Sunday, December 2, 2012

Homily for Ad Te Levavi (The First Sunday in Advent)



Matthew 21:1-9; Romans 13:8-14; Jeremiah 23:5-8

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

The Church’s Year of Grace ended with the coronation of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, prophesied by Daniel, fulfilled on Good Friday, revealed in the fullness of glory in the Revelation to St. John. But, today, the new Church Year begins with Jesus revealing the kind of King He came to be. For, it was not upon a war horse, or riding in a gilded chariot, that He entered the royal city, but He rode in lowly humility upon a donkey and a colt, her foal. Still, He was a King, the True King, the Man after God’s own heart, a King who would lay down His life in sacrificial service to His people.

Therefore, the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into the royal city of Jerusalem is a story of both grace and judgment. He came in blessing in answer to His peoples’ cries of hosanna, save us now. And, He would save them, not from Herod, not from Pilate, or from Caesar, but He would save them from their true captors: sin, death, and hell. As their Shepherd King, He would slay their Goliath with the Word of God and with His love and obedience to His commandments. He would save Judah, and acquire safe pasture for Israel and for all His people in all the lands where God has driven them because of their sinful rebellion. But, He would do this Kingly service, not by mounting the stately throne in Herod’s palace, but by ascending the coarse wood of a cross on Golgotha. He would do this Priestly service, not by donning ornate vestments and taking the place of Caiaphas in the temple, but by being stripped naked, and by being pierced and torn by Roman hammers, nails, and spear. And, He would be their Great Prophet, the very Word of God made flesh, spoken by God the Father into the world and flesh that He had made, to serve as leaven, salt, and light, to return not to Him void, but to accomplish that purpose for which He was sent, to be a seed sown in all manner of soil, to be a grain of wheat that must fall to the earth and die, and bear a harvest a hundredfold. Truly, He was their King. But, their King had come to die; and, only in dying could He be their King. Only by His dying could they live.

King Jesus’ entry is a story of grace; it is only a story of judgment when it is refused and rejected. And, though many received Him at first, even His closest friends and disciples fled in fear when King Jesus ascended His royal throne. For most, He simply wasn’t what they had expected or had hoped for. He wasn’t the new Moses they had hoped for, who would lead them out of slavery and captivity. He wasn’t the new David, the mighty warrior-king they desired, who would release them from the occupation of the Roman Empire and restore Israel to might and glory. And yet, He was both of those and more. He was all that Moses had pointed them toward. He was the True King of whom David was only a shadow and a type. He was the root and shoot of David’s stump to be raised up in new and everlasting life – the Life of Israel, into whom the nations would be grafted and live. Up to that day, the story of Israel was the story of Moses, remembered and replayed each year at the Passover. King Jesus fulfilled all that Moses was – Prophet, Priest, and King – and, through His cross, through His death and resurrection, He would lead His people in Exodus, out of bondage and slavery to sin, death, and the devil, into their own land in the Kingdom of Heaven forevermore.

And so, as the Church’s Year of Grace ended in hopeful anticipation of our Lord’s coming on the Last Day, so does the new Church Year begin in joyous remembrance of His coming as the Babe of Bethlehem, which we celebrate at Christmas. And, even still, we believe, confess, and teach that our Lord Jesus comes to us now, under the lowly and humble means of word, water, bread, and wine. He comes in grace and blessing to all who will not reject Him. He has come. He is coming. And, He comes to save us. How do you receive Him?

Advent is a penitential season, if a bit milder in comparison to Lent, in which we focus upon our sin and death from which Jesus came to set us free. Yes, that is the reason for His coming; He came to fulfill the Law of God for you, and then to lay down His life in death as your substitute, in your place, that you might live. Why? What motivated Him to suffer for you and die in your place? Love – pure and simple. Love for God, His Father; love for you whom God loves. Therefore, receive Him in love, as God’s pure and holy gift of grace – no strings attached. You show Him love, you love Him, by fearing, loving, and trusting Him above all things; you show Him love, you love Him, but letting His love fill you and overflow out of you by loving others.

Hear the message of the Baptizer, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” and turn from your sin, your self-righteousness, and self-centered thoughts and expectations. Repent, be turned, and receive your King who is present in lowliness and humility. Prepare His way into your heart and life by removing the high places of your sinful pride, and by filling in the low places of your hopeless despair, for your King has come, your King is coming, and even now your King comes with forgiveness and healing and eternal life. Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! The Lord of your life, the God of your salvation, is here. Your King, who was born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, was laid in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, died upon the coarse wooden throne of the cross that He might be present for you now as the Bread of Life, that you may eat and live, drink and be forgiven, as you receive your King, your Lord, your God in Holy Communion, now, until He comes at last in glory.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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