Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
27. November 2010
First Sunday of Advent
Psalm 24; Jeremiah 23:5-8; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 21:1-9
“The Advent of Our King”
+ IN NOMINE JESU +
The first Sunday of Advent represents a marked shift in the seasons. Just last week our sanctuary was starkly decorated with green paraments and simple adornment. Now, we see stars, wreaths, trees, festive blue banners, and the Advent candles. Festive holiday tunes will fear our ears, especially as we grow closer to our annual commemoration of our Lord’s nativity.
Yet, some things don’t seem all that different. We still sing, pray, and preach about sin and grace, depravity and redemption, death and resurrection. The themes of our readings sound very similar to last week. Last week we heard “Be Prepared!” The Bridegroom is coming late. Trim your wicks and store up the oil of our Lord’s means of grace and faith.
Today, the King comes to us, riding in on the donkey and colt. He “advents” to us, he comes to us as our king. Advent is from the Latin adventus (arrival), ad + venire (come to). During Advent we talk about three Advents, or three ways our Lord has, continues, or will come to us. Advent is the Latin way of saying παρουσία, the Greek word for arrival or coming. Parousia when it occurs in the New Testament usually refers to Christ’s coming in glory to judge the world at the end of the age (c.f. Matt 24:3, 27, 37, 39; Phil 1:26; 2 Thess 2:1; 2 Thess 2:8; 2 Thess 4:15; 1 Cor 1:8; 1 Cor 15:23; James 5:7; 2 Pet 1:16; 2 Pet 3:4, etc.)
Last week we heard from our Lord about being prepared for his coming in judgment on the last day through the parable of the bridegroom to the bridal party. Today, we hear of this coming through the lens of Holy Week. Our minds are drawn to the last days, when our Lord will come again. Behold, Your King Is Coming To You!
This first Sunday of Advent we prepare for the coming of our infant King. We prepare for the King riding into Jerusalem on the beasts of burden, riding towards his death. We prepare for our resurrected King coming at the apocalypse.
Just like last week, we continue to talk about being prepared. Yesterday we prepared the sanctuary for Christmas, the advent of Christ in the flesh. This time is a wonderful and joyous time to prepare to remember the birth of our Lord. Christmas is looms huge in salvation history, a significant event in our Lord’s redeeming work.
Yet, the dawn of Easter larger on the horizon, when our Lord Jesus Christ poured out his blood for our salvation. The quiet night of the nativity will give way to the bright light of the resurrection. The infant king was the crucified King of the Jews. Advent prepares us for Jesus as infant king, crucified and resurrected king, and the king of glory.
In the Gospel, Christ, the once child, now humbly rides on beasts, trotting upon cloaks and tree branches. His life as the innocent son of God will soon lead to his death as the accursed upon the cross. The ultimate triumph of God over sin isn’t merely taking on the form of servant, where he is the son of woman. His ultimate triumph is being obedient unto death, even death on the cross, where he is the son of God who obeys the Father’s will.
The infant child was marked as king by the Magi, bearing the riches of royalty. They bow before Him as royal blood, holy borne. As he rides into Jerusalem, he only bears his cloak and sandals. He does not wear the royal diadem, holding a scepter, and wielding the sword and shield of David. He comes into town as a servant.
Yet, those who greeted him welcome him as their king. They have heard the voice of the prophet and recognize the fulfillment incarnate. They see Jesus and believe he is the king long foretold. Their voices raise into the shout and song “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Pilate recognized Jesus’ royal blood. He placed above his cross a sign which read, “the King of the Jews.” After his resurrection, Thomas greeted Jesus as a king. Jesus showed him the marks of triumph and conquest over death in his hands and his side. Thomas recognized him saying, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) When we call out to Jesus as Lord, we are calling to him as servants call to their master, as subjects to their Lord. Every time you call Jesus Lord you are calling him your king.
This is not insignificant. There is great comfort swearing fealty to the king who rules heaven and earth, life and death. You are his soldiers of the cross, fighting for the faith once delivered to the saints. You are fighting under your King, Jesus Christ. Thus, you are properly called Christians, subject to his rule. He is the righteous branch sprung forth from the root of Jesse. He is the son of David, of royal blood. Christ is the one foretold who delivers Judah and Israel. He is the one who reigns upon the throne, executing righteousness and justice.
As we have recognized Jesus as King, it is fitting for us to prepare. It is fitting for us believe and act as if he is truly sovereign over all things and most of all, over our hearts. The Psalmist told us who is well-prepared for the Lord of all creation and all creatures therein. “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” (Psalm 24:4) Our holy King cares for his subjects, granting them all they need to be suitable for his heavenly glorious presence.
St. Paul tells us it is fitting to cast off works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Our King wields the sharper-than-any-two-edged-sword to slay the night within us. He stabs these foes through the heart: our envy and hatred, our quarreling and jealousy, our immorality and sensuality, our excessive feasting and drunkenness. Having killed the evil within, he clothes us with His perfect righteousness. “Let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom 13:14) Those who gratify the flesh are ill-prepared for the King. Yet, those who enter well-prepared, “will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:5)
This is why Advent historically had purple paraments: Purple signifies royalty. Advent is a time of preparation for Christ our King. Advent was not a time of drunken revelry but historically featured what Dr. Luther calls “fine outward bodily preparation,” that is, fasting. Since we know that our King comes with salvation and the heavenly banquet, we put off our earthly pale imitations and prepare with eagerness for the real thing. We prepare ourselves with repentance and humility to enter again into the remembrance of our Lord’s life, from the Nativity to the Ascension. We cast off the desires of the flesh and find our satisfaction in our Lord and His salvation.
Advent is not merely preparing to remember a baby born in a manger. Advent is about preparing to receive your King. Not just any king but the king who dies for you, the king who is your righteousness, the king bearing salvation. Wisely then, we hear again of our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Our ears perk up at the sound of not the Nativity but Holy Week. We are drawn forward to our Lord’s suffering and death and glorious resurrection. We remember his ascension to the right hand of the Father and will be prepared for His coming in judgment upon the clouds.
From the perspective of history, we are stuck in the gray and latter days, having heard of our Lord’s birth and death, resurrection and ascension, but yet waiting for his glorious return. But, our Lord keeps his promise to never leave us or forsake us. In fact, he comes to us as our King even now.
Our King proclaims royal edicts from His throne. Our Lord Jesus comes to us through His holy Word. These aren’t mere words of judgment but words bearing gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. We are comforted at the hearing of the Holy Scriptures.
For example, Psalm 24 comforts us by telling our Lord’s return in triumph to the heavenly Jerusalem. It speaks of the final victory. Christ calls out to the angelic gatekeepers “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” The angels call out to the Lord, “Who is this king of glory?” Jesus responds in triumph, “The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in Battle!”
Our Lord tells us that the battle is already won, the victory is sure, the outcome assured. From the perspective of history, we await this day. From our Kings perspective, its already done, the day is here. The heavenly conversation is fixed. The angels will ask, “Who is this King of glory?” and Jesus will respond, “The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!”
The victory begun with our Lord’s triumphant entry continues with us each Lord’s Day when the blessed Sacrament is celebrated. In the Sanctus, we sing “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” T vision of heaven from the prophet Isaiah and the benediction the crowds shouted are merged when we sing at the advent of our King in his body and blood. At these words, we mark the advent of King, singing the shout of both Palm Sunday and the melody of the heavenly banquet.
Christ our Lord, our King, comes to us in the Holy Supper with forgiveness and more. By receiving his body and blood into our mouths, we join in communion with him into one mystical body, subjects of his kingdom. We acknowledge him to be our monarch and to serve him. We agree to cast off the works of darkness, not gratifying the desires of our flesh. The Lord’s Supper is our King’s testament, his ultimate will, expressed in a holy meal. God has brought us into his kingdom and feeds us with the life-giving sacrifice in a banquet that never ends, where he rules forever and ever.
On this first Sunday of Advent, we prepare for the coming of our infant King, our crucified and resurrected King, and the King of the heavenly kingdom. He came as the child king, born of the virgin Mary, adored by the Magi. He came as the king of humiliation as he entered Jerusalem to his death and resurrection. He will come as King of Glory with the train of the holy resurrected believers behind him. And even now, he comes as King in His flesh and blood in the Holy Sacrament. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” In the holy name of Jesus. Amen.
+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +