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Advent 1 – Matthew 21:1-9

by pastorjuhl ~ November 28th, 2009

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

Psalm 119 says the entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Jesus Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem begins the most important week in the history of the world. The crowd cries Hosanna! on Sunday but will cry Crucify Him on Friday. Jesus Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem is also a fitting way to begin another year of grace in the Church calendar. You might call today’s Holy Gospel a scene-setter.

A scene-setter often begins a book, movie, or television program. A scene-setter explains where you are, who is involved, some background information on what is happening, and the time when the action takes place. Without a scene-setter you would be hopelessly lost, much like starting to watch a movie when it is almost finished. No one who has invested the time and interest in a movie likes to bring someone up to speed on what has happened while trying to watch what is happening right now.

For the benefit of those who came late, today is the best day to pick up the story of salvation and follow the story all the way to the end. When you miss a week, you miss a lot; just like a television soap opera. Here is the scene-setter for not just the season of Advent. Today is the scene-setter for the remainder of the Church year. Today Jesus makes an entrance among His people, the same entrance He made on a foal of a donkey nearly two thousand years ago. Jesus’ entrance among His people today is the same entrance He made into this world when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. These two prior entries point toward Christ’s imminent coming. When Jesus returns, He will make an entrance unlike any other entrance ever seen. Jesus returns “with clouds descending” as next week’s chief hymn says. “Every eye shall now behold Him”.

Every eye has the opportunity to behold Him right now, hidden in Word and Sacraments. If people only knew what they were missing when they missed the Divine Service! If you only knew what you are missing when you do not take time to prepare to welcome the Savior’s entrance into this sin-sick world! Christians eagerly anticipate, but never prematurely celebrate. Christians know how to celebrate, but do all celebrating after the big day, never before the big day. The Church waits. The Church needs time to say her prayers. The Church does not like to rush hastily into a celebration.

The Church’s way of celebrating and the world’s way of celebrating are backwards. The world doesn’t like to wait to celebrate. It seems as if the world’s creed concerning festivals is “celebrate early, celebrate often”. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating early and often. Nevertheless, think of what happens when the big day comes? By the time December 25 rolls around nearly everyone is sick of Christmas music. Yet the Church is only beginning to sing Christmas hymns. Some families take down Christmas decorations on December 26 and get on with their lives. Our Christmas tree stays up for almost two weeks after Christmas. We have only begun to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

No wonder some Christian congregations no longer celebrate Christmas Day with a public service. I recall a congregation in south-central Illinois that cancelled their regular Sunday service because Christmas Day fell on a Sunday! There were a couple of letters written to the local paper shocked that a church would cancel Sunday service because Christmas fell that day. If Christmas was that important to pastor and people, the newspaper would have been flooded with letters from Christians disgusted about what happened. Yet there are many congregations, Lutherans included, that do not celebrate Christmas Day with Divine Service.

The Lord stands at the door and knocks, ready to serve you with forgiveness and life, but cannot make an entrance. Psalm 24 says Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. The King of glory is not made of clay, able to be bent and molded into whatever kind of god you prefer. The King of glory is strong and mighty.

Jesus Christ engages the battle between death and life when He enters Jerusalem. The battle actually began long before in the Garden, when God Almighty promised that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. Jeremiah prophecies this Seed shall be called THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. The King of Righteousness executes justice and mercy when He stretches His arms wide to suffer death and shed blood that covers and cleanses your sins. The King of Righteousness executes justice and mercy when He rises triumphant from the grave to guarantee our resurrection from the grave when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead.

Today the Lord makes an entrance among His people, as He does every Lord’s Day, to forgive sins and strengthen faith with His Word, His Body, and His Blood. As the Lord wills, He will do so every week of this Church year. Jesus comes into this house made with hands and delivers a foretaste of the feast to come in the heavenly home not made with hands. Saint Peter writes in his second epistle be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How do you make your call and election sure? Your call and election unto grace is made sure, when you bear abundant fruit through works of mercy that flow from Jesus Christ through your lives. As Jesus enters you in Baptism, in Absolution, and in His Supper, so He will enter the lives of those who know Him not as you do what is given you to do in your station in life.

“Let old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind” begins “Auld Lang Syne”. That’s a good way to think of a new Church year. Put off the old self and put on the new man that is Christ our Lord. What’s past is past. What’s done is done. Commit all things to God’s direction. Prepare your heart and mind to receive Jesus as a baby this Christmas, as the resurrected Lord of life this Easter, and as the coming Savior of the nations every day. The entrance of His Word gives light because Jesus is the lamp to our feet and the light on our path.

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

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