Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!

Sermon for Advent 1A, preached on Sunday, November 27, 2016.

St. Paul tells us salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. Do you believe it?  After all we have been here before.  Advent gives way to Christmas then to Epiphany and then Lent and Easter and then summer and fall and here we go again.  It is easy to become complacent.  We are too easily oblivious to the passage of time.  But look in the mirror and we see where time is headed.  None of us is getting younger.  Either Christ will come sooner or we will die.  Either way, Paul is right.  And this is the sober realization for Advent.  It is time to cast off the works of darkness, put on the armor of God, and walk in the Light of Christ.

So today we come to renew our hosannas.  We are here to be reminded that Christ came, that He still comes among us full of grace and truth, and that He will come again to bring all things to their consummation.  Unless we are ready to meet Him, His coming signals death and destruction.  But to those who are ready to receive Him, it is the dawn of everlasting life.

Renewal and repentance are the keys to a life of faith.  Without them we become complacent, lazy, and blind to what is going on.  Recall the example of King David.  David was old and tired.  He had begun to spend his days in bed.  The people around him grew complacent as well.  All except his enemies.  His own son Adonijah chose to carpe diem - to seize the day - and make himself King in place of his brother Solomon.  So he invited his other brothers, Abiathar the High Priest, and Joab the General of the armies, and they became his co-conspirators in a plot to steal the throne.

Nathan the prophet got wind of it.  He told Bathsheba (yes, you got it right, the same Bathsheba whom David killed to know).  She was the mother of Solomon and devoted wife of David.  She got Zadok the priest and Benaiah, bodyguard of David, to come together to protect feeble old David and his line.  But who were they against so many!  They had no army.  All they had was the Word and promise of God. Like us, they wondered if it was enough.

They carried out old David and took Solomon out of the city of Jerusalem, into the Kidron Valley,  They washed him clean in Gehon spring.  They anointed him with oil to proclaim him king and stuck him on David’s mule.  And then they headed back to Jerusalem.  Along the way they shouted to make way for the king.  The people along the way heard the commotion and rejoiced for the new king.  “Hosanna!” they cried.  “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  The crowd became larger and larger and the voices shouted ever louder.  “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

They grew closer and closer to Jerusalem and their voices louder and louder.  Soon Adonijah and those conspiring with him also heard the noise. They thought it was an army coming to end their rebellion and the people partying turned into a mob on the run.  They ran because the legitimate King was coming.  And what happened?  David died and Solomon the wise brought glory to Israel even greater than  his father David.

Now do you get it?  Satan had tried to steal God’s throne.  He told us God was old and weak and we could become gods. And we listened and believed him. We went to his party and drank the koolaid of his lies until we forgot the truth and lived the lie. But God was not old or weak or distracted.  He revealed Himself and His plan of salvation.  He sent forth a prophet named John who washed the anointed One in the Jordan and proclaimed Him the Messiah King long promised.  And our Lord came, humble, mounted on David’s donkey riding into Jerusalem.

And the people heard the prophet and went out to see who was coming.  They shouted and laid down palms.  They called Jesus the Son of David.  They cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David.”  They knew then that their time of waiting was close to an end.  They ran to the King.  Do we run to Him?

Today, as Advent begins, we add our own voices to the crowd.  Our today belongs to the Lord so that His tomorrow may belong to us.  We do not choose the King.  God has.  We do not define the Kingdom.  The King who suffers and dies for that kingdom does.  The call to us is to repent, to cast off the works of darkness, to put on the armor of God, to walk in the Light of Christ, to wear Christ’s righteousness boldly as the baptized who believe in Him, and to walk not gratifying the desires of the flesh but seeking to walk in the way of God’s commandments.

This is how Advent begins.  God is not dead.  He does not sleep.  He is at work.  Satan has not won and cannot win.  Our hosannas acknowledge the Savior has come, that He still comes to us where He has promised,  and He is coming again to bring to completion all that He began. Like the Israelites of old, we cast off all distractions and run to the King.  We welcome Him who comes in the Name of the Lord.  He who fulfills the Word and promise of the Father is in our midst.  We are not lost.  We are not alone.  We are not doomed to suffer sin and its death forever.  Christ is here!

Our Advent hosannas acknowledge that Christmas has already come.  We wait no more for a manger in Bethlehem to be filled.  We wait for this bread and this wine to be filled with Christ’s body and blood.  We wait for this foretaste for the eternal feast which is coming.  We wait for the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting that Jesus, God’s anointed, has provided for us with His own death and resurrection.

Like the people so long ago, we are moved to hope by the sound of hosannas and announcement of the Kingdom.  Salvation has come.  It has come in Christ born of the Holy Spirit by the Virgin and in the Word and Sacraments that deliver Him to us today.  The night is far gone.  The eternal day is soon to dawn.  Wake up! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. . . once to Bethlehem of old, still to us every Sunday in Word and Sacrament, and soon as King to rule over all things forever.  The people long ago ran to their legitimate King.  Do we run to Him today?

Wear the clothing of His righteousness.  Put on the armor of God.  Fight the good fight.  Live holy lives.  Love the commandments and do them.  Salvation is nearer today than when we first believed.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen

1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Excellent message and reminder for all of us. You are correct in stating we cannot take our Savior or our time on this earth for granted. I think of all the numerous verses of the New Testament, my very first favorite is one of the shorter ones: John 3:30 "He must increase, but I must decrease." When we submit to Christ in humility, knowing our own mortality and fragility of mind and spirit, fully aware of our dual nature and sinfulness, we begin to understand what our Christian faith essentially means. Our relationship to Christ transcends all of the squabbles over theology and "spiritual" correctness. Every Christian needs to read the Bible for a few minutes each and every day, and prayer must play an important part of our daily walk with God. Other issues seem important and take much of our time, but even these things will never discourage us if our minds are in tune with the Lord.