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Advent 1 – Matthew 21:1-9

by pastorjuhl ~ November 26th, 2008

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The Christian Church seemingly does everything backward from the world. Many people have put up their Christmas decorations. Even our church building is ready for Christmas with a little touch of Advent too! Others are either dreading or dreaming of the awesome task of preparing for Christmas. Parties are yet to come. People tend to act more cheerful between now and the end of December. Everyone seems to be ready for Christmas. It’s good to be prepared.

That’s why we Lutherans take extra care to be prepared…four weeks to be exact. The blue paraments drape chancel furniture, preaching a season of anticipation and hope. Before you know it we will sing Christmas carols and wish each other a Merry Christmas.

How strange it must be to our ears to begin the holy season of Advent with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We expect to hear about Zacharias and Elisabeth expecting a boy named John. We will hear more about John in a couple of weeks. We expect to hear the familiar accounts of Mary and Joseph and angelic visits. Be patient. Those accounts are yet to come. There’s a little unfinished business to take care of before we turn our attention to the first advent of Jesus Christ.

The unfinished business we hear this week and next week is about Jesus’ imminent second Advent. Advent has a deeper meaning than preparing for Christmas. Advent also prepares us to receive our King of Kings when He returns triumphantly to judge the living and the dead. The first Advent couldn’t be more different than the second Advent. Our Lord’s first Advent is all about lowliness. This is why Saint Matthew puts Zechariah’s Old Testament prophecy front and center: Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah’s prophecy gives us much to rejoice about, and much to sorrow over. Jesus did not need to be born according to the flesh if it weren’t for Adam’s sin that infects us all. Yet out of sorrow comes joy. The Seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent, while the serpent will bruise the heel of the Seed. From this moment on, God’s children’s song would be the same as the hymn we sang a moment ago:

Savior of the nations, come,

Virgin’s Son, make here Your home!

Marvel now, O heaven and earth,

That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood,

By the Spirit of our God,

Was the Word of God made flesh –

Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

Throughout the Old Testament God’s children lived in the hope of a promise soon to be fulfilled. Sometimes their patience wasn’t the finest of examples. The Israelites would often go their own way and try to make their own promises. Our heavenly Father would punish them because He loved them. He wanted them to place their trust solely in Him. Whether it was military defeats, exile to a foreign land, or another punishment, God the Father would stir up their hearts to repentance toward forgiveness. He sent them prophets to proclaim the favor of the Lord. Zechariah was one of His prophets whose Spirit inspired message kept hope alive: Behold, your King is coming to you.

Not much has changed since those Old Testament days. We wait patiently for the fulfillment of a promise. This time, it’s a promise that looks back to a promise already fulfilled in the sure and certain hope of Jesus Christ. We often wait impatiently and try to rush our heavenly Father’s promise along by guessing when the Last Day will come. We fall prey to the world’s trap of thinking the Last Day will never come. Yet we wait not for Christ’s coming on a donkey, but His coming in the clouds with great pomp and ceremony.

Christ’s Church waits with the gift of faith given by grace through God’s Word. Faith doesn’t judge. Faith doesn’t try to reason something by observation or gut feelings. Faith clings to the Word made flesh. Faith clings to Jesus’ Words of promise heard here in the Divine Service and at home when we study the Scriptures.

We Christians find riches in poverty, honor in dishonor, joy in sorrow, life in death, and hold fast to them in the faith that clings to the Word in expectation. We do not approach our heavenly Father and demand successful, victorious living here on earth. We rejoice in adversity even in the worst of times. We rejoice in adversity because the end of adversity is near. Jesus will soon return and put an end to adversity. Yet the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh press us harder day by day. That is why our life in Christ is one of now, and not yet. The fifty-dollar word for that sort of life is inaugurated eschatology. The five-cent explanation is simple.

We live believing Jesus’ death and resurrection has paid for our sins, destroyed death, and brought life and immortality to life. This is an historic event that has personal ramifications for every one who believes in Jesus. His victory is ours right here and now. Yet the fullness of His victory is yet to come. Jesus will soon return to put an end to the world as we know it. Jesus will raise the dead, judge the world, and sentence those who wanted no part of His kingdom to live with Satan and his minions in the lake of fire. Those who put their faith and hope in the promise of eternity with our heavenly Father will ascend with Jesus to heaven, where we will partake of the heavenly banquet that never ends.

Eternal life is ours because Jesus first came to this world born of a woman, lain in a feeding trough surrounded by animals and shepherds, and arriving in the city of peace on a donkey ready to bear the burden of the sin of the world. It all begins again today. Now is the day to prepare to welcome Christ according to the flesh. Now is the day to prepare to welcome Christ in His Word and Sacraments in the Divine Service. Now is the day to welcome Christ’s return in judgment. Now is the day of salvation here at Our Savior Church. The Word is preached. Forgiveness is bestowed. Life is put in our ears and mouths. Salvation is ours. The King comes again as He does every Lord’s Day. The King will come again to lead us home to the Father. Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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