Sunday, April 10, 2022

Advent and Palmarum. . .

The first Sunday in Advent begins typically with the palm Sunday procession of Christ into Jerusalem.  I say typically only because there is another optional gospel for those who have not yet figured out the connection.  It may seem strange to those on both sides of the rail that Advent would begin with the same readings as Palm Sunday and our entrance into Holy Week.  But this is not strange at all.  It would be odder to miss the connection.

In Advent we begin with palms and hosannas because that is where we are going -- or should I say Jesus is going.  His goal is not the manger but the manger is the means to the greater goal of all that unfolded from Palm Sunday through Easter.  He is come as an child in the womb of the Virgin and a baby in the manger so that He might enter into suffering to release us from suffering, into death that we would not die, and into life so that we might live forever.

What we heard in Advent at the start of the Church Year is now heard again at the apex of that year -- the week of the cross and empty tomb.  He was born for this.  What caused our death, He must now take upon Himself in suffering and death so that forgiveness might be proclaimed in His name.  What once was the curse of death and the seeming victory of the grave must be undone so that death can no longer have the appearance of winning and the grave must cough up its dead to Him who opened its doors.

It is not about palms and hosannas.  Not about them anymore than it is about us.  But they are the signal that Christ has come for one mighty purpose.  He has come to die the death that would free us from sin and its death and to rise so that we too might have hope for everlasting life.  So the palms and hosannas fade as the Sunday of the Passion tells the story that will frame the week of liturgies and the whole shape of our lives as Christians.  It is told not as the record of a past event but as the Gospel to be proclaimed from mountaintop to valley by those who know and love its truth.  From palms and hosannas and welcome and smiles we enter into the valley of the shadow.  But not before a stop in the Upper Room where the sacrifice is established as a sacrament that will be eaten and drunk long after the sound of the hammer and nails upon the wood of the cross echoes away.  And then, as solemnly as we began Lent with ashes and repentance, we are there to worship at the wood of the cross on which hung the Savior of the world.  Then a time of waiting until the alleluias once packed away for a time are brought out to be sung anew on Easter morning.

You can have Palm Sunday without palms and hosannas but why would you want to?  The shift of the crowds from effusive welcome and praise to the curses of crucify are a solemn reminder of the narrow path we are on and of the great temptation of the grand boulevard of death.  So lift you palms and shout your hosannas.  The Savior has come, the Man laid as baby in the manger, to meet all that troubles us and corrupts us and kills us.  Thanks be to God!

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