Advent 1 – November 30th and December 1st, 2019 – Matthew 21:1-9
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
So I'm guessing that most of you have your Christmas list ready – especially the kiddos among us. It's [basically] December, so you've got to have the list of everything you want all set up and ready to go. That's part of the expectation of Christmas time – we say what we want and then we wait for Christmas and come rushing to the tree to see if it is there. And if it is there, there is much rejoicing. And if it's not... maybe a lecture on not pouting. Because that's what's running around our minds, especially with Black Friday just behind us and Cyber Monday coming soon – what do you want? That's a great American question – what do you want?
And this is part of the reason why more and more Americans are having a problem with Christianity. With our modern American sensibilities, where we get to customize everything and have stuff be just the way we like it – well, Christianity doesn't appeal. Christianity isn't a pick and choose sort of thing – and we see this in how the Church Year starts. The Triumphal Entry – Palm Sunday – who doesn't love Palm Sunday? Hosanna, Hossanna! What could possibly be bad and annoying and unappealing with Palm Sunday? This: “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble.” This sentence, this half sentence, fulfilled by Christ is utterly offensive and shocking to us when we ponder it – it was in actuality shocking and offensive even then, which is why by Friday the crowds were willing to shout, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Palm Sunday is utterly offensive to the selfish and self-determining person.
To start – consider the simple word “Behold.” Behold is an important word in the Scriptures. When you come across that word “behold” it means something important is happening – that God is going to do something good and big and important. And you know what? It's God's plan, God's working – not ours. God doesn't check with us, He doesn't run the menu by us before He starts cooking – you mind if we have green beans for dinner tonight, sweetie. Nope – not how God operates. Just – behold. Here it is. I said I was going to do this by the Prophets – and bam – here it is. It's done. There's Jesus doing it. And here we are, thousands of years later, and we certainly don't get a say in how it gets done. We can't revise the history or spin it... we can't even look away or ignore it. Behold! Look here! See this! Here is the plan of Salvation – here's how it works and here is the only way it will work, because God has said so and God has done so. Period. End of story. His way or no way. This is Psalm 118:23-24 - “This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It's already done – you don't get a vote. You get to marvel and rejoice... or tough.
If you think I am being a bit harsh or blunt – listen. Behold, your King... wait, our what? Our King? We're Americans – we don't like Kings. We will fight wars to be free of Kings. We dislike the idea of kings so much that we only will have a leader if we elect him, and make sure a congress passes laws instead of him, and make sure that he doesn't control the courts, and even then most of the time half of the country will grumble and complain about what the president does. Oh, and by the by, we have freedom of speech and freedom of the press so we reserve the right to complain and grouse. That's how we have our leaders – we don't stand for this King nonsense. Well, tough – you have a King. And you know what that means? What the King says goes. You are not in charge – you don't get a vote. He's the King. He's going to do what He knows is good for you – and that's just how it is. Jesus is in charge, not you.
Well, okay, fine, but at least I can grease the wheels a bit – because we all know how to play the game – we all know how to butter folks up, come on up to them and sweet talk them to get them to do things our way. We'll come to this King and we'll bring our gifts and offer our services and then he'll start to see things our way. Nope – not how it works. Didn't you hear? Behold, your King is coming to you. That phrase – is coming to you – should put a chill down the spine of your old sinful flesh. You don't get to set the stage for how you interact with the king. He comes to you. With His power. As the One in charge. And you don't get to put it off, you don't get to back peddle – He comes to you. It is an awesome thing when we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done”. It leaves us with no place to hide, no place to run.
Well, at least if this strong and powerful King is coming, He'll at least beat the tar out of my enemies! Surely He'll do that. Behold, your king is coming to you, humble. Humble? On a donkey? Really? So You aren't going to go smite the people on my naughty list? You aren't going to give them a bunch of coal and rub their noses in it? Who wants a humble king? Even in the US – folks on the right love Trump's Bravado and folks on the left loved Obama's confident swagger. If we have to have someone as our leader we want someone who is going to not let the people we don't like get of the hook. We want our enemies destroyed – and what good is a humble king for that? And even when people start messing with Him – this Jesus doesn't even fight back. Could call down heavenly armies and doesn't. And instead, is nailed to the cross and dies. That's His humility – that's what it is for Him to be humble.
So, let's be honest – what was on your “God” wishlist – the things that you'd want your God to be like? A Santa-God giving you all that you could dream of? A well tamed and well trained God, who will leave you alone until you want Him for something? A Vengeful-God who will crush your enemies? How many of you were hoping for a Dead-God on a Tree sort of God? Oh well – that's the way it is. Behold, your King is coming to you, humble.
See, the thing we forget is that so often the things we want, our “desires” or “passions” as the Scriptures put it, are so often dumb. Wicked. Twisted. That's the reality of sin. We want foolish things, we want things that don't satisfy. Oh, there will be plenty of people disappointed because they don't get what they want this Christmas, but there will be plenty of disappointed people who got exactly what they wanted... and then... meh. Wah-wah-wah. Not all it's cracked up to be. Our sinful flesh wants to be in charge of things, and it does nothing but mess things up to where we end up not enjoying anything. And it's a sad and pathetic and miserable state – and we think that we are going to be the ones to get it right – and that if we just do this or follow this recipe suddenly everything will be perfect this Christmas. No, it won't. And even if it were, you'd still not be content with it. That's what sin is, that's what sin does – that stress and fear and worry you feel this month as we get ready to have the celebration of the year – that's sin at work in you and upon you.
And for your sake, Jesus is tired of it, and so He does what is needed. Not what we might want, but what is needed. And in order to rescue you from sin – He takes charge, and He comes, and He takes up the weight and burden of your sin and He crucifies it upon the Cross. Sin – done. Guilt – gone. Death – confronted and blown apart with the Resurrection. And before any of us were even around to think to ask Him to do so. He's in charge; He doesn't need to wait on our opinion or vote – He'll just go ahead and do it for us, for our good. The big threat and burden of sin is done away with.
But more than that – He comes to you. He comes to you in your Baptism – joins Himself to you. And to what end? But put on the LORD Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Your King comes to you, in water and His Word, gentle enough for an infant – and He teaches and makes you to fight against your sin, the desires of your flesh. He comes to you and make you realize that your life, your existence is more than just your wants. You aren't merely defined by your desires and claimed identities – despite how the world tries to define and categorize everyone. You aren't just your stuff, your class, your history. Nope. You are who the King says you are – and you are one who is Saved by Christ Jesus – called out of darkness into His marvelous light. One who is rescued away from the rat race of sin and death, away from the works of darkness. One who is clothed in the armor of light so as to withstand the assaults of the Devil. That is who you are – for you are Baptized, your King has come to you. He has done it all for you.
This is what the story of Jesus is – it is the story of God coming to be your King and your LORD – and not as the world might expect, and not as the world would like. He comes to save you. And we will ponder His first coming this month and in the months to come – and we will wait for Him to come again where we will see this Salvation face to face – “For salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Jesus is in charge of all of this – and He is better at being in charge than you are – and He actually does what is truly good for you. A Jesus crucified on a tree might not have been the gift you put on the top of your list – but it is really the best gift. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +