Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday in Advent

First Sunday in Advent (B)

November 30, 2014
Text: Mark 11:1-10

            Advent means coming.  And how we need our Lord Jesus to come.  “Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come,” we pray in the collect this morning.  “Come, Lord Jesus,” we pray at the dinner table.  “Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus,” the Holy Church prays with St. John in Revelation (22:20; ESV).  Come and deliver us from the threatening perils of our sins.  From the threatening perils of disease and death.  From the threatening perils of fallen-ness and brokenness in this world and this flesh.  Cleanse our consciences from guilt.  Heal our bodies and our hearts and our souls.  Bring clarity to our confused minds.  “Hosanna!” (Mark 11:9).  “Save, we pray.”  Come to us and save us by Your mighty deliverance. 
            And He has.  And He does.  And He will.  We speak of three ways that our Lord comes to us: Past, present, and in the Eschaton, on the Last Day.  Advent is about all three of these things.  We tend to think of Advent primarily as the season of preparation for His coming as a Baby in Bethlehem.  It is certainly that, but it is so much more.  It is not just the countdown of shopping days left until Christmas, nor is it even simply a countdown to the Christmas Eve Candlelight service.  It is a season of preparation for all that our Lord came in the flesh to do for us.  Advent is as much a preparation for Good Friday and Easter as it is for Christmas.  Because Christmas is about so much more than the birth of a Baby.  It is about who that Baby is, and what that Baby does.  That Baby is God.  He is God in the flesh.  He is God with us, Immanuel.  That Baby is Jesus, “The LORD saves,” for He has come to save His people from their sins.  He is the promised Seed of the woman, offspring of the Virgin’s womb, come to crush the serpent’s head.  He has come to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim release to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Is. 61:1), “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” (v. 2).  He has come that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers be cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead be raised up (Matt. 11:5).  He has come to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows; to be stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted for us, in our place; to be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.  By His wounds we are healed (Is. 53:4-5).  Christmas is about the Word becoming flesh dwelling among us (John 1:14).  It is about God taking on our flesh and blood to redeem it by His death, and to raise it up on the Third Day, that we may have eternal life.  Advent is the season of preparation for all of that. 
            But our Lord’s Advent is not simply an historical episode you can read about in a book.  For the Church, His coming to us is an ongoing reality.  It is true that Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after His Resurrection.  He was taken up from the disciples and hidden by a cloud.  But He did not leave them, and He has not left us.  He promised: “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).  So He still comes to us, just as He came that first Christmas.  He still comes to us as God in the flesh.  He does so in His Word and Sacraments.  It is His voice that speaks to you in the proclamation of His Word.  The pastor is just the loud-speaker for Jesus.  It is Christ who baptizes, clothing you with the white robe of His righteousness as He drowns you and raises you to new life, and writes God’s own Name upon you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is Christ who bespeaks you righteous in Holy Absolution, pronouncing your sins forgiven.  It is Christ who sets a Table before you and places His own Body and Blood into your mouths.  And this is the same Body that was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid a in manger.  This is the same Blood that coursed through those tiny veins as He nursed at the bosom of the Blessed Virgin.  Jesus answers your prayer.  He comes to you, Body and Blood, in the Means of Grace.  And He does this that He might continue to do for you what He did in His earthly ministry: to proclaim good news to you, to bind up your broken heart, to release you from your captivity, to give you eyes to see Him as your Savior, ears to hear His life-giving Word, to heal your afflictions, to bear your sorrows, and finally, to raise you up in your body on the Last Day.  The Means of Grace are a foretaste of the full visible coming of the Lord on the Last Day.  His hidden presence with you now in His Word and Sacraments is a foreshadowing of His eternal presence with you in the full manifestation of His glory when He comes again to judge the living and the dead and give eternal life to you and all believers in Christ. 
            Jesus is coming back.  Visibly.  That is the third way of our Lord’s coming to us, and the Season of Advent is all about preparation for that Day.  Suddenly, without warning, on a Day known only to God, the Lord Jesus will rend the heavens and come down with His holy angels, to sit in Judgment upon His throne.  The trumpet will sound.  The dead will arise.  Every eye will see Him.  Even those who pierced Him (Rev. 1:7), for they will be raised from the dead.  The Lord will separate the sheep from the goats, the believers from the unbelievers, as we heard last week.  The believers He will invite to come and inherit the Kingdom prepared for them by the Father from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34).  But the unbelievers He will command to depart into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (v. 41).  The believers will receive the Kingdom inheritance because they received the Lord’s coming in faith that their sins have been forgiven, that He has come to deliver them.  The unbelievers will be cast out because they did not receive the Lord when He came.  They did not cry Hosanna, save, we pray.  They did not want the Lord to come, they did not want His forgiveness and salvation, they wanted to be left alone.  So the Lord will give them what they want on that Day.  But note that this coming is a Day of rejoicing for you who are in Christ Jesus.  It is not a Day of terror, but of joy and triumph.  For on this Day the Lord Jesus will grant you the final deliverance from your sins… You will sin no longer!  All your sins having been forgiven, you will live in eternal righteousness and purity.  On this Day the Lord Jesus will grant you the final deliverance from all your afflictions… no more sickness.  No more death.  No more mourning or crying or pain.  Your body and your soul will be made whole again.  You will be like Jesus, in His resurrection Body.  And God will wipe away every tear from your eyes (cf. Rev. 21:4).  You will dwell with God and with His Christ forever. 

            Once the Lord Jesus came in our likeness, in our flesh, to bear our sin and redeem us by His death on the cross.  Now risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty, He fills all things, and He comes to us bodily in His holy Word and Sacraments, indeed, with His true Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.  And He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.  Past, present, and future.  Past, present, and Eschaton.  What you don’t want to do is greet the Lord’s coming with little or no preparation.  This Season of Advent, in these days before Christmas, you are worried and troubled about many things: Christmas parties, Christmas presents, Christmas this, and Christmas that.  There is the baking and the cleaning, the wrapping and the trappings, there are visitors coming for dinners yet to be cooked.  So much to do.  So little time.  Don’t get lost in all of that.  That is not the preparation to which Advent calls you.  Quite the contrary.  Advent calls upon you to repent.  The next two Sundays we will hear the voice of John the Baptist crying in this wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mark 1:3).  Repent and believe the Gospel.  Come to Church.  Be here where the Lord comes to you now with His precious, sin-forgiving, conscience cleansing, healing gifts.  That is your priority this Advent.  Everything else can wait.  It can.  Repent of thinking it can’t.  Prepare by confessing.  Confess the paths that are not straight.  Confess your unwillingness to receive the Lord as He comes to you now with His gifts.  Confess and be absolved.  Prepare by believing the Lord Jesus when He says your sins are forgiven.  Prepare by receiving what He has to give you here in His Church.  For no matter how crooked and messy sin has made the path, no matter how plagued you are by the sins that so easily beset you, no matter how much or how little preparation you have made, the Lord Jesus comes to you.  He advents.  To set you free from the threatening perils of your sins.  To save you by His mighty deliverance.  To deliver you from all your afflictions.  Hosanna.  Save, we pray.  Come, Lord Jesus.  He has.  He does.  He will.  For you.  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9).  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.           

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