"Behold, Your King Is Coming"
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The world celebrates holidays all backwards. Have you ever noticed that? All of the celebrating is virtually done before the day ever arrives. This is especially so with Christmas. All the feasting, the decorating, the nostalgia are done up front. You've got Christmas movies and Christmas music not only before Advent but even before Halloween! By the time the actual holiday arrives, Christmas seems anti-climactic. By December 25th, you're tired of the songs and the phony holiday cheer, and you're ready to move on—especially when things didn't quite live up to Hallmark expectations. It’s not unusual to see Christmas trees out with the garbage the day after Christmas!
The church doesn't celebrate a holy day until it actually arrives, and in the days following. The 12 days of Christmas that you hear about in the carol are the days from Christmas to Epiphany on January 6th. That's the real Christmas season. What we're in now is the Advent season, and Advent is a time of penitent and hope-filled preparation. Believe it or not, in the early church, Advent was a time for fasting. This is a time not for mere sentimentality, but a time but to dwell more fervently on the Word of God to make ready the way of His coming to us. We eagerly anticipate Christmas, of course; but now is not the time for the full celebration. Now is the time for waiting and discipline and focusing on the coming of our Lord in the flesh to save us.
That's why we have the Gospel that we do today. The Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem may seem out of place at first here in Advent, but in fact it dramatically emphasizes what this season is about. Advent means "coming." This Gospel teaches that our Lord comes to us humbly, whether on a beast of burden or in a lowly manger. Jesus comes not simply to be born; He is born to humble Himself even to death on a cross, to give His life to rescue us from sin and death and the devil.
Jesus rides two donkeys: an older one, the mother, and a younger one, a colt, the mother's foal. These two donkeys represent God's Old and New Testament people. First, Jesus rides the old, to show that He is the fulfillment of all that Israel was about and all that its prophets foretold. Then Jesus rides the new, which is born from the old. Our Lord comes to make all things new by dying and rising again. Out of the old order of death comes a new order of invincible life for us in Jesus. He unites all believers, from the Old Testament and the New, from every nation and race, together as His true and everlasting Israel.
And do not forget that you are the donkey: a very stubborn animal, hard-headed, set in your sinful ways, eager to go your own direction. You must be driven. Christ rides you; and gently but firmly He drives you toward the cross. He drives you to die with Him, to die to sin, so that you may also rise with Him to new life. He drives you to repentance through the Law, so that through the His redeeming work you may have His full and free forgiveness.
That's the sort of king you have in Jesus: not one who forces His subjects to serve Him, but one who lays down His life to serve His subjects. Every other king sends out soldiers into battle to fight on His behalf. But this King goes into battle Himself to fight on your behalf. He rides not on a stallion with glittering armor, but on an ordinary donkey, an animal of peace; for He comes to bring you peace. This King will ascend His throne, not by wearing a crown of gold, but a crown of thorns; not by defending Himself, but by becoming defenseless; dying so that you may live. This is the King who comes.
And do not fail to note that He's the One doing the traveling. You don't have to go out searching for Him, as though He were some far-off guru sitting high atop a Himalayan mountain. No, Jesus searches you out and comes to you. You don't come to God through your own spirituality or works or emotions. But God can and does come to you in His grace. He came down from heaven right to where you're at, taking up your human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. He even went so far as to come into contact with the filth of your sin and death on the cross so that you might be cleansed and rescued from them by His precious blood.
And the Lord comes to you even today to dish out all the benefits He won for you. But don't look for glitter and fanfare. You must learn to see the meek and humble ways in which Jesus still enters into this place and into your lives. This church is Jerusalem. And the gates through which Christ enters this holy city are the Word and the Sacraments. The King rides to you on the waters of Holy Baptism. He travels to you through His spoken and preached words. And indeed, you have the triumphal entry in every celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar. The Lord who came in His flesh and blood to Jerusalem comes also to you here in His body and blood to give you the forgiveness of sins which He purchased on Calvary. That’s why we sing the Sanctus which contains the very same words that were shouted to Jesus: "Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest."
Let us, then, come forth to meet our King Jesus with heartfelt Hosannas. Hosanna means "Save now." "Save us, Lord." It is a cry of praise, a cry full of the sure and certain hope that the Lord will help you. Jesus comes to you here, to give poor beggars His royal and divine treasure. While the world madly rushes by seeking to create a perfect moment of nostalgia and find peace and comfort, let us receive Him who alone gives real peace and lasting comfort, who comes to you humbly and lowly. "Daughter of Zion, behold, your King is coming to you. He is righteous and having salvation!" 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.