Sermon for December 1, 2019, First Sunday in Advent

Matthew 21:1-11 (First Sunday in Advent—Series A)

“Advent”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

December 1, 2019

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our text is the Gospel reading from Matthew 21:

1And when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples 2saying to them, “Go into the village before you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied and a colt with her. After untying them, bring them to me. 3And if anyone says anything to you, say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” 4Now this took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 5“Say to the daughter of Zion: Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6And after the two disciples went and did just as Jesus had directed them, 7they brought the donkey and the colt and they put their cloaks on them. And they set Jesus upon them. 8Now the large crowd spread their own cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and  spread them on the road. 9And the crowds that went before him and the ones who followed cried out, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” 10And when he entered into Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up saying, “Who is this?” 11And the crowds kept on saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”

 

        We are looking forward as Christians to the adventum Domini nostri Iesu Christi, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. In that Latin phrase, we hear the word adventum, from which we get our English word, advent. It means “coming.” During Advent, we celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. But which coming? Advent precedes the Season of Christmas when we celebrate the coming of God the Son into human flesh, who was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary by the power of God the Spirit to be the Savior of the world. But, as Christians, we also hold dearly to the promise that our Lord Jesus Christ is coming again, just as He said, to take His Church to be with Him in a whole new creation where only righteousness dwells. In the Season of Advent, are we looking back to Christ’s First Coming or forward to His Second? Of course, the answer is “Yes.”

        Advent makes us keenly aware that we are in the middle. We are living in the time between the first advent of Jesus and His second coming. Now while we have two “comings” of our Lord, we realize just how different they both are. Our position “in between” is just what we need to gain a right perspective of Christ in His first coming so that we may look forward with confident hope and joy to His second.

        Our Gospel lesson, the Triumphal Entry, can help us explore this further. This event in the life of Jesus has its foundation in God’s promise. Through His servant, Zechariah, the Lord Himself promised that His people’s rightful King would draw near to them. He would enter the city in peace; war would be far removed from all Israel. This peace would even extend to the nations (Zech. 9:9-10). It is as Zion’s King that Jesus gently comes, riding on a mount that signals more a monarch who comes in peace than one who comes in power to conquer.

        This “King of kings and Lord of lords” does not appear outwardly to be such. This King is lowly, not conquering. He comes riding on a donkey, not on a war horse or in a chariot. But this should not seem unusual to us. Consider Jesus’ advent among humanity. The all-powerful, all-knowing, present everywhere God who created all things and who rules over all things by His mighty power took upon Himself, by His choice, the flesh and blood of His human creatures. God’s Word says in Philippians 2:7 that this eternal Son of God “emptied” Himself. This word means to completely remove elements of high status or rank by eliminating all privileges or prerogatives associated with someone’s status. “Christ did not empty himself of anything; he simply ‘emptied himself,’ poured himself out.”[1] How beautifully do we see this reality unfold in Jesus’ incarnation, His taking upon Himself true human flesh and blood, thus becoming fully human. Christ, Himself fully God, never during the whole process stopped being God. He embraced human flesh and blood as a humble servant. God the Son, Jesus, entered our history not as the conquering Lord, but as a person without advantages, with no rights or privileges, but in servanthood to all.”[2] Matthew 20:28, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

        In His first Advent, Jesus came humbly, lowly. He emptied Himself; He set aside His throne and His glory in order to come as a man among His creation. Jesus came in His incarnation to reign by means of self-sacrifice. Christ gave up His life into death in order to save all humanity from sin, death, and hell. “’Are you [frightened]?’ Luther asks, ‘Then come to him, lying in the lap of the fairest and sweetest maid. You will see how great is the divine goodness, which seeks above all else that you should not despair. Trust him! Trust him! Here is the Child in whom is salvation. To me there is no greater consolation given to mankind than this, that Christ became man, a child, a babe, playing in the lap and at the breasts of his most gracious mother. Who is there whom this sight would not comfort? Now is overcome the power of sin, death, hell, conscience, and guilt, if you come to judge this gurgling Babe and believe that he is come, not to judge you, but to save.’”[3]

        Our Lord’s first advent was for the purpose of saving all people from their sins and the punishment of death and hell. “[Jesus] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). Jesus paid the price. He suffered the punishment. He cancelled the debt. He appeased the wrath and anger of God against humanity by suffering for our sins, dying our death, enduring our hell. As we have just sung in the Hymn of the Day, “For you are the Father’s Son Who in flesh the vict’ry won. By Your mighty pow’r make whole All our ills of flesh and soul” (LSB 332:6).

        Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, lowly and humbly came to be the Suffering Servant. He endured cross and grave to purchase and win your forgiveness and release you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. You are made whole; you are made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ applied to each of you personally in Holy Baptism. You are redeemed. You have life everlasting because of the Servant-King, Jesus Christ.

        At His first advent, God the Son came humbly as the self-sacrifice for the sins of the world. We are here, gathered around His Word and Sacraments because Christ has come and served us by dying in our place and winning forgiveness of sins and life eternal. He has ascended into heaven and gives us His Holy Spirit to remind us of all that He has spoken as we receive His Word with joy. Now we, in this time “in between,” look forward with hopeful anticipation of Jesus’ coming again. But this coming, this advent, will be different.

        As His first coming was in lowliness and humility, His Second Advent will be with power and glory as the One who has conquered sin, Satan, and death. Matthew 24:30, “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” The God-Man Jesus, who died on the cross was raised to life again on the third day. He is no longer the lowly servant. Having been installed into His office at God’s right hand at His Ascension, possessing all authority in heaven and earth, He will come again in heavenly splendor and majesty. All people will know at once who He is—the Risen and Victorious Christ who comes in the name of the Lord. The Lord Christ gave to His servant John this vision of His coming again as the One who has conquered through His death and resurrection: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. . . . On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

        You and I as believers in Christ, as the baptized children of God, wait with hope for the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). We are not afraid of the Lord’s Second Advent. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews highlights why there is no fear for the people of faith, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28). Sin has been dealt with. Christ’s death on the cross has accomplished salvation for the world. He will come again in glory to bring about the fulfillment of all things. Our Lord will complete our salvation by releasing us from the grip of death entirely and forever. We will receive the promised inheritance fully through Christ who will raise us from the dead and give us, in body and soul, life everlasting in a new heaven and earth, the home of righteousness.

        But for now, we are “in between” the two advents of our Lord Jesus Christ. As His Church, we receive our Savior as He comes to us in the Gospel Word, in Baptism, in the Lord’s Supper. We receive through His Word and Sacraments the forgiveness of sins and eternal life won for us at the cross in His First Advent. In this faith and hope, we look forward to the consummation of this age at Christ’s Second Advent when we will be forever with the Lord in the new creation. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

 

 

 

[1] Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 210.

[2] Ibid., 212–213.

[3] Roland H. Bainton, Ed., Martin Luther’s Christmas Book (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1948), 33.

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