In the Name of Christ Jesus our Advent King +
Boy, God just doesn’t get it sometimes. I mean, He just doesn’t do things right. Did you hear the text – and this is to say nothing of the fact that we have a Palm Sunday reading in December (what’s the Church thinking on that) – but did you hear the text? “Your king is coming to you humble, and mounted on a donkey, and a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” A king – a king is coming – on a donkey. That’s not how kings ought to come! Humble? What good is a humble king? And it’s almost Christmas time – this text isn’t cutesy enough – why don’t we have something cute – a baby or something – it’s almost Christmastime – get in the spirit of Christmas, God!
St. Paul tells us that God’s plan of salvation is “a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles,” and at no time is this statement more clear, more understandable than when December, than when Advent roles around. It is almost heart rending, all the paraphanalia of Christ’s birth floating around, but not really observed. We talk of the Christmas spirit – which means buy more stuff to help the economy. Angels are here already – leading us to great sales and huge savings. . . oh money. Actually, we are to the point where we are only supposed to say “Happy Holidays” – which I actually am grateful for – I’d rather the world ignore Christ than simply use Him as an excuse for commerce and greed. No, it isn’t God who is mistaken – the Church isn’t foolish talking about Palm Sunday here on the second day of December – it is the world that doesn’t understand. The season of Advent which we enter today is the time the Church takes to make sure she understands – Advent is the season where we focus on the coming of Christ – the approach of our celebration of Christmas – to remember what it really means amid all the pomp and stress that comes along with the holidays.
What does Advent – what does Christ’s coming mean? First, let’s consider what it is not – for we easily get mixed up on this today. There are many platitudes and heartwarming ideas that float around every Decemeber. Christmas time is for family. Well, that’s nice – I hope you have a great time with your family – but I hope you don’t ignore them the rest of the year. Christmas time is for giving. That great – as Christians we are to be ready to be generous at all times. . . you aren’t using generosity now to excuse being a cold, heartless scrooge the rest of the year, are you? Christmas time is for kids – so that they can have fun and enjoy life. And spring isn’t for your kids, and the fun you have watching things bloom, to say nothing of summer or fall? Christmas is the time for that perfect, hallmark card moment where everything goes just perfect and it is so beautiful and wonderful. . .
Those are the ideals that we toss out – the hopes, the expectations. How does it really end up working out? Hurried, rushed shopping at over crowded stores, demands upon demands for more and better stuff leading to stress upon stress – is there enough cash to do everything we want to do, or will we disappoint this person or that – and then rushing around getting all the gatherings right - we have to have everything just so or aunt so and so will pitch a fit – and oh great, here comes your sister, no don’t argue with her now, not here, but we have to be happy, happy, happy, tis the season to be jolly – on and on to a chaotic, stress inducing mess.
Now, I enjoy all the pomp, all the hokey stuff of Christmas as much as the next guy – watching a Christmas Carol or the Charlie Brown Christmas – I enjoy shopping, I like cooking – don’t really like decorating all that much, it’s too much like cleaning in my book – but all of it is stressful, is it not? There’s a lot more expectations, a lot more things to do that don’t happen in a normal month. All these reasons to get high strung and stressed out, more and more things to complain about. And all this stuff, when it boils down to it – really isn’t about what Christmas is truly about. It isn’t about Christ and His coming. We get so busy, we get so caught up in things, in “the season” that we can sort of push Christ off into a corner – the focus on Christ can be centered on “did we remember to put up the nativity scene this year” – and that’s about it. The trappings of the season don’t really focus on Christ.
This Advent season though our services are going to provide us a pause, a brief calm in the frenzied storm that December can be, a time to look past all the blinking lights and symbols whose meaning the world has long since forgotten – and we will pause and look at and remember what it is about Christ’s coming that we ought to celebrate.
Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden. The reason we have events of Palm Sunday start off the Church year is because it is the perfect reminder of how and why Christ comes. Do you see how Christ comes? On a lowly beast of burden. There is no white steed, there is no magisterial procession. Even all the hoopla of Palm Sunday – we think of it as a huge spectacle. It wasn’t. People cut branches off of trees, people threw the coats they happened to be wearing on the ground – there was no massive planning effort, no huge production, no ticker-tape parade or celebratory feast. Simple response – see Christ, respond to His coming. Simple and lowly and humble. That is how Christ comes. Does that not describe perfectly how He comes into Human Flesh – does that not remind and prepare us for the celebration of Christmas – where God almighty comes, joins with mankind – not in a huge palace to a rich family, enjoying all the splendors of life – but to a typical family – born in humble conditions, born in a barn. Christ comes in humility, not seeking the best that this life can offer – not seeking Hallmark moments and everything being just so – but He comes in humility, He comes to the poor and lowly who have to cut off branches of a tree to laud Him – He is humble – that is how He comes.
And our text today points us to why Christ comes. Just as we can take Christ out of Christmas time, we can so easily take the Cross out of Christmas time as well. When Jesus enters Jerusalem, He enters it to go to the Cross. When Christ comes as a King, He does so to engage in battle with our old foes of sin and death – and He does this battle by striding to the Cross, by suffering and dying. That is why He comes – who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary. Christ comes to go to the Cross and win salvation for you. When Jesus comes, He doesn’t come to crawl down your chimney and give you stuff under the tree – instead He is nailed to His tree so that you will be welcomed eternally to Your Heavenly Father’s House. When Jesus comes, He doesn’t show up like Scrooge on Christmas day bringing the prize turkey to enhance your feast – but He comes to you in His Supper, His feast to enhance your faith, to give you His own forgiveness and rightouesness. Christ is always working for your salvation – and when we focus on Christ’s coming, our focus always has to center on what He does for your salvation – otherwise we miss the point, and we get bogged down on things that really don’t last – things that don’t endure.
Advent is a season of preparation. Christ’s birth is a momentous thing – a mystery which gave wonder and pause to even the angels. Christ’s birth is that which the prophets looked forward to, what every human looked forward to since God made the promise of a coming Savior to Adam and Eve in the garden. The wonder of the ages – the mystery of all time – that Emmanuel – God is with us. And we can just shoot on by it – most likely not even worry about heading to Church on Christmas – on Christ Mass – the day you go to Church and have a service, a mass, because Christ was born. Thus the hectic pace of life in America today. Thus it is most fitting to have a season, a time of preparation, where we pause from what we are doing the rest of the time in the week, and we sit and look at, not ads, fliers, or recipe books, but at God’s Word, and we prepare for our celebration of Christmas – indeed, prepare for Christ’s second coming as well, in the diligent study of God’s Word, in prayer, in the reception of the Sacrament.
Remember, dear friends, Christ and His love for you endures, long after the ornaments are put away and the tree has died – long after the final leftovers are tossed and the last of the now stale cookies hit the bin. That is why we take time to ponder His coming, this is why we even spend a month preparing in the Church to celebrate His birth – and to celebrate it the right way – by learning from His humble example to be humble and meek ourselves, by always remembering that He comes to win us salvation and restore us to God and to paradise through His death and resurrection, and by remembering that He shall come again to take us to heaven. Thus we are right to pray, come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.