Friday, November 26, 2010

Sermon for 11/28/10--Ad Te Levavi: First Sunday in Advent (LSB 1-year)

Behold, Your King Comes to You

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

With this first Sunday in Advent the Lord opens for us and for all of His people another year of grace and blessing. Great is the faithfulness of the Lord! His mercies are never exhausted and they never grow old. This is the comfort and sure hope of every Christian. And so it is that we begin a new Church Year with confidence and with hope. But a new Church Year also brings an opportunity for review. In what ways have we, as the Church and as individuals, been most faithful to our Lord, and in what ways have we not been so faithful? Where should we repent, and where should we rejoice?

The holy season of Advent sets all of these things clear in light of Him who once came to Bethlehem’s manger, who comes to us now in His Blessed Word and Sacraments, and who will come again to render judgment against this world. What kind of king is Jesus? What kind of kingdom did He bring? And what does this mean now, as we await His second coming? His first coming was largely misunderstood. Sadly, it seems that those who met Him with great joy as He entered into Jerusalem were in the minority. But their songs of praise were fervent. No doubt many of them, along with His disciples, were among those who had seen Him raise Lazarus from the dead only a few days earlier. Here was the sign that Jesus was the Messiah for whom they had long waited—an incontestable sign to the eyes of faith. However, there were not many such eyes in Israel. Most were longing to see a great warrior, another David who would recapture all that had been lost, a mighty king who would kick the Romans out and establish the place where the Lord God Himself would dwell. But now, for Jesus to enter the city of kings on a humble donkey, and yet to be the one who would come “in the name of the Lord,” was a bit much to take. Never mind the fact that Solomon over nine centuries earlier had entered Jerusalem in the same manner to take up his throne. Jesus had come in the midst of ignorance and confusion and rejection.

Jesus did not come to set up an earthly kingdom for the powerful. He came to establish a heavenly kingdom for the meek and humble. But this lesson has not always been well received. There is among Christians a sense of helplessness, a feeling that the Church lacks the power and the influence it should have over those who exercise power and authority. But has anyone stopped to ask whether or not that should be our concern as Christians? Should we be concerned that the Church seems to have no influence over the course of this world? Does it mean anything to us that our Lord Jesus Christ never encouraged His disciples to despise earthly leaders, but rather to pray for them?

What did Jesus do when He entered into His city? Did he kick out the Romans? No; but He did cleanse the temple, and He spoke of the temple’s eventual destruction at the hands of Rome. Did that mean that the Romans were the “good guys” and Israel’s spiritual leaders were the “bad guys?” No. But it did mean that the Roman soldiers represented something that was earthly, something that would not last, something that one simply must endure in this life. Israel’s spiritual leaders were supposed to be shepherds of God’s flock. They were to be the spokesmen of an eternal kingdom, “the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” They were to be at the real center of this world, not by political manipulation, but by prayer and worship.

In his first Epistle, St. Peter wrote: “The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God.” Jesus cleansed the temple because it had been corrupted, and so had the worship life of God’s people. That this was true was shown by the fact that they did not know Jesus when He came. His cry that the House of the Lord should be a house of prayer and not a den of thieves should have opened their eyes, but they would not see. The Church is ever in need of cleansing. The clear sight of faith becomes dark when the Church seeks power and influence, when she becomes pleased with what she has done. Her real “business”, which all too often she leaves undone, is worship and prayer.

What kind of King was Jesus? And what kind of kingdom did He bring? “Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey.” He was humble and meek. He came in humility and quietness—not because He was weak, not because He had been cowed by the power of the Romans, but because He had come to die. He came as One who willingly and completely entrusted Himself to the Father in heaven. He trusted the goodness of His Father and patiently awaited the Father’s will. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, He awaited His Father’s will; “Not My will, but Yours be done.” And even when Judas, His betrayer, led His accusers to arrest Him, He told His disciples that He could call for legions of angels from heaven to protect; but that was not His way. His was the way of meekness and patience, not power and coercion. His was the way of worship and prayer, not influence and manipulation. His way was to entrust everything to the will and wisdom of his Father, and in that trust make His way to the Cross, for there He would open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

And that is to be our way, as well. St. Paul described our way in the Epistle reading. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Ours, too, is the way of meekness and patience; it is the way of worship and prayer. These are our ways because they were His ways. As the Psalmist said, our way is to wait patiently for the Lord, entrusting everything, including our salvation to Him; for He will surely bring all things to fulfillment. This world and all of its ways will soon pass, and the kingdom of the Lord, hidden now and known only to faith, will soon break out in all its glory.

And that, finally, is the kingdom we now await; the glorious kingdom of heaven, which will have no end. Waiting is the hard part, with fears and temptations all its own. This new Church Year affords us the opportunity to wait for that kingdom with renewed strength. Whether our Lord Jesus returns before this year is out or waits for another, it will be of no concern to us if we will just wait for Him in the way the faithful have always waited—and that is in worship and prayer. God grant us a blessed new year of His grace and that peace which the world does not know and cannot give. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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