:27] "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  [John 15:18] Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."  [John 15:18] "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you."  Jesus comes for a different reason than the world expects.

The Passover pilgrims hailed Jesus as Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one.  When they proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, they proclaimed Him as the one anointed to be our prophet, priest, and king.  Little did they know that their Messiah's throne would be a cross.  In the cross, Jesus comes as the Son of David and reveals the name of the Lord.  Not in heaven, but in the confinement of the cross do we find the highest heavens in which we sing, "Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!" It is in the cross that we find the truest revelation of God and the reason that He came.

The world still wants to divert us from the true meaning of the coming of the Messiah.  Marketing has come into Christmas.  Many merchants hope Jesus comes and transforms their bottom line from the red of loss to the black of profit.  Marketing is not interested in the Jesus who came and died on the cross. 

The world's celebration of Christmas does us no favors.  It separates Lent and the account of Jesus' suffering from the story of His birth.  There is no resemblance between the infant Jesus in the manger and the Jesus of the cross.  The Jesus of Calvary bears no resemblance to the Child of Bethlehem.  The world loves to disconnect the baby Jesus in the manger from Jesus the God-Man who died on the cross.  The world would have us believe that God came to the manger just because humanity is basically good and lovable.

Let us be clear that our celebration of the Lord's coming has nothing to do with what the world does.  The world overcomes its darkness with artificial lights and sings, "May all your Christmases be bright."  We are those sitting in the darkness of sin and in the shadow of death whose only hope is in the light that God provides in Jesus Christ.  We are waiting in the darkest night of sin for the dawn of our salvation in Jesus Christ.  We are the ones who want God to come and rescue us from our own sin.  We are the ones who pray, "Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance."  We are the ones who sing, "Savior of the nations, come"

Every year, pilgrims journey to Jerusalem and try to recreate the events of today's gospel.  Of course many of the details are lost to history and cannot be reconstructed.  Jesus does not come as He once did, but He now comes in other ways.  He comes in His body and blood.  He comes as the Son of David and the Son of God, as God and man, as our creator and yet our brother, as our servant and still our king.  He comes in the bread and wine of the sacrament.  He comes among us in our space and time.  As He comes to us in bread and wine we join the Passover pilgrims and sing, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the Highest."  In that mystical moment, God joins us with the hosts of heaven as we all participate in this heavenly meal that comes to us here on earth.

Advent is not Christmas.  During Advent we remember the many ways that God comes to us.  We remember how He came in the flesh.  We remember how He comes in Word and Sacrament.  We remember how He will come in glory.  Of all the ways God comes to us, only the last one remains to be fulfilled.  God prepares us for His last coming by giving us the faith that believes that that little baby lying in the manger really is the Son of God.  That He is the true Master of the Universe taking on a human nature.  That the pain and suffering of birth is barely the beginning of a coming that leads to the pain and suffering of the cross.  That His resurrection from the dead opens up the way to salvation for us all.  That, when He comes that one last time, we shall depart this world of sorrows and live with Him in joy forevermore.

Come Lord Jesus.  Come quickly.  Amen.

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