Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent 1 Sermon -- Luke 19:28-40 (LSB Advent 1C)

November 29, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

As Christ was drawing near the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying: "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

As all of you Latin scholars well know, this Season of Advent derives its name from the word adveniat = “the coming or arrival.” Or if you weren’t students of ancient Mediterranean languages, now you do know. Because of the nature of this season, we begin it with the reading of the Triumphal Entry, the record of Jesus’ entrance into the holy city of Jerusalem. That is the arrival of the Christ which all the faithful people of God awaited throughout the centuries.

The Triumphal Entry is the coming of Jesus to fulfill His mission to redeem this fallen world by His sacrificial death. Jesus is present to bring salvation to sinners, just as the prophet Jeremiah had spoken: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” This is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises that the Lord God made to His people, from Genesis to Malachi. Jesus’ arrival marks the time that the first promise of the Serpent-crusher made to Adam and Eve after their disobedience in the Garden would be fulfilled. His entrance into Jerusalem ushers in the promised day of righteousness that the last prophet foretold. The Christ arrives to accomplish what He was destined to do from before the foundation of the world.

Jesus’ arrival on that Sunday in Jerusalem was hailed by His people. It was a day of jubilation. You heard the accolades given as He entered the city: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” This statement from the crowds of Jerusalem recognizes the nature of this appearance. Their actions and words display the exuberance that the Lord God’s people will have as His promises to them are fulfilled.

Even though Jesus enters on a lowly colt, the people recognize Him as a King; but not just any king, their promised King, a divinely-promised King. This is no tyrant or foreign ruler who receives disdain and hatred from conquered enemies. No, Jesus enters triumphantly, not out of His own authority, but with a divinely-appointed position: He is “the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Because Jesus comes in the Lord’s name, He comes with a purpose. He will fulfill the divine prophecies. The source of eternal righteousness enters King David’s capital city. Salvation is brought to Israel and Judah, just as their Lord had promised: “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” And so, Jerusalem rejoices with their psalms and palms.

The city’s rejoicing echoes the heavenly message that was given to a different crowd, in a different town of David. As the Christ’s first arrival was made known in Bethlehem, as the angel declared that the Savior was born, the cherubic hymn was: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth!” Now as that same Christ enters Jerusalem, bringing the promised salvation, the crowd gives its reply to the angelic song years later: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Peace in heaven, peace on earth: that is what the promised Christ would bring. He comes to reconcile man and God, the sinful to the sinless. He comes to bring life in its fullness to those cowering in the shadow of physical and spiritual death. That is what the entire story of Christ is: how God-incarnate, deity in our own flesh, brings righteousness to a fallen world. Salvation from our sins is given through Jesus, just as His name tells us. The righteous anger of God at our sinfulness is removed from humanity, the pinnacle of His creation which rebelled against Him. A divine peace is made on earth with effects in heaven.

But as the Christ brings that salvation to us here on earth, His arrival is not one of extreme splendor. Instead, Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem is wrapped in humility. This first coming, the Advent of our Lord, is not one of glory and majesty. Jesus receives great praise, as the crowd recites the psalter. But notice the appearance of Jesus, who is the object of their worship. The crowd adores their Savior, their God, who rides a colt, dresses as a peasant, and has an entourage of fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and outcasts. What is said about Jesus on that day does not equal what the eyes see, but it does equal what the ears hear.

That is part of the mystery of Christ’s incarnation: salvation is brought to the world through a simple Man; redemption is made by God veiled in humility. Only the truth of the Lord God’s word reveals Jesus’ true identity. But that is only so regarding His first coming. That humility and simplicity of Jesus’ first coming is gone: glory and majesty are found in its place. Every eye shall see Him and know that He is Lord of all, the Judge of the living and the dead. Thus this season of Advent takes on a different character for all of Christ’s disciples.

What you anticipate is not what the people of Jerusalem saw on that Palm Sunday. For you, your Lord’s arrival to bring your salvation has already occurred. His appearance as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices has taken place. His days of servitude and humility are over; now the Christ bears the name greater than any other and all must worship Him. You aren’t looking for your King to come to you on a colt and donkey. No, you anticipate His advent on the clouds of glory. At His return, Jesus’ entourage will not be the outcasts of society, but the whole heavenly host.

So Advent becomes more a season of preparation for you. You recall how your Lord first came to this world as our Savior. But then you focus on how He will return to be your Judge. Because that is what Christ’s role for you will be, you make yourselves ready, preparing for His arrival with the means that your Lord has provided. Through confession, renewal of baptismal vows, participation in the Lord’s Supper, and hearing the Gospel of your Savior more often, you prepare yourselves for the promised Day of Christ’s Arrival.

Those are the things that bring Christ’s salvation to you. They are the way that you rely on Jesus and His merits, each time acknowledging that “The Lord is our righteousness.” You seek no perfection in yourselves, but ask your Lord to judge you at His return in mercy, looking only at what He has done for you. You desire from your Savior what St. Paul described to the Thessalonian Christians: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”

That is what this Advent Season is about for all who follow Jesus. You recognize how Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem fulfilled the Old Testament promises and brought salvation to sinners in this fallen world. But you also realize how this was just the first chapter in your story as redeemed people. Greater things are yet to come. And this time of the Church Year directs your attention to those things which will be brought to us with Christ’s truly Triumphal Arrival.

Christ’s Advent brings to you the fulfillment of what the Lord God also promised through the Old Testament prophets. Jeremiah made such a promise to us: “In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely.” The days of your oppression, your trials, your temptations, your struggles will be over. At your Lord’s return, you will be truly safe and secure, as you are given the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.

So prepare yourselves during this Advent Season for that great day, when you will experience the same exuberance as the people of Jerusalem, seeing the Christ in person with your own eyes. May your hearts be established blameless in holiness at the coming of your Lord Jesus with all His saints. And then you will join in the everlasting song: “Blessed is the King who came in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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