Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Blessed is He who comes!

Sermon preached for Advent 1C, on Sunday, December 2, 2012.

    Perhaps you thought you over slept a few months – fight into Palm Sunday?  Funny how we tend to compartmentalize things!  When we think of palms and hosannas we think of the cross.  Early Christianity saw the parallel of the waiting Church, living in anticipation and expectation of the day when Christ comes again.  The goal of Advent is the goal of Christian life – to be ready for the King when He comes.  In order to do that, we look back to His coming when once He was welcomed to the cross by welcoming Him now as He comes in the means of grace that we might welcome Him when He comes in His glory.
    Last week we ended with words about the Kingdom of God.  Advent begins with the coming of the King.  Fetch the donkey.  Cut some palms.  Lay down your coats.  The King is coming.  Advent begins with the Palm Sunday entrance because it is the prophet's word that has been fulfilled.  He did come and no one and nothing could stop Him.  The donkey's owner could question, but the coming of the Lord trumps everything.  Who can or will deny the King when He comes?  He is coming to claim what is His.  Who can stand in His way?  It started with a donkey and it led to bread and wine but it ends in the clouds.  What is left for us except to line up and be ready to welcome the King who comes?
    Once He came hidden, with His glory cloaked from view.  Hidden in the flesh and blood of a man, the Son of God is born and lives.  The eye saw only a man but the prophet said He is more than man.  He is the Son of God.  What the eye could not see, faith beheld.  The hidden glory is revealed by the Father acting in the Spirit.  The star that led the Magi.  The dove that swooped down at His baptism.  The voice that twice broke the silence: This is My beloved Son; listen to Him."  He once came hidden in flesh and blood.  He still comes hidden in bread and wine for faith to discern.  Hidden but revealed and right where He promised to be.
    Once He came hidden on a donkey – not as earthly royalty on a fine stead but as a humble King.  He came not for the crowd and their response but for the cross and His sacrificial service even to death.  He was born the Son of God in human flesh.  The palms and hosannas acclaimed Him Lord and King.  On the cross He revealed Himself to be Savior.  He was born not to live but to die.  His death is life for those who receive Him.  Still He comes in the humility of simple bread and wine that is His body and blood.  With the fruits of His death and the promise of His life, He comes to those who will receive Him.
    Advent is not the rehearsal of the events of Bethlehem and His birth as Son of God in  human flesh and blood.  Advent is not the reminder that He kept the prophetic promise and showed Himself the true Lord and true King.  Advent is not to remember He came to die, to serve us with the suffering of His agonizing death and to rise to give us eternal life.  Advent does not point backward but forward.  It because He came, because He suffered, because He died, because He rose that we live in anticipation and expectation of His coming again.
    He comes as King to give to us the glory of a life that death cannot steal.  Here we find all our lives lived in the shadow of death.  Isaiah says it is a veil that is cast over us.  He comes as King to lift the veil, to shine His light upon us.  He no longer veils His glory but shows it forth full strength.  He comes to give us life that death cannot steal from us. 
    He comes among us – we are not left to our own devices.  He comes as the living voice of the Word that speaks that the chains of sin fall away, leaving us free.  He comes in the water that kills and cleanses and gives new life to those who go down into it.  He comes in the food that feeds souls as well as bodies, for eternity as well as for today. 
    He comes as the One who is still to come – to claim what He earned by His death and resurrection.  To finish the new creation born of His death and resurrection.  To deliver us from every evil and even our very selves.  He came as one of us in Bethlehem.  He comes to us in the means of grace.  He will come for us in glory. 
    Your King comes.  All history points to Christ’s Kingly return.  The promise to Abraham of many offspring.  Moses’ journey with the people from wilderness to the land of promise.  David ascent to the throne as shepherd king of Israel. The prophets speaking "The Lord says."  The priestly sacrifice in the temple.  The manger in Bethlehem.  The cross of Calvary.  This service of Word and Sacrament.  He comes to save us that we might dwell with Him.  He keeps us in faith that He might lead us to our eternal home.
    We sing the Palm Sunday words sung every Sunday.  In the Sanctus we join, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord."  It is certainly the echo of those who once welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem but it is more.  It is the welcome of the Lord who comes among us still.  It is the anticipation and expectation of what is to come.  Here we have a foretaste of our future  – just enough to keep us wanting more, hoping for more, expecting more.  That is why we have Advent.  We do not need to prepare for what is past.  We need to take the because of that past to prepare and keep us ready for the conclusion, the promised destiny of His return.
    We keep coming to Church so that we can be ready for Him and be found in Him when He comes.  We keep coming to Church not to find out how the story ends but because we know its ending.  We come to imitate the future we know is coming.  We come to anticipate what He has already promised, our appetizer for the big Meal, the great and eternal banquet supper of the Lamb in His kingdom that He no end.  We cannot afford to be distracted by the good things of this life and live content with what is a shadow.  Neither can we afford to be overcome by the sorrows of this life and despair of hope.  In Advent we pray the Lord will find us as we are today – ready to meet Him where He has promised to be... singing the joyful words

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