Monday, November 28, 2022

Hosanna! He comes!

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent (A), preached on Sunday, November 27, 2022.

It is but the First Sunday in Advent and already we are tired of Christmas.  While the Church ushers in a slow and deliberate unfolding of God’s promise, the world has already rushed already to the end.  We will today put up and set out the hallmarks of our hope in the hanging of the greens, the creche, the wreaths, and soon the tree with its white ornaments of faith.  The world has already broken the plastic trinkets and cheap knickknacks that were purchased in August.  What a beginning!

We think we know everything but it is clear that if we did know it, we have forgotten it.  More likely, we never knew it but were merely faking it.  It is no wonder that we are approaching a season of great loneliness, dissatisfaction, conflict, and disappointment.  We think a plastic holiday will suffice but the Church calls forth the voice of repentance and heralds the world to prepare the way for the Lord and shout “Hosanna” to the One who comes.

The reality is that our world is changing much too quickly.  We are more vulnerable now than in the past.  We struggle to keep up with it all.  Life is not getting easier or better and, since Covid, is shorter than it once was.  My friends, we need a real Savior now more than ever.  We are a people captive to our fears, our inner turmoil, our uncertainty, and our hurts.  We need a real Savior now more than ever.  We are a people who cannot bear to watch the terrible things that are called news but we cannot stop ourselves from screening through things important and trivial in our search for a distraction.  We need a real Savior now more than ever.

And so the Church calls out to us and calls us out.  We are coaxed from our homes and our convenient lives to take stock of ourselves and the world.  We are warned against the rose colored glasses of false hopes and dreams to survey the only real hope and honest dream there is.  We are warned against becoming too comfortable with death and taking too casually our sin.  We are bidden to repent and acknowledge that we are sinners who cannot save ourselves.  We are confronted with a Savior who came not because we called but because He loved us more than life itself.  We are comforted not by human progress but by the God who meets us in our failures with forgiveness and restores us when we fall.
The modern world has not helped us.  We have grown soft on the good lives that demand little from us except acquiescence.  Where other generations fought wars, we surrender our freedom any time it might cost us something.  Where other ages endured hardship and suffering as routine, we refuse to accept any pain or to deny ourselves any happiness.  Where has that gotten us?  As a people we wrestle daily with depression in our minds, despair in our hearts, and comorbities in our bodies.  We live unhealthy lives and we delight in unhealthy pursuits.  None of this can be fixed by merely by developing more self-control or self-discipline.  All of this requires a Savior to do the heavy lifting for us.

That is why we cry out today “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.”  Ours is not a hope of what might happen but the hope built upon what did happen.  God made Himself one of us that we might be made one with Him.  In Bethlehem a Virgin gave birth.  In Nazareth the Son of God grew up.  In Jerusalem the Savior died upon a cross.  And from Judea to the ends of the world, the message of our crucified and risen Savior has brought real hope to a plastic world and a people who might have been satisfied with mere sentiment over real truth and real history.

We are not trying to re-enact the life of Christ in the Church Year.  We are trying to remember the life He lived, the life He surrendered upon the cross, the life that could not be held captive in the grave, and the life that means you and I have a future and not just a past.  We begin Advent not as if Jesus had never lived but because He did live, as one of us in flesh and blood yet without sin.  We begin Advent not as if Jesus life were a mystery but because His life is the Gospel of hope to a people longing for hope.  We begin Advent not to make it to the manger but to make it to the cross where life overcome death, righteousness overcame sin, and peace still passes understanding.

The Word of God calls us to look and see Jesus.  The Spirit of God teaches us to cry out “Hosanna.”  The Word of God tells us Jesus is the long promised Savior who will redeem us lost and condemned sinners.  The Spirit of God teaches us to say “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.”  The Word of God says this is His body give for you and this is His blood shed for you.  The Spirit of God teaches us to sing “Hosanna in the Highest!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.”  And as we eat and drink in faith, the Spirit teaches us to say Amen.

The Psalmist is painfully correct.  Put not your trust in earthly rulers or kingdoms.  The preacher of Ecclesiastes is sadly on target.  All is vanity.  But the promise of Advent is still true and this hope will not disappoint.  God is here.  Not to judge but to save.  Not to condemn but to heal.  Not to placate but to satisfy.  Not to distract but to transform.  Not to surrender to despair but to overcome that despair with Christ’s once for all victory.

We are not optimists.  We know our enemies.  We know our trials.  We know the obstacles before us.  We know the temptations all around us.  But we know something more.  We know that Jesus was born of the Virgin by the power of the Spirit, that He suffered in our place the death of sin, that He rose for us that we might live no more in death’s shadow, and that love won so that love might win now in your life and in mine.

The world puts all sorts of doubt and fears before us, taunting us with our sins and dampening our hopes with the worst of news.  And what do we say?  Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.  The world says marriage and family and children cost you too much and better to take care of yourself instead of your husband or wife or babies or teens.  And what do we say?  Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.  The world says facts cannot save you and feelings are all that matter.  And what do we say?  Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.  The world says make your best life now and than make your peace with death.  And what do we say?  Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.  The world says a plastic holiday is the best you can expect.  And what do we say?  Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.  

A blessed Advent to you, my brothers and sisters.  God is with us now and the future is better than any of us could envision or dare expect – not because things are getting better but because Christ has come.  In the holy Name of Jesus.  Amen.

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