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Advent 1 – Matthew 21:1-9

by pastorjuhl ~ November 24th, 2010

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

When Lutherans gather to eat, someone usually says, “Let’s pray together the common table prayer.” Everyone bows their heads and folds their hands…and does not say the common table prayer. Our common table prayer is in Luther’s Small Catechism: “Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts which we receive from your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” What most of us know as the “Common Table Prayer” comes from the Moravian Church. How this prayer became popular among Lutherans is anybody’s guess. Nevertheless, the prayer “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed” is known far better than the prayer in our Small Catechism.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus”. What I am saying is that the so-called “Common Table Prayer” might be better prayed during the Advent season as a daily prayer to prepare for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ according to the flesh. That is why the First Sunday in Advent, the first Sunday in a new Church Year, features the triumphal entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday. You can’t separate what Jesus does on Good Friday and Easter from what He does on Christmas.

Let’s unpack the so-called “Common Table Prayer” not as a prayer before meals, but as an Advent prayer that could be prayed daily both inside and outside Advent.

“Come, Lord Jesus”. That’s the theme of Advent. Jesus Christ is coming according to the flesh. It seems that Christians and non-Christians act this time of year as if Jesus has never come among us. We count down the days of Advent as if it was a space shuttle launch. When we get to liftoff, then Jesus comes among us. Not so. Jesus is among us now in the preaching of His Word, in Baptismal waters, and in consecrated bread and wine that are His True Body and True Blood. Jesus promises He will be with us always even to the end of the age. He promised to be in these holy things among His holy ones. Holy preaching is where we hear about His first coming among us according to the flesh. So here in His house is where we have the best of all three comings. We hear His first coming in the Word and we receive His coming in the Means of Grace until He comes again with great glory to judge both the living and the dead.

“Be our Guest”. This request is more than something out of the Walt Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast”. It isn’t a request at all. When we pray “be our Guest”, we pray it as a cry of faith. It’s not as if we have to call Jesus down from heaven and ask Him to stop by the corner of Second and Pine for an hour. There are no frilly invitations and self-addressed stamped envelopes. Instead, there is a cry of faith. Jesus is our Guest. He is the One Who not only is our guest, but also our chef, cook, host, butler, and food. Without His presence among us in the Means of Grace, our time here would be much like looking through old photo albums, reminiscing about what once was ours. What once was ours is still ours today, for Christ comes among us to forgive our sins, bestow new life, and keep us steadfast in His Word until the Father has finished preparing our true Home with Him in Paradise.

“And let these gifts to us be blessed”. Just as Jesus is not separated from what He does for us to win salvation, He cannot be separated from His Gifts that He gives us. Before your baptism, the Holy Spirit called you by the Gospel. It is as if Jesus Christ rode triumphantly on a colt, the foal of a donkey, right through your ears and into your life. The donkey is the Word of Law and Gospel, condemning you of sin and declaring your sin forgiven for Jesus’ sake. It’s hard for us to believe that the proclamation of God’s Word is like a triumphal procession by a victorious conqueror. That picture is more for Roman epics. That picture is also for you and me. What we see with our eyes can deceive us. God’s Word does not deceive us. The Savior has His triumph before the world, even before your eyes and into your life.

Your baptism is the day when the spoils of our Lord’s triumphal procession are given to you. You are connected to Christ. Everything that He does, He does for you. He applies His perfect life on you. He applies His all-availing sacrifice on you. He writes your name in the Book of Life with His blood for ink. Jesus becomes more than your bosom buddy in Baptism. He becomes your life, for He is the Life of all the living.

Jesus doesn’t stop giving His Gifts at your baptism. He gives you His True Body and True Blood every Lord’s Day, just as it was in the ancient New Testament Church. The triumphal procession of the victory of our God now goes in your mouth. Jesus delivers forgiveness of sins and strengthens your faith to life everlasting. Just as you cannot go without food and drink in the temporal world, you cannot go without food and drink in the spiritual realm too. Your cry of Hosanna, “save us now”, is answered in the Lord’s saving Supper.

Slovak Lutherans add a second verse to this prayer: “And may there be a goodly share on every table everywhere.” The Lord provides all we need to support this body and this life. We gave thanks to God this past Wednesday night for all His loving kindness. Today we give thanks to God as we do every weekend for all His loving kindness, but chiefly are we bound to praise Him for the hope of the resurrection. He provides a goodly share on this table, this altar, for us. He also provides a goodly share for us in the midst of earthly life. Wherever God puts us in our stations in life, we are able to show His love by providing for others a goodly share through works of mercy. We can’t help but want to help those who do not have a goodly share, even if they know not the Lord Jesus. Good works know no boundaries. Good works are living faith in Jesus Christ in action.

“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed.” This prayer is more than a table prayer. It’s a prayer that can be prayed in Advent and in every season of the Church calendar. Jesus comes to deliver hope that the world cannot give. Jesus comes to wake us from our slumber in sin and sloth in order that we lament and repent from sin, believing that He alone is our Savior. 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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