First Sunday in Advent + Matthew 21:1-9 + November 27, 2016
Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15Hymn # 68 The Advent of Our King
To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You;
Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me.
Let no one who waits on You be ashamed. (Psalm 25:1-3a)
Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.
For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You. Redeem Israel, O God, Out of all their troubles. (Psalm 25:4, 5b, 21-22)
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; Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
Collect for Beginning of the Church Year
Almighty Lord God, Who by Thy grace hast this day permitted us to enter into a new church year, we beseech Thee to pour upon Thy church Thy Holy Spirit and the wisdom that comes down from above, that Thy Word, as becometh it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edification of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve Thee and in the confession of Thy name abide unto the end; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) The church year, and Advent along with it, opens with the arrival of Jesus. We may ask why Advent begins with the same Gospel lesson as Holy Week. It’s because the message of Advent, Holy Week, and the ancient church calendar are all the same. Jesus is coming. That is why it is called “Advent,” which is Latin for “coming” or “arrival.” Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem shows us how the Lord comes to us. This pericope shows us first the manner in which Christ comes to us, second, this reading shows us the gifts He brings when He arrives, and thirdly, by this pericope the Holy Ghost teaches us how we are to receive the coming Messiah. By the grace of God we will meditate upon these three things as another church year begins.
2) How does the Lord arrive at His first coming? It is not with great pomp, majesty and splendor. Christ does not come as Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, or any of the rulers this world calls “Great.” He does not arrive with army to conquer. Nor does He arrive with great political promises, posturing, and polling and public relation campaign. He rides an donkey into the Holy city. Not only does He ride a beast of burden into Jerusalem, He rides a borrowed donkey. No warhorse. No chariot. No limousine with chauffer. And so that we do not misunderstand what is meant by this, the Holy Ghost gives us the interpretive lens through which we are to view this arrival. He writes, “”All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘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.’” This had always been the plan. Jesus was not to arrive as an earthly king because He is not an earthly king. He is not to come as a politician because He is not a politician. He is not to arrive with military might and the conqueror’s wreath because these are not His tools nor are they His prize. Instead He comes gently. He arrives meekly. He comes humbly. For this is the same Savior who beckons all men, weary with the burden of their sin, with these words, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). He does not come to conquer or demand praise. He comes not in arrogance or self-absorption. He comes on a borrowed donkey, lowly, gentle, humble, and merciful. This is the manner in which the Messiah of the world advents.
3) This text also teaches us what Jesus comes to bring to humanity. If St. Matthew gives us the lens through which to see this blessed event, then we should look more carefully at the prophecy from the prophet Zechariah. The words are taken from the ninth chapter of the prophet Zechariah. Here is what the Lord put on that man’s lips. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey”(Zechariah 9:9). The King comes righteous and having salvation. This is why the Lord Jesus comes to us, to bring us these things. He brings us righteousness and salvation because we, by nature, do not possess either of these necessary things. We are unrighteous. We are by nature sinful and unclean because we are born of Adam’s race. That means that we don’t, and that we can’t, fear, love, and trust in God above things. We fear the future. We fear our employer. We fear the great unseen force called the economy. We fear death. We fear poverty. But we do not fear God in and of ourselves. Nor do we love God with our whole heart, mind, strength and vitality. We love our spouse. We love our hobbies. We love our houses. We love our possessions. We love our free time. But we do not truly love God. So it is impossible that we trust God above all things because we cannot trust someone whom we do not fear or love. This is unrighteousness. This is what we see in the world around us. This is what we see in ourselves when we are honest with ourselves. This is unrighteousness. And it cannot be overcome by us.
4) So Jesus brings it to us. He IS our righteousness. He earns our righteousness by assuming human flesh and adventing as fully God and fully man. He lives your live under the Law of Moses. He does it all. He doesn’t do Moses like the Judaizing protestants do Moses when they pick and choose their Laws, like Sabbath-observance, abstention from shellfish, or not wearing clothes of mixed fibers. Jesus does all that and more. He does the hard stuff, the impossible stuff. He loves God with His whole heart. He loves His neighbor as He loves Himself and He does that ALL THE TIME. He dies your death. He bears up under your deserved wrath from God the Father because of your unrighteousness. He lies in your tomb. And He does it all in perfect righteousness, holiness, innocence and blessedness. That’s why He says, “It is finished” (John 19:30), because the Law stands fulfilled by man in the person of Jesus Christ. Upon the cross, what started at His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary culminates with a final ragged breath. He procures your salvation. He walked in righteousness in your stead. He atoned for the sins of the world as the true Lamb of God which every slain Passover lamb pointed toward. He acquires salvation for the world, not just a class of people, for every individual in the world by His life, suffering, and death.
5) That is how He advented and what gifts He wins for men, but there is still more. For Jesus still advents. He still comes. He still has His arrival amongst His people every day and every Lord’s Day. He does not come on a borrowed donkey. But He still arrives in very lowly and humble means, the means of salvation He has appointed. He comes to you through the preaching of His Word. Johann Gerhard called the Word of God “the Holy Spirit’s workshop.” That’s where He does His saving work. It is through good, honest, and pure preaching that the Holy Ghost works faith in your heart. That’s why you ought to do your best and go out of your way, even driving many miles if necessary, to hear pure preaching. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” St. Paul says (Romans 10:17). Jesus approaches you in His word and convicts you of your sin, your unrighteous thoughts, your lack of fear, love, and trust in Him. He brings you to repentance through His word of Law and condemnation so that you may be brought low, humbled, and confess your sins and sinfulness. Then He approaches the broken and contrite spirit with the Holy Gospel, that sweet word of righteousness earned and salvation acquired for you on the cross. That message creates what it needs. The Gospel creates faith in your heart and faith grabs onto that righteousness brought and salvation acquired. Faith applies to you what Christ acquired for you in His perfect obedience, passion, and death. Jesus still advents among us in His Word.
6) He advents yet again, coming to you in His Blessed Sacrament, true body and true blood, the very same body crucified for you, the very same blood spilt in death for you. No symbolism here. No shadows of spiritual realities that have already happened. Symbols and shadows are for people who only have symbolic sin or who are ignorant of their iniquity. Jesus attaches His real body and blood to the lowly, gentle, and humble means of natural bread and natural wine. Again, nothing showy, nothing glamorous, nothing with pizazz. He comes as did before. Bringing with Him the same gifts He brings in the preaching of His Word: the forgiveness of all of your sins, eternal life which cannot die in spite of what happens to the body, and salvation earned for you which no one can take away from you if you hold to it in faith. Jesus arrived in humility during the days of the Romans and He shows us that this is still how He advents among His people: in humility and gentleness, so that He may lavish the repentant and contrite with His gifts.
7) In the final verses of the text appointed for the beginning of a new church year, the Holy Ghost teaches us how we are to meet Christ when He comes to us in these holy means of grace. “A very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road” (Matthew 21:8). So are we to do when Christ comes to us? We are to remove the soiled garments of sin which we wear and cast them down so that Jesus may trample on them. We are to, as St. Paul says in the appointed Epistle, “cast off the works of darkness,” which are “revelry and drunkenness and lewdness and lust and strife and envy” (Romans 13:12-13). We are to cast off the Old Adam like a garment and lay it down at Jesus feet, begging forgiveness for the severity of our smallest sin. We are also to cut down braches from the trees of our hearts, that is, we are to humble ourselves before Christ’s gracious presence. We are to cut down the lofty thoughts of our hearts and our vain imaginations, which lead us to think that we have no sin to confess, or that we have only small and petty annoyances to confess to Jesus. We to cut down the high branches which grow in our hearts which desire that Christ come to us in more glamorous, spectacular, and worldly ways. The sinful flesh never wants what Jesus comes to bring and so tempts us to neglect Jesus true gifts as “not good enough,” and tempts us to look for God in places He hasn’t promised to be. We must, like the crowd, follow Him and cry out to Him in praise as the true Son of David, the One who comes in the name of the Lord. So we are to meet Him in true repentance of our sins, true faith in our hearts which desires God’s gifts, and true praise and thankfulness on our lips. This is how we are to meet Jesus who advents, who comes to us, who arrives not as we might expect, but gently, humbly, meekly, being righteous and hold our salvation in His outstretched hand. Amen.
May the peace of God, which far surpasses all human wisdom and understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.