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 29, 2015

First Sunday in Advent

First Sunday in Advent (C)

November 29, 2015
Text: Luke 19:28-40

            Jesus comes.  He rides into Jerusalem, our humble King, mounted on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  He rides on in majesty, in lowly pomp rides on to ascend the throne of the cross, to rule by Blood, His own, shed for you, to purchase you for Himself, to forgive your sins.  Jesus comes: He is conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffers under Pontius Pilate, is crucified, dies, and is buried… for you.  He is risen and ascended and lives and sits at the right hand of the Father… for you.  He rules… for you.  And He does not leave you an orphan.  He comes.  He comes to you graciously in His means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments.  He will come again in glory, visibly, to raise you from the dead, to take you to Himself to live forever in His presence.  And notice this: the direction in all that Jesus does for you, is that He comes.  He comes down.  He comes to you.  He comes for you.  He comes as one of you, God in the flesh, Immanuel, God with you.
            There are two kinds of religion in the world.  There is the religion where the direction is from you to god.  You submit to god.  You slavishly serve god.  You work your way up to god, and you hope he, or she, or it, or they take notice of you and accept you and favor you and deliver you.  In this religion you are forever climbing a ladder to god, carrying the burdens of your sins and weaknesses, often falling back to the bottom and having to start all over again.  Like Sisyphus rolling his stone up the hill, all your effort is for naught.  It ends in condemnation and futility.  And notice that every single religion in the world falls under this category except for one.  The direction of Christianity is exactly the opposite.  It is God to you in the flesh of Christ.  He submits to you, to your death, to your hell, to your punishment by crucifixion.  He receives your spikes in His hands and feet, your crown of thorns, your spear in His side, for your sins, that you may have His life.  He is among you as One who serves, who washes His disciples’ feet, who hosts you at His Table, who serves you His Body and His Blood.  He does His work for you.  He comes to the sick to heal your diseases.  He comes to prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners like you to restore you and to eat with you.  He comes to dead men rotting in the grave to raise you to life, spiritually now, bodily then.  Jesus, God, comes to you.  So there are really only two religions in the world.  There is every other religion where you must work your way to god.  And there is the holy Christian Church, where the Son of God, Jesus, comes to you, to be God for you.
            Jesus comes.  Advent means “coming”.  This is a Season of preparation for the Christian.  In Advent, we prepare for the Lord’s coming to us.  It is always good on this First Sunday in Advent to review the three kinds of coming for which we prepare.  There are three ways our Lord comes to us.  Of course, Advent is especially the season of preparation for our Lord’s coming at Christmas, as a precious little Baby, born to the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judea.  That is the first way He comes to us.  He comes in the flesh.  He is born into history, to be our Savior.  He comes as one of us, born under the Law, to fulfill the Law of God for us.  He takes on our flesh to pay for the sins of our flesh.  He must be flesh and blood to die, to give His Flesh and Blood for the life of the world.  You can’t hang a spirit on a cross.  But you can hang a man.  Jesus is born to die.  For you.  And He is born in the flesh to march that flesh right through the valley of the shadow of death and out the other side.  He is born to rise in His Body, for you.  He is born to be glorified in the flesh for you.  He is born to ascend into heaven in your flesh and sit at the right hand of the Father in your flesh.  Don’t miss what is going on here.  What Jesus does in the flesh is what He will do for you in your flesh.  Jesus becomes one of you, that you might be one with Him. 
            And He comes in His Word and in the Sacraments.  That is the second way He comes.  This is His coming in between the comings, between His earthly ministry and His coming again at the end of time.  He comes in the water of your Baptism and undertakes a great exchange.  He was baptized by John in the Jordan River to take all your sin into Himself, and you are baptized at the font, by water and the Word, by the Holy Spirit and fire, to receive all of His righteousness as your own, to receive His death and the death of your Old Adam in Him, to receive His resurrection and be His new creation arising anew every day in Him.  He comes in Holy Absolution, to speak your sins to death and speak you to life.  He comes in His Word, in Scripture and preaching to speak Himself into your ears and your heart, to breathe into you His Holy Spirit.  And He comes to you in His true Body and Blood in the Supper, hidden under bread and wine, but the very Body born of the Virgin Mary and crucified for you, the very Blood drained from His veins and poured out on Calvary for you.  He comes and He serves you, just as He served the disciples in the upper room.  Jesus comes to you.
            And He will come again in glory to raise all the dead and to judge.  That is the third way He comes.  We spoke a lot about this the past several weeks as the Church Year came to a close.  At a time known only to God, when we least expect it, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the trumpet will sound, the universe will be shaken, the dead will be raised, and every eye will see the Lord Jesus Christ coming on the clouds in power and in great glory, surrounded by His holy angels.  The books will be opened and all men will be judged.  Believers will be given eternal life, in your body, in a new heavens and a new earth, a resurrection heavens and earth, if you will.  Unbelievers will be sent to eternal death in hell with the devil and his demons.  This, too, is a very important theme of Advent.  Because the Lord is coming.  He is coming whether you are prepared, or not.  He is coming whether you want Him to, or not.  Let not that Day take you unawares.  As we heard from Jesus the last couple of weeks: Watch!  Stay awake!  Be prepared. 
            Now, all three kinds of advent call for preparation.  In the coming weeks, St. John the Baptist will teach us how to prepare.  Repent!  For the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Jesus, the Kingdom of God in the flesh, is on the scene.  Repentance means turning.  It is turning from sin to the one true God who comes in the flesh for you.  This means examining yourself, considering your place in life according to the Ten Commandments.  What are your vocations?  How have you been remiss in them?  “Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy?  Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome?  Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds?  Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?”[1]  Upon examining yourself, confess these sins to God.  Come to your pastor for individual Confession and Absolution.  This is a great exercise in preparation.  And most of all, receive and cling to the forgiveness, life, and salvation given you by Jesus Himself, who comes!  This is really all His work, by His Spirit, by His Word and gifts.  He comes and He repents you, He forgives you, He restores you, He heals you.  He does the turning.
            The crowds on the road to Jerusalem greeted Jesus’ Advent with rejoicing and praise of God.  They spread their cloaks on the ground before Him, preparing a royal highway for their King.  “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord,” they sang (Luke 19:38; ESV).  The Pharisees did not like it.  Unbelievers never like it when you greet Jesus’ coming with loud and public rejoicing.  But if you are silent, the very stones will cry out.  So this morning Jesus comes to you.  He advents.  You prepared this morning by remembering your Baptism in the thrice Holy Name, marking yourself with His cross.  You prepared by confessing your sins and hearing His blessed Word of forgiveness, again in that precious three-fold Name, the Name in which He comes.  You heard His Word.  You received His teaching.  And now, as He comes to put His very Body and Blood in your mouth for your forgiveness, you respond as did the crowds.  “Holy, Holy, Holy,” you sing in the Sanctus, acknowledging Him to be your Lord and God, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  “Hosanna,” you cry to Him… “Save us now, O Lord!”  And He does.  He comes to do just that.  And so, knowing that, you sing the joyous song of the multitudes throughout history, and all over the world, who greet the coming Lord: “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  And He comes on the altar.  He comes in the flesh.  Jesus comes to you.  That is the direction.  You don’t work yourself up to Him.  He comes down.  By grace.  Jesus comes for you.  He comes to save you.  Blessed Advent of our Lord.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.       



[1] Catechism quotes from Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).

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