Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday in Advent

First Sunday in Advent (B)

November 27, 2011
Text: Mark 11:1-10

We pray in the Collect, “Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance.”[1] Advent means “coming,” and this season is all about preparation for the coming of the Lord for our protection and rescuing. For if the Lord does not come, if the Lord does not protect us and rescue us, then the threatening perils of our sins will devour us. We are no match for those perils outside of Christ. Outside of Christ we are lost. The perils are too strong for us. Those perils include despair, unbelief, hardness of heart, being given over to the passions of the flesh, worldliness, spiritual blindness, enmity with God, DEATH. Finally, THE great peril of sin is damnation, hell. The devil, the world, and our sinful nature, our three main enemies, seek to deceive us and mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Even believers are attacked by these things, and so we fervently pray that God would deliver us from temptation and evil, so that we may finally overcome them and win the victory. But the victory is only won if the Lord comes. Advent. “Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come.” Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.

“(B)ehold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he” (Zech. 9:9; ESV). The Lord does not leave us to be devoured by the perils of our sin. He comes. And He comes in three ways: in the flesh, in His Word and Sacraments, and as Judge on the Last Day. He comes first of all in human flesh as the Baby Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, in Bethlehem of Judea. He comes in the flesh to be our substitute, to fulfill the Law of God in our place, the Law we cannot and will not keep, the Law we have broken. He comes to bear our sin and to suffer and die our punishment, the death of the cross for our forgiveness. He comes to lie in our tomb and transform it from the gate of hell to a soft bed for the believer’s body to await the resurrection. He comes to rise from the dead and give us new life, eternal life, now, already, in our Baptism into Christ, and for all eternity in our resurrection bodies in a new heaven and a new earth on the Last Day.

Our risen Lord Jesus has ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of God, ruling all things. But He has not left us nor forsaken us. He has given us His Holy Spirit, and He Himself comes to us in the flesh in His Word, and in the Sacraments of Baptism, Absolution, and with His true body and blood under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. This is the second way He comes, and in this way He protects us from the perils of our sins in the time of our earthly life.

And of course, He will come again visibly on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. On that Day He will deliver us from the threatening perils of our sins forever. That is the third way He comes. We must be prepared for that Day, which means we must always be in Christ, partaking of His gifts in the Word and Sacraments, which impart to us the saving benefits of His life, death, and resurrection. All three ways that He comes to us: His first coming as a baby, His continual coming in Word and Sacrament, and His coming again at the end of time, all three of these are interrelated and interdependent. We face His coming again with confidence because of His first coming, by which all our sins are forgiven, and His continual coming and presence among us in the means of grace, by which that forgiveness is applied to us. Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation, which He desires to give to you. He is coming to protect you and rescue you from the threatening perils of your sins.

He comes for sinners in the midst of their sin, in the midst of the threatening perils they have caused, in the midst of their death. He comes to you, right in the midst of your sin, right in the midst of the mess that is your life. What a comfort that is. You don’t have to be “good enough” for Jesus to come to you. You couldn’t possibly be “good enough.” You don’t win His coming to you by cleaning up your act, cleaning up your life, getting rid of your sinful habits. He comes by grace, regardless of who you are and what you’ve done. He comes to you, not because you are worthy, but because He is good. He comes to you, not to punish, but to rescue you and make you His own. When our Lord Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God from all eternity, took on flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, He became one with sinners. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (John 1:14). He lived among us. He patiently endured our sin against Him. He bore rejection, mockery, and insult. He ate and drank with sinners, with prostitutes and tax collectors. He died a criminal’s death, between two criminals, one of whom He declared would be with Him in Paradise. He was buried in a sinner’s tomb. And He rose victorious over sin. Now He comes to sinners in His Word and Sacraments. The righteous do not need His Word. They do not need His forgiveness. They do not need His Baptism or His Supper. Jesus comes for sinners in His means of grace. He comes to His Church, which is a hospital for sinners. The righteous need not apply. Sinners, however, who are covered by the blood of Jesus are declared righteous in Holy Absolution, and so they will be declared righteous when our Lord comes again on the Day of Judgment. Absolution is simply the declaration of God’s Judgment over you ahead of time: In Jesus, you are righteous.

But make no mistake. Jesus does not come to us so that we can go on sinning. He comes to free us from our sin. “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:1-4). Jesus comes to you and me right in the midst of our sin, to be sure. It is a great mercy on His part. But He does not come to leave us there. He does not come to tell us that it’s alright for us to remain in sin, that we’re okay the way we are, that we should feel good about ourselves in spite of our weaknesses. No, He frees us from all that! As long as we remain in our sinful flesh, we will sin, there is no doubt about it. But we are baptized into Christ, into His death, and so we daily die to sin. We daily crucify the sinful flesh. The entire life of believers is a life of repentance. But so also we are raised to new life with Christ, new life now, so that the new creation in us daily emerges and arises to live before God in righteousness and purity. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry… Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony… Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” and “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:5, 12-14, 16-17).

Advent is a season of preparation for our coming King. It is a season to prepare for the celebration of His birth at Christmas, to prepare for His coming in mercy in His Word and Sacraments, and by these means of grace to prepare for His coming again to judge the living and the dead. So we prepare the way of the Lord by strewing before Him the palm branches of repentance (you’ll hear a lot about that this Advent season in the preaching of St. John the Baptist) and in faith praying “Hosanna! Save now, O Lord. Save us, for the threatening perils of our sins are great, and without You they will devour us. But You come to deliver us. You come to fight for us. You come to protect us and rescue us. Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.” And as the Church prays these words again in the Sanctus, the Lord Jesus does just that. He stirs up His mighty power and comes with His true body and blood, that instead of being devoured by the threatening perils of your sins, you may devour Him in your mouths, for your forgiveness, life, and salvation, and so be rescued. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He. A blessed Advent, beloved. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Pastoral Care Companion (St. Louis: Concordia, 2007) p. 538.


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