Sunday, December 1, 2013

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.
Happy New Year! Yes, today is the beginning of a new church year, another year to live in our Lord’s grace. But, what has changed? Why should we expect that this year will be any different than years past? Don’t all things simply continue as they have, as we get another year older and deeper in debt? In many ways, yes they do. But, take heart, and lift up your heads; your King is coming! Your King is coming to save you! But, hasn’t He come already? Yes, indeed He has. And, doesn’t He come amongst us now through Word and Sacrament? Yes, once again you are correct. Then, what does it mean that our King is coming? Ah, I’m glad that you asked!
Our King is not coming to be crowned the King, for He is already the King, even though much of the world and the men and women who fill it do not know that, do not believe that, or flat out deny that. Nevertheless, it’s true. Our King Jesus broke into this world as King when Gabriel proclaimed God’s Word into Mary’s receptive ear saying, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-- the Son of God.” He came in lowliness and humility, in ways that men would never expect, anticipate, desire, or comprehend. Therefore, His coming had to be revealed to men, first to lowly shepherds, then to gentile magi from the east.
Little by little, over months and years, Jesus revealed who He was, the Son of God and the true King over God’s people, not by impressive displays of power and glory but by fulfilling Messianic prophecy and obedience under God’s Law. There were always some whose ears and eyes were opened by the Holy Spirit so see past their expectations that this unassuming Jesus was the answer to their prayers, not necessarily what they thought they wanted, but what God knew that they needed and what He had promised. These were typically the lowly and the humble, the outcast and the disenfranchised, the poor, the lame, the blind, the sinful and unclean, those who had nothing to lose and everything to gain, those who recognized and confessed their need for forgiveness and a savior. Jesus, whose name means God saves, came to save God’s people from their sins and to begin their restoration, making all things new, a work which will be completed in the resurrection on the Last Day when our King returns: “He who began this good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ.”
By the time Jesus entered Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday, the day we heard about today in the appointed Gospel for the First Sunday in Advent, people were already pretty divided in their opinions of who Jesus was and what He had come to do. The crowds that received Him that day recognized that He fulfilled the Messianic prophecies. He had the pedigree of the legitimate son of David and heir to the great king’s throne, legally, by means of Joseph’s family line, and by blood through Mary’s. He was born in David’s city, Bethlehem, and He lived in Nazareth in Galilee. Even at that moment he rode into the royal city, as did David and so many kings before Him riding upon a donkey. Likewise, the crowds laid down palm branches before Him as they had for so many kings before. And, they cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Hosanna is a prayer. It means, “Help us, Lord.” “Save us.” “Intervene now and rescue us.” Who would pray such a prayer as this? Only those in need of saving. Indeed, Jesus came to save sinners, not the righteous. Jesus came to heal the sick, not the healthy. Thus, those who are self-secure and self-righteous are scandalized by Jesus and His ministry. They are offended that He eats and drinks with sinners. They are offended that Jesus would suggest that a widow giving her last coin or a tax collector begging for mercy are doing holier works before God than the Pharisee saying his many and lengthy prayers or giving a tithe so that he may be seen doing so by his peers. And so, the broken receive Him as their King, but the self-righteous and secure, the powerful and the pious reject Him as a liar or a lunatic or worse. If He’s a king, He’s not the king they’re looking for.
By the end of that week in Jerusalem, the powerful and the pious had determined to depose their King. They successfully incited much of the crowds to join them in destroying the Messiah, the Son of God. “It’s better that one man should die for the people,” they reasoned, and they were right. In their ignorance and blindness they couldn’t see that they were ushering their King to His throne, the cross. There, upon the place of a skull, the sentence above His head read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in Latin, Greek, and Aramaic – indeed, wittingly or unwittingly, all the world confessed Him to be their King. There He was crowned with thorns and His royal, holy, and innocent blood shed for all who pierced Him. This is how King Jesus reigns: in lowliness and humility, selflessness, and sacrificial love. He is the healing of all who are sin-sick unto death. He is the forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal salvation for all who will receive Him.
Happy New Year! Let us make a resolution together to prepare ourselves for the coming of our King. How are we to prepare? What are we to do? Nothing. Nothing but repent, confess, believe, and receive. Our King is coming. Our King has come. And, our King comes to you now. How will you meet Him? He comes to comfort the brokenhearted. He comes fearful sinners to forgive. He comes the burdened by sin and guilt, grief and sorrow to uplift and strengthen. He comes to you, humble, in, with, and under the lowly forms of His Word, water, bread, and wine that you may receive Him as your King, your life, your God and Lord. He comes to you today, at the beginning of this New Year of Grace, just as He has come to you in the past, but with this promise, “Today your salvation is nearer to you than when you first believed.” Hosanna, God save us! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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