Sermon for Ad Te Levavi, the First Sunday in Advent, AD 2021

Matthew 21:1-9

Happy New Year! Today begins a new church year. It is the first Sunday of Advent. The world looks at this as the Christmas season, but for the church, that starts on Christmas day. Advent means “coming” and one of the “comings” the church looks forward to is the advent of Jesus Christ being born in the manger at Bethlehem. There is certainly nothing wrong with starting to put up decorations now and listening to Christmas music all December long. Yet as Christians, Advent does give us the opportunity to examine how we are celebrating Christmas. Do we understand what it means, what Christ means for Christmas, or do we see it as a general season of kindness and cheer? As Paul Gerhardt says in his hymn, “O Lord how shall I meet you, how welcome you aright?
Here, in the first week of Advent, our gospel lesson takes place at the beginning of Holy Week. Jesus is entering Jerusalem to be crucified. In contrast to His persecution through the rest of the week, Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem with joy and celebration. The crowds cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” They are calling Jesus the king, the Son of David. They call out “Hosanna!” asking him to save them. Yet they do not yet know what this means. They don’t know how Jesus is king, or how he will come to save them.
They are like those who prepare for the Christmas season without knowing what it is about. Some simply celebrate out of tradition. Some just talk about a “spirit of Christmas” as if Christmas were a being with a purpose all its own. Even if people understand Christmas as the birth of Jesus, what does the “peace on earth, good will toward men” mean to them? Peace as the world gives? Comfort and stability? Everything you’ve ever wanted? We cannot separate Jesus as the baby in the manger from the way he gives peace to us. This is the way of the cross.
The way of the cross is how God deals with us. It is how God has chosen to save and bring peace between Himself and sinful humanity. Every step of Jesus’ life was a step on the way of the cross. All He did was already determined by the father to accomplish our salvation. We see this in the reading of the triumphal entry today. You may be wondering why Jesus needs the disciples to get a donkey, why he needs to ride in on one instead of just walking. He has been walking all this time and now, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, he is going to ride. This is answered directly by St. Matthew: to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet!
 Jesus fulfills what is said in scripture, in the Old Testament, as he accomplishes God’s plan of salvation. The prophet says, ““Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” This reveals everything we need to know about Jesus’ entry and what He has done for us. Jesus fulfilled these words on the way to the cross, so we can trust in them for great comfort. Unlike the crowds who did not exactly know what Jesus was doing, you can know the true meaning of Jesus’ work. Through scripture, through the gospel, God reveals this to you.
First, Say to the daughter of Zion, this means that this is being said to you. The true Zion, the true Israel, is the church, it is those who believe in Christ. “Say to the daughter of Zion” means God wants you to believe these words and trust what the scripture says to you about the work of Jesus. That work is for you. Everything he is doing is on your behalf, to save you.
The prophet Zechariah continues, Behold, your king is coming to you. Here were have two important facts – one, that Jesus Christ is king, and second, that he is coming to you. Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem as a king. He is riding on a donkey surrounded by crowds of people shouting his praise. They are calling him the Son of David, a kingly title, and with their hosannas are asking him to save them, a kingly request. They are shouting nothing less than “long live the king!” Later in this passage we read that the whole city was stirred up because of this entrance. He enters like a conqueror, but he will conquer in a way people do not expect.
King Jesus is not coming to you as a conqueror. He is not coming on a mighty war-horse or chariot. He comes humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden. As the hymn “Abide with me” says, “come not in terrors, as the king of kings.” The coming of Jesus is not one of terror. His conquest is not done in strength, but in humility. Jesus is coming into the city to ascend to his throne, which is the cross. There, by taking on all your sin and guilt, He will defeat sin, death, and the devil. This is the divine plan the Father had sent him on. In humility He came to earth, taking on flesh by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, born in a stable in Bethlehem. In humility He was baptized by John, though He had committed no sin to repent of, so He could continue to fulfill God’s plan. In humility He entered the city of Jerusalem on a simple donkey. In humility, he allowed himself to be arrested, falsely accused, beaten, and hung on a cross. All this so in humility he could suffer the punishment for our sin.
Yet three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, the first-fruits of a resurrection we shall share. He ascended to the Father and now rules heaven and earth, as the God-man, in a hidden way. For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, perfectly followed the plan of the Father. Nothing could stop him from completing his task. Nothing could stop the prophet’s words from being fulfilled. Nothing will stop his final Advent when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead.
In this season we also remember this Advent, that Jesus will come again. Yet in Jesus’ second coming, he will not come in humility, but in His glory with the holy angels. He will come as a conqueror. Such a sight will strike terror into those who do not trust in him, but it will be a delight for those who do. For Jesus will destroy his foes, send Satan and his angels into the lake of fire, along with all those who did not receive Christ in this life. So it is an end, a torment for those who reject him. Yet for those who believe, Jesus’ second advent will be a glorious one – their sufferings, their share in carrying the cross will be over, and sin and sickness will be fully and finally removed. To share in the joy of the second Advent at the end of time, heed Jesus’ advent today.
Yes, Jesus has another Advent today, His coming to you by His Word and sacraments. For the prophecy does not only apply to Jesus on a donkey in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. Jesus, your king, is coming to you now. By grace, with His Word, with His Body and Blood, the Holy Spirit works on your heart. He is the one coming, not you. There is nothing you must do to prepare for him. He went and died for you whether you like it or not. He comes now to save you whether you like it or not.
Trust that this is for you. That when we prepare for Christmas, we are preparing for the one who brought peace on earth through the humility of His death for our sins, so we too may have the power of the resurrection. As we will say in the Sanctus soon, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!” Know how Christ has saved you through his death, and he gives you that resurrection life through his body and blood. Your King is coming to you. Humbly, in bread and wine. With your resurrection now begun, you have nothing to fear in the final judgment. As Gerhardt finishes his hymn, “Who love the Lord's appearing. O glorious Sun, now come, Send forth Thy beams so cheering, And guide us safely home!”
[This sermon is a modified version of the sermon written for Advent 2020 which was never preached.]






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