Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Hosanna...Blessed is He Who Comes!

Sermon for Advent 1A, preached on Sunday, December 1, 2019, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

    It’s interesting that we begin the Advent season with the same Gospel reading that is read on Palm Sunday.  It’s interesting that we begin our time of looking forward to our Lord’s birth with a reading that looks forward to His death. These two times we think should be separate, but they’re inseparably tied together.  Christ’s birth and death go hand in hand for they’re both needed for salvation; they’re both needed to answer to our prayer Hosanna, save us.
    That’s what Hosanna means, it means “save us.”  It’s a plea for help and deliverance.  It’s a word that’s sung in the Psalms calling on God for salvation.  And it’s a word that praises Him for that salvation.  That’s why the people of Jerusalem shouted it as Jesus entered the city.
    As Christ entered Jerusalem one short week before His crucifixion, He was welcomed by a shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 21:9).  What a sight that must’ve been; people running to the street, putting their cloaks on the ground, waving palm branches, all shouting with joy and celebration.  The people welcomed Jesus as their Messiah.  They welcomed Him as their king.  They’d heard about everything He had done in His ministry: the feeding of thousands, the calming of storms, the healing of sorts of sickness and disease and paralysis, even the raising of the dead.  They’d heard about it all and they were ready for Him to do the same for them.  They were ready for freedom.
    The crowd praised Jesus calling Him the “Son of David.”  This wasn’t just a reference to His descent from David, although He was.  Instead this was a messianic title of kingship.  It comes from God’s promise to David that one of his descendants would establish an eternal kingdom (2 Sam 17:13-14).  The people of Jerusalem were ready for that kingdom.  They were tired of being ruled by the Romans.  They wanted their own kingdom ruled by their own king.  And they welcomed Jesus expecting Him to bring that freedom.
    Like the people of Jerusalem, we welcome Christ singing Hosannas.  We look forward to the celebration of His coming at Christmas.  We look forward to it because in His birth He entered our world to set us free, to be our King.  The people of Jerusalem wanted Christ to bring an earthly kingdom, freedom from the Romans, but that’s not the kingdom Christ came to establish.  Our Lord brings the kingdom of heaven with freedom from that which truly oppresses us: our sin and death.
    We like to think of ourselves as free.  In our country we’re not beholden to anyone.  We don’t have a monarchy or dictator who rules with an iron fist.  We get to decide for ourselves how we’ll live.    And yet, even with all the freedoms that we have, we’re mistaken if we think we’re free, because we’re not.  We’re not truly free.  We’re enslaved to ourselves, we’re enslaved to sin and to death.
We’re born into this slavery.  We’re born with sin in our hearts, sin that’s focused completely inward, sin that’s focused on satisfying selfish desires.  We’re beholden to this original sin.  We can’t disobey it.  It’s a slave master that controls everything we do; everything we say; even everything we think.  And we can’t free ourselves from it.  We can’t save ourselves from sin and death.  No matter how hard we try, unless Christ comes before it, death is our end.  And so we cry out, Hosanna.
God has answered this plea for help and deliverance.  He’s answered it with His Son, whose birth we’re looking forward to and celebrate.  Christ Jesus was born to free you, to save you from sin and death.  And there’s only one way that salvation could be accomplished, with His death. 
Freedom isn’t free.  Freedom from slavery comes at a price, it must be bought, and that price is Jesus birth and death.  Your Savior answers your Hosanna with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.  Jesus was born to die on the cross to pay the price of your freedom.  Jesus was born to die so that you could live.  And in response to this salvation we praise Him singing, Hosanna...Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
    During Advent all our focus tends to on Christmas.  Everything we do is getting ready for that celebration.  And yet, during Advent, we don’t just look forward to the manger alone, but to how our Lord continues to come to us today and how He promises to come on the Last Day. 
    Our Savior still comes to us today for the very same purpose of bringing us salvation, and we continue to welcome Him singing Hosanna.  We literally do this every Sunday as we approach this altar to receive Christ’s body and blood, the very body and blood that was laid in the manager, the very body and blood that was crucified on the cross, the very body and blood that was raised from the tomb.  We welcome Him by singing, Holy holy holy Lord, Lord God of pow’r and might: Heav’n and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.  We sing the same words the people of Jerusalem sang as our Lord physically comes to us to feed us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.  And we continue to sing Hosannas calling Him to come again on the Last Day.
    Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, our salvation is complete.  The price of freedom has been paid, and freedom is yours.  You’ve received it in your Baptism, in the words of forgiveness applied to your sins, and in the Supper.  And yet, we don’t physically see and experience that freedom now.  We’re still plagued with sin’s temptation, and we still give in to that temptation.  Death still rules in our lives.  The freedom that is yours in Christ isn’t fully realized yet, and it won’t be until He comes again.  And so, as we sing Hosanna looking forward to that day of the Lord.  
    The people sang Hosanna welcoming Christ into Jerusalem.  We sing Hosanna as we celebrate His birth, celebrating our King come in the flesh to save.  We sing Hosanna, welcoming Him as He feeds us His very body and blood for forgiveness and salvation.  And we sing Hosanna calling our Lord to come again, to bring in fullness the salvation He won with His birth, death, and resurrection.  With faith and confidence we see sing Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! In Jesus’ name...Amen. 

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