Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Advent 1 Sermon

Advent 1 – November 30th, 2008 – Matt 21:1-9

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
Advent is here, the time where we begin our preparations for Christmas, the time where we as a Church pause and actually take time away from the hustle and bustle of the season in the world, take time to think about what Christmas means, what our celebrations December 24th and 25th and afterwards are really about. And we need this pause, we need this time of reflection. We know that Christ our King comes to us – but how, and why. These are the questions we will consider today – how does Christ come, and why does Christ come, why is there a Christmas in the first place. Meditating on these, we will be ready to celebrate Christmas as more than just a time for presents, more than just a time for holiday memories, but be able to celebrate it as Christians. To begin our advent journey, we are directed to the events of Palm Sunday, an event near the end of Jesus’ Earthly ministry, the end of His journeying to Jerusalem. If we want to know how Christ comes, if we want to know why He comes, the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday provides a fantastic place to go. It’s all wrapped up right here. So, let’s start looking at the text.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “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 beast of burden.’” We are so familiar with the story of Palm Sunday that we forget how odd, how striking it would be. Behold, your King is coming to you! And how? Humble. Humble. As we make our preparations for the celebration of Christmas, we are pointed to the fact that Christ Jesus our coming King is humble. That’s not normally a word we associate with a King. In this world we expect kings to be haughty and proud and boisterous. Not so Christ. Christ comes humbly – even on Palm Sunday, on the day where more people cheer Christ than on any other day except for the Last Day – Christ comes humbly.

So, what do we learn from this? How does this shape and prepare us to celebrate our Lord’s birth? If you want to understand the meaning of Christmas, you need to understand that our God and LORD, Christ Jesus, isn’t afraid to be humble, and that is something you will never learn from this world. Today, we don’t necessarily associate “humility” with the Christmas season. Look around at the stores and in the mall – are the decorations humble? No, they are loud and brash, blinking lights and all that jazz. There’s nothing wrong with that, I even keep my Christmas tree up year round because I rather enjoy seeing the ornaments, but we as Christians ought to remember that society’s approach to Christmas tends to completely avoid discussions of humility. In fact, in general our society today doesn’t prize humility. The TV channels are full of boisterous stars; you watch a football game and everyone is talking trash with each other. America is a land full of brash folks – but in Advent we remember that Christ Jesus our King comes in humility. He isn’t self-serving like we can be. When Jesus enters Jerusalem, He doesn’t come on a big white steed, the head of a conquering army. He doesn’t organize a big band or toot His own horn. No, He enters humbly, on a lowly donkey.

As Christians, we are to strive to be like our Lord. Christians are to be humble – we are in humility to go about our tasks, not seeking praise, not seeking glory and honor, but seeking to serve those whom we are to serve, seeking to show love to those people whom God has commanded us to love. Christian Humility always seeks the benefit of someone else – always seeks to aid another. Behold, your king is coming to you, humble. . . Christ comes in His humility to serve us, to be our king for our benefit, to do good to us. Likewise, as Christians we are to cast aside self-serving thoughts and seek to give of ourselves to others, to aid them, to serve them. When we see our king coming to us, lowly and humble, that is what we see.

But an image of humility far greater than Christ riding a lowly donkey is the one which we are preparing for this advent – our Lord’s Birth in a stable. Often, when we think of how humble that is, we think of the stall, being surrounded by animals and hay, not even able to get room at the inn. But that’s not the chief humility. Christ comes in a humble fashion on Christmas – think on this. Jesus is God almighty, the Son of God, the Word by Whom all things were made. And what will we see on Christmas? God – now a human child. Almighty God – unable to lift His neck. God who made all things – having to wait on Mary to be fed. Christ is humble, and He isn’t afraid to get down off His high horse to help you – in fact, He doesn’t even ride a high horse, not this Christ, who doesn’t bat an eye at being born in a stable.

But why? Why all this – why in our text does our Lord enter Jerusalem – why does He even come to this world, why does He let Himself be made so low, so lowly? The most beautiful words of the Nicene Creed answer that for us – who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven – that is the answer to the why. Why does Christ come in such humility? Because we were made low by sin. It was Adam’s FALL, mankind fell, we dropped, we were lowered, we were made less because of sin than what we were created to be. God didn’t create us for pain, God didn’t create us for suffering, and God certainly didn’t create us for death. But that is where sin led us. And as Christ Jesus wants to reclaim you from pain, from suffering, from death – that’s where He is going to have to go. And there will be no hesitation on Christ’s part. If I were to drop my wedding ring into a big old steaming pile of manure, do any of you think I’d hesitate to reach down and grab it? No, sure, it’s yucky and gross, but it needs to be done. Do you not think that Christ’s love for you is far, far greater than the value I place on this ring? If Christ is going to save you from the effects of sin, from pain, from suffering, from death – He is going to have to reach on down into pain, into suffering, into death, and pull you out.

And that’s what He’s doing as He rides into Jerusalem. He’s riding to the cross, riding unto death to win you salvation. Now, on that day, crowds gather along the way, and they cry out familiar words – Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Do you know what they are saying? Hosanna means, “Save us now” – they are crying out to Christ for salvation and praising Him. Now, I don’t know if the people there knew what Christ would do, if they knew to the lengths to which He would go to save them – I don’t know if those folks on Palm Sunday realized just how right they got it. Christ does come to save, He comes to Jerusalem in humility to save us from our sin and from the power of the devil, and He never hesitates to do so.

As we approach Christmas, we remember and we focus on Christ’s humility, that we might remember that He does whatever is required to win for us salvation. He comes in humility, ready to fend of Satan, ready to beat down the power of death. And dear friends, this is not just something that Christ did only on Christmas, not something that He did only on Palm Sunday, or only on Good Friday – no, Christ our Lord is still humble in how He comes to you to save you. He is not afraid to have His Word applied to a lowly child in baptism, He is not afraid to make you His dwelling place and temple. And perhaps, most wondrously – Christ comes to us Humbly today, in, with, and under the simple, humble elements of bread and wine. Think on what the Supper is – it is the True Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, given for you. See, your King comes to you – humble and for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. And every time we celebrate the Lord’s own Supper here what do we sing right before hand? Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest, blessed is He that cometh In the name of the LORD. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest! Sound familiar, doesn’t it? We cry out to God for salvation, and He places forgiveness on our tongues, His life giving Body that conquered death and the grave so that we to might share in His triumph and live eternally, gives us His precious blood that is the proof that He has purchased and won us from all sin and washed us white and clean and pure. This, O Zion, is how your Lord comes to you – Humble and eager to save.

So thus, dear friends, as we begin in earner our Spiritual preparations for Christmas, I encourage you in the midst of the hustle and bustle and rigmarole of society’s celebration, to pause and remember our Lord’s Humility. Our Lord’s humble love for you shines forth in all that He does – and it shines forth most clearly when we consider that He took on human flesh to come into this world and save us from our sin. This is the mystery and the joy and the wonder which we are preparing to celebrate here on the Morning of the 25th. Remember in the face of all things, God’s love for you – for He comes to save you. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest! Amen.


Anonymous said...

You preached,"why does He even come to this world, why does He let Himself be made so low, so lowly? The most beautiful words of the Nicene Creed answer that for us – who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven – that is the answer to the why. Why does Christ come in such humility? Because we were made low by sin."

Way to go!

Each Advent I place on our Church sign, "Our Sin is The Reason for the Season," as a sign of my opposition to the oft seen, "Jesus, is The Reason for The Season."

Fortunatly, some get it :-)!

Amberg said...

Luther's sermon on this text is phenomenal and Paul Gerhardt's hymn "Wie Soll Ich Dich Empfangen," all ten of whose verses are translated in the ELH, is probably based on it.

I wish we would sing "O Lord how shall I meet Thee" (Lord, How Shall I Receive Thee) every first Sunday in Advent.