Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Sunday in Advent

First Sunday in Advent (A)
December 2, 2007
Text: Matt. 21:1-11

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9, ESV; cf. Matt. 21:5). Rejoice greatly, O people of Epiphany. Rejoice greatly, O people of Christ, united to Him by Baptism and faith. For your King, Jesus Christ, comes to you. He comes gently and humbly. He comes in the humble forms of words and water and bread and wine. He comes for you and for your forgiveness. Advent means “coming.” On this first Sunday of the new Church Year, we rejoice in the coming of our King. We join our voices with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, and with every Christian who has ever lived and ever will live scattered among the four winds. We rejoice with the crowds spreading cloaks and palm branches on the road to Jerusalem, and shout with them, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:9).

Yes, in the liturgy, the Lord places these very words into your mouths as you sing the Sanctus before the Lord’s Supper. You sing these words confessing the blessed reality that your King is present with His very body and blood in the Supper for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. Advent focuses our attention on this reality in a profound way. For Advent is all about preparation for and meditation upon the coming of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is about preparation for and meditation upon His coming as the Savior of the world, the Babe of Bethlehem destined for the cross. It is about preparation for and meditation upon His coming again in glory as Judge. And it is about preparation for and meditation upon His coming to us here and now, and throughout this new Church Year, and as long as the Church Militant struggles and fights and prays on earth, in His hallowed means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. Indeed, our Lord’s gracious coming to us in His means of grace is cause for great rejoicing and singing, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Kings do not ordinarily come in humility to their subjects. If you want an audience with the king, you must petition him, suffer through the bureaucracy of his royal court, and even then, there is no guarantee that he will hear you. It is not a citizen’s right to demand an audience with his king. The king will see and hear only those whom he deems worthy. How different it is with our divine King, Jesus Christ, who is not just some earthly king, but Almighty God in the flesh! You don’t have to suffer through any bureaucracy to come before Him. There is no question whether your petitions will be successful. You don’t even have to seek Him or find Him. Your King comes to you! He comes to you even thought you are unworthy. He humbles Himself and becomes one with your fallen flesh. He humbles Himself to the point of death on the cross to redeem your fallen flesh. He comes to you and takes your sins upon Himself, all the greed and lust and covetousness, the laziness and negligence and unfaithfulness that so infects your sinful flesh, all this He takes upon Himself all the way to the cross where the Father punishes it in the person of His Son. God has heard your cries for salvation. He has answered your petitions. The answer is Jesus on the cross. Whatever trial, whatever grief, whatever tribulation you have, whatever cross you bear, the answer is Jesus on the cross, upon which He has won for you the full and free remission of all your sins, peace with God, freedom from death and hell, eternal life and the resurrection from the dead.

Rejoice greatly, dear Christians, for this is what your King does for you. And rejoice greatly, for your King is not dead. He is not bound by the fetters of death. Jesus is alive. Christ is risen. And you who are baptized into His death are also baptized into His resurrection, so that death cannot hold you either. There is great reason to rejoice this first Sunday in Advent. For Christ is committed to another year, in fact a whole eternity of coming to His people, visiting them with His grace and mercy.

But don’t forget that He comes humbly. So what is true and what we know by faith, that Jesus is the great King of the universe, our King, who loves us and has made us His own holy nation (1 Peter 2:9), this King’s glory is not yet manifest to the world. It will be one day, when He returns. Until then, His glory, and the glory we have in Him, is hidden under the cross. That means we still have to suffer and struggle with sin and sickness and pain and physical death. We are still members of the Church Militant, and fall prey to Satan’s sinister attacks. But Jesus has promised to sustain us in these gray and latter days with His precious means of grace. So take heart. Trust in Him. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear, but with the temptation He will also provide a way out (1 Cor. 10:13). Where should you go when you are tempted or discouraged or suffering tribulation? You should go to the means of grace, where your Lord has promised to come to you. It is in the means of grace that the benefits of His cross are delivered to you. And the cross of Jesus Christ is always the answer you need. There He forgives you. There He heals you. There He gives you eternal life and salvation.

Because you know that Jesus’ Word and presence are certain, you can pray confidently along with the crowd on the road to Jerusalem, “Hosanna,” “Save now!” Hosanna is a prayer for salvation. The Savior’s Name, “Jesus,” means “the Lord saves.” In the midst of our rejoicing on this day and every day as the Church of God, we pray for salvation: Hosanna. Save us now, O Lord. The Lord’s salvation is the very cause of our rejoicing. Our life of rejoicing and thanksgiving and praise flows from salvation and faith in Christ.

This is where good works and obedience to God comes in, as St. Paul points out in our epistle lesson (Rom. 13:8-14). We know that the hour has come for us to wake from sleep, that our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed (v. 11). “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (vv. 12-14). You have put on Christ in Baptism, again, the means of grace. You have been clothed with Christ. You are covered in His righteousness. As a result of the salvation that has been given to you in Baptism, cast off the works of darkness. Cast off the sin that so easily entangles you. Repent, and believe. Don’t be ruled by your old sinful flesh, but rule over it as the new man in Christ Jesus. Put the sinful flesh to death. Crucify it. The prophet Isaiah entreats you this morning, “come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Is. 2:5). Do you want to know how you cast off the works of darkness? You walk in the light of the Lord. What is that light? The Psalmist confesses, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). The Word, the means of grace, is the light. Remain in the means of grace and you will remain in Christ, and He will be your light and give you strength to resist the flaming darts of the devil and to cast off the works of darkness. Remain in the means of grace and Christ Himself will open your lips and fill your mouths with songs of great rejoicing.

For you who are in the Word, who are in Christ, there is much reason to rejoice this morning. No matter what you are suffering, no matter what trial or tribulation or grief weighs heavy on your heart, yet you can rejoice. For your King comes to you. He comes to you today in His means of grace in the very same way He came for your salvation 2,000 years ago. And He is coming again. Only not so humbly this time. He is coming in glory. Then all will be revealed. Then your salvation will be manifest. Then all that is wrong and broken will be made right and whole again in the Lord. Until then we pray “Hosanna,” “Save now!” Save us now, O Lord. But being confident in His salvation, we also rejoice. For the Lord has heard and answered. He has promised to be among us wherever we come together in His Name, believing His Word (Matt.18:20). So He is among us this morning. He is coming to us now in His Word. And He is coming to us in His Holy Supper. There is nothing for us to do but greet our King who comes to us and praise His Holy Name in the words of the Sanctus, “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (LSB, p. 178). In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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