The First Sunday in Advent
November 28, 2016
St. Matthew 21:1-9
Monday Night Service
It's beginning to look a lot like...Holy Week! Palm Sunday? Wait a minute! This is Advent. We're supposed to be getting ready for Christmas. The lights and trees are up and the music is blaring in the stores. Why is it when the new Church Year begins, we suddenly hear about Palm Sunday? About Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey? What does that have to do with Christmas? This Palm Sunday Gospel we hear at the beginning of the new Church Year is great! It reminds us that we are waiting for the coming of our Savior. Not a holiday. Not a sale at the store. Not a party or a feast, although all those things aren't bad in themselves. But in the midst of the world's desire to rush into a big celebration of buying stuff, the Church is reminded that what we are waiting for, what God's people have always been waiting for, is our Savior. In the Old Testament times, God's people were waiting for their Savior to come and save them. Jesus has done that! Now, God's people are waiting for Him to come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and bring His kingdom which has no end.
But here's our Advent repentance. We don't live as if Jesus is coming. We don't live as if our Lord will return. We don't live as if the Lord Himself is our righteousness. We live as if the world revolves around us. We live as if we don't need saving. Husbands and wives treat each other like the Lord isn't coming back and won't see how they treat each other. Kids and parents live as if Jesus isn't coming back and can't see how they are too harsh or disrespectful. We live with our secret sins as if we need to please only ourselves and do whatever we want because we need to be getting' while the gettin's good! We live not only as if Jesus hasn't come in the first place and died on the cross; we live as if He's not going to show up on the Last Day ever either! Just as the children of Israel for years and years didn't see their Savior yet and so drifted off to worship other gods, turning away from the Lord's Word. We do the same thing, getting excited for Jesus for a few minutes and then turning back to the more exciting things we are piling up for ourselves on earth. And even the hype of the holidays can't save us. Just think about all those people who were shouting “hosannas” for Jesus on Palm Sunday and then shouting to have Him crucified a few days later! We can clean up our act and get all pious for the holidays, but our sins haven't gone anywhere. Repent of this and confess that this is why we need Jesus to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.
We need Jesus' Advent, His showing up to save us. Unless He comes into Jerusalem and goes to the cross, the celebrations of Christmas will be just another party and we'll be doomed. But because He goes to the cross, our sins are blotted out and washed away. Jesus has two Advents you know. There is His First Advent when He came into this world in the flesh. In that Advent He came to do the work of saving us. To do the work of being a man, living under the Law and getting crucified and dying as if He were the sinner. The only sinner! No matter how peaceful and Silent Night-ish this holiday season is, the First Sunday in Advent reminds us that Jesus came to do this one thing: Be our Savior by dying for us. But the Lord has another Advent. A Second Coming. And that will be on the Last Day. As we heard at the end of the Church Year, no one knows that day or hour but it's coming. But understand this: Because of Christ's First Advent, His Second Advent is not to be feared. He will come again to judge the living and the dead but for those in Him, this is not a scary thing! When Christ comes again, He won't be coming to pay you back for your sins! They're already paid for! He's already paid the price! Your sins are forgiven. And they will still be forgiven and paid for and gone on the Last Day! So when Jesus comes we sing our hosannas and our praises because we know he is coming to save us once and for all for eternity!
So what then between His First Advent and His Second Advent? Christ didn't disappear after He ascended and it's not that He won't be around again until the Last Day. No, He has Advents everywhere His church is gathered around His Word and Sacraments. Where Christ's Word is preached, there Jesus Himself comes. Where people are baptized, there Christ comes. Where pastors are absolving sinners, there Christ comes. Where Christ's Words are spoken, He comes to us in His body and blood. Jesus doesn't just show up at Christmas and then in the future some time. He shows up now. Here He is! Right here among us! That's why we sing the Palm Sunday song right before the Sacrament in the service: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” Until He comes again, we turn from our sins and cling to the Christ who DOES come again, right here in His church in water, word and body and blood! And He comes in His church to do the same thing He always comes to do: save us from our sins. Bestow His forgiveness, life and salvation upon us. Rescue us from death and the Devil. By Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, the Holy Gospel and the Holy Supper, the Lord is YOUR righteousness against all sin and death!
So for the world it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. For Christians, it's looking like Christ crucified and risen, as it always does. Sure, we're getting ready to celebrate the holy day of Christ's birth. But we never forget that His coming was for our salvation. His First Advent in the flesh was to go to the cross for us. His many advents in His church through Word and Sacrament are to deliver that forgiveness to us. And His final Advent in glory is to save us once and for all and give us eternal life. So what else is there to do but to rejoice that the Branch of David's line has come and will come again. We sing with the saints of all the ages, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” In the Name of Jesus. Amen.