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Sermon for Advent I

by Rev. Brian Hamer ~ December 1st, 2010

Sermon on St. Matthew 21:1-9
The Triumphant Entry
Advent I
28 November 2010

+ Jesu Juva +

“Behold, your King is coming to you.”
– St. Matthew 21:5

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord.” These words from Jeremiah (33:14) are a fitting “introit” to the appointed lessons for the “new” church year. They remind us that the days are coming when the Lord will fulfill the promises He made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah; the day when a righteous Branch will spring up for David, establishing a kingdom that will never end. The hope for this kingdom is fulfilled for us this Advent in the person and work of Jesus Christ. “Behold, your King is coming to you.”
Jesus and His disciples went through Bethphage and the Mount of Olives on their way to Jerusalem. Everything must be perfectly prepared for Jesus’ last entrance to the city of peace, so he sent two of His disciples to one of the many suburbs to find a donkey and her colt. Why a donkey? The donkey says, on the one hand, that this trip to Jerusalem is especially important. Up until now, Jesus had walked to nearly every destination in His public ministry. The new mode of transportation highlights this last trip to Jerusalem. And the unsuspecting donkey also says, on the other hand, why this trip is so important. The donkey is a beast of burden, used for carrying (as they say at the airport), “Passengers needing special assistance in boarding.” Kings, however, are more prone to enter in chariots pulled by mighty lions. Jesus’ entry on a beast of burden says that He will bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. So He does not come as another worldly king, but as the humble King. He does not come for His own benefit, but as the Savior of the nations.
The preparations for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem remind us of the need to make ready the way of the Lord through repentance. Advent is a season of waiting. We poor, miserable sinners cannot come barging into the King’s chambers to insist on having everything my way, right away. That’s the way of the world, isn’t it? The world does not know of waiting, but rather of pushing to the front of the line and reaching for whatever gives me pleasure. That’s why the world skips Advent and gets right to the secular Christmas. You know how it goes: Christmas music in October. Christmas parades on 34th St. in November. There’s hardly anything left to do in December, except to wait for the men to do their shopping on Christmas Eve! But we do not rush in to our holy days in the church year. Rather, the repentant know that they must wait in line, so to speak, like anybody else who wants to beg the King for His gifts. And so Advent is designed as a season of waiting, i.e., of repentance. Your bulletin insert notes a few ways to help the faithful wait for their King: Advent wreaths, calendars, and chains. These all help us count “up” or “down” to Christmas Day and preach repentance. They remind us that we must prepare the royal highway by confessing our sins and removing the obstacles that would other wise ruin the entrance of our heavenly King.
And why all the careful preparations for Jesus’ entrance? These preparations speak fulfillment. “All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” The OT says “I will.” The NT says “I have.” Both testaments revolved around Jesus’ death for our sins and His resurrection on the third day. And so we read in Zechariah and in Matthew, “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’” In OT terms, the daughter of Zion is faithful Jerusalem, ready to receive her Lord as He prepares for His suffering, death, and resurrection. In NT terms, the daughter of Zion is the church, ready to receive her Lord as He comes to her in the means of grace. But whether you see it through OT or NT eyes, it’s one and the same King doing the same thing: coming to you to give you all the gifts of salvation.
These preparations for Jesus’ triumphant entry remind us of the season of Advent, the portal of the church year that begins today with the coming of our King. Scholars have long debated if the emphasis is on Jesus’ coming in the past, present, or the future. I would suggest the answer is all of the above. He has come in time, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He is coming, blessing us with His gifts every time we gather around font, pulpit, and altar. And He will come again, rending the heavens wide, descending through the clouds, and claiming as His own in the Kingdom that will endure, world without end. So Advent says, “He has come. He is coming. And He will come again.” But whether His advent is past, present, or future, it is one and the same King who comes for the sake of His people, giving all that they might have life and have it abundantly.
And what do you do when the King is coming to you? The crowds at Jerusalem got it right. “A very great multitude spread their clothes on the road,” something you only did for royalty. (When was the last time you put your favorite jacket on the sidewalk for someone?) Others “cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road,” the ancient way of rolling out the red carpet. And the crowds cried out, “Hosanna [save us now!] to the Son of David!” The petition to “Save us now!” was the cry of the people to their King, a cry to save them from all pestilence, from famine, from warfare, and every other vice. They also cried out from Psalm 118, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” This was the petition sung by or to pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. The cry, “Blessed!” said that Jesus was the blessed One, the One who came to fulfill Zechariah’s canticles, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Lk 1:68). Sadly, the same crowd that welcomes Him on Palm Sunday would shout, “Crucify! Crucify!” on Good Friday. They did not yet understand His Kingship at the foot of the cross. But after Jesus’ resurrection, the cries of “Hosanna” and “Blessed is He” would ring out in the Communion liturgy every Sunday to welcome our King who comes to this churchly Jerusalem.
Jesus’ royal welcome reminds us of our liturgical life together. The event that St. Matthew describes in this gospel lesson – a king coming to His people – is called “liturgy,” which means “public service.” The liturgy of the ancient world was a time for kings and people to gather together, to talk and to eat, “to party,” as we would say today. The early Christians knew that they had the King of Kings and the Kingdom would never end, so they “Christianized” the word “liturgy” as a description of Christian worship. Here, in the Divine Liturgy, our King comes to us to give us His gifts. He speaks to us in the preached Word, forgiving us all of our sins. He feeds us his true body and blood, sitting us with Him at the King’s table. We stand in His presence to receive and respond to His gifts: full and free forgiveness, rich and abundant life, and sure and certain salvation. We welcome Him with shouts of “Hosanna” and “Blessed is He.” We become something as a group that we cannot be as isolated individuals, faithful pilgrims of the New Jerusalem, who welcome their King in faith and “live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness” (SC).
And so the first Sunday in the church year preaches Christ as the incarnate King who comes not to condemn or to conquer, but to save and to bless; indeed, to fulfill the promise He made through Jeremiah to use His power for our protection and deliverance. Perhaps the Collect for Advent I puts it best: “Stir up, we beseech Thee, Thy power, O Lord, and come, that by Thy protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Thy mighty deliverance.”
God grant it unto us this church year for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Rev. Brian Hamer

Redeemer, Bayside, NY

1 Response to Sermon for Advent I

  1. ToddPeperkorn

    Nice sermon, Thanks!

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