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 01, 2013

First Sunday in Advent


First Sunday in Advent (A)
December 2, 2013
Text: Matthew 21:1-11

            Hope.  Expectation.  Anticipation.  Longing.  These words are descriptive of the Christian life from the dawn of time.  The Christin life is a life of waiting upon the Lord.  Waiting full of hope, a hope that is sure and certain.  It is expectant waiting, waiting in faith that our God will make good on all His promises.  It is a waiting with anticipation of our Lord’s return to judge the living and the dead, of heaven, of the resurrection, of eternal life.  And it is a waiting marked by longing.  For we suffer here in this fallen world and this fallen flesh, longing for deliverance from sin, death, and the devil, from disease and heartache, from our enemies and persecutors, from our own fleshly desires and weakness.  We long for a home.  We long for the presence of Christ.  We know it will come.  We know He will come.  We know we already possess all that is His, but that is not yet manifest to the naked eye.  This is the realm of faith, not sight.  So we wait, and so we long.  Some are given the grace to wait with patience.  Others bear the cross of impatience, another mark of the very sinful flesh from which we long to be delivered.  But wait we must, and so we do.  Hopefully.  Expectantly.  Believing that Christ will come and our joy will be complete. 
            Such was the Christian life of our first parents, Adam and Eve.  They ate the forbidden fruit, and all at once they were plunged into death.  They died spiritually with the first bite.  They began to die physically.  They began to age and decline.  And they would die eternally in hell.  Hopelessness, despair, misery, eternal separation from God, these are the fruits of sin.  Except that God spoke His promise: The Seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15).  And so hope was born.  Hope is bestowed by the Gospel, the promise of God, Christ, the Savior.  There is a way out of death.  It is the Seed of the woman.  It is the Son of God.  Christ is coming.  And that is what Advent means.  Advent means coming, and it is all about the coming of God in the flesh to save His people.  So Advent is the season of hope, expectation, anticipation, longing. 
            Adam and Eve had hope in the promise of the Savior.  They believed the Word of the Lord.  So sure and certain were they in their hope that Eve thought her firstborn, Cain, to be the Lord (4:1).  As it turns out, she was profoundly wrong, and we all know the sad end of that story.  And the longing is intensified.  Add murder to the corruption of God’s good creation.  But Adam continued to preach the promise, as did the faithful in every generation.  And so the believers, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, King David, and all the Prophets, all those who held to God’s Word, they believed God, believed His saving promise, and it was credited to them as righteousness.  Hope sustained them.  Messiah is coming, the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, David’s Son, yet David’s Lord, Son of Man and Son of God. 
            Then all at once it happened.  The angel came to Mary: “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus… The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 2:31, 35; ESV).  And so it was in that moment, for the Word of the Lord does what it says.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).  Promise kept.  Hope fulfilled.  In the fullness of time, the Savior of the nations had come, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal. 4:4-5).  The first coming of Jesus, His first Advent, was about undoing what had gone wrong for all humanity in Adam’s fall, in our sin.  He came in the flesh to undo our sin, and so to undo sin’s wages, namely death, by submitting Himself to death on the cross.  You see, Christmas, too, is about the cross.  It’s about Christ crucified for sinners.  It’s about Christ crucified for you.  Remember that in all your song-singing and gift-wrapping and merry-making, amongst all the tinsel and glitter and the decking of the halls, the eating and the drinking, that this is all finally not about a jolly old elf or stockings hung by the chimney with care, but a Baby born to shed His precious blood and die… For you.  For in so doing He crushes the serpent’s head.  That we may maintain a salutary perspective toward Christmas, the Church observes this season of preparation for His coming, the season of Advent.  While the world is busy with the full-fledged celebration of its version of the holiday, we Christians are waiting.  And we’re listening as God speaks to us here about His Son, the Savior who has come, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.  And we’re repenting.  For all of its joyful anticipation, Advent is a penitential season, and we’ll hear from John the Baptist the next two Sundays calling upon us to “Prepare the way of the Lord,” to “make his paths straight” (Matt. 3:3), to repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
            That repentance is more than simply sorrow over sin, although it certainly is that, what we call in theology “contrition.”  It is a daily return to our Baptism, where we died with Christ, and were brought to new life in Him.  But repentance is also our longing that all that is wrong be set right again, that we would be set free from sin and death and all that goes along with it, that we would have the fullness of joy our Lord promises.  And that is what we hope for, and what we believe, expect, and anticipate in the coming of Christ.  That is why the crowds gathered with shouts of joy on the road into Jerusalem as our Lord made His way into the city, why they were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:9).  That is why they were strewing their cloaks and their palm branches on the road before Him (v. 8).  “Hosanna” means “Save now.”  And that is what Jesus came to do.  He came to save them, save us from our sin, to fill our longing.  At long last He has come, the One promised by God, the Savior of the world.
            And He doesn’t just come in general, beloved.  He comes to you.  He comes to you right here and now in this place that houses His Body, the Church.  He comes in His gifts, the Word and the Sacraments, in Scripture and preaching, in Baptism as we saw little Tobiah Gabriel receive Him this morning, in His true Body and Blood under the forms of bread and wine in the Supper.  He comes absolving you of sin, taking it away, declaring you righteous with His own righteousness, covering you with Himself, giving you eternal life.  He comes.  Advent.  You come to Church, because you know that He is here.  You sing “Hosanna” because that is what He does for you here.  He saves you now.  Hope fulfilled.
            And yet you still long.  You are still filled with hopeful expectation and anticipation.  Because Jesus is coming again visibly, to judge the living and the dead, to raise all the dead and give eternal life to you and to all believers in Christ.  On that Day what you now know only by faith you will know by sight.  You will see Jesus, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  You will dwell with Him.  You  will see your loved ones again, those who died in the faith.  No more tears.  No more sorrow.  No more suffering.  God will wipe away every tear from your eyes.  Beloved, Jesus is coming.  He’s coming for you.  He’s coming to get you.  He comes.  Advent. 
            Your life in Christ centers around His coming for you: His first coming in the flesh to be your Savior, His continual coming to you in His holy Word and Sacraments, and His visible coming again in the End.  And so these words continue to describe your life in Christ: Hope, a certain hope that you know will be fulfilled when you see Him face to face.  Expectation, because God always makes good on His promises.  Anticipation, because you are filled with joy and excitement that Christ is coming again.  And longing, as you pray with the holy Church of all times and all places: “Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20), come quickly, come and deliver us.  He will.  He has promised.  And so, beloved, we wait, and we trust.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.          

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