Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sermon: Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1) - 2010

28 November 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 21:1-9 (Jer 23:5-8, Rom 13:8-14)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when…”

This, dear friends, is a promise. The Lord, speaking prophetically through Jeremiah, has made a promise. It isn’t a “when I get around to it” sentiment, rather, it is an ironclad declaration that this will happen. The Lord doesn’t say “perhaps” or “if” – but rather “when.”

And the “when” is this: “I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.”

This was not an easy prophecy for Jeremiah’s listeners to hear. For the “when” was not to be for some six hundred years. And, in fact, only decades after this promise was given, something else was to come to pass: the nation of Judah would be captured and sent mourning into “lonely exile here / Until the Son of God appear.”

How hard it must have been to cling to the promise of the righteous Messiah King, the Savior of Judah, when the people saw their nation overthrown, their Temple destroyed, and they and their countrymen were taken into captivity. But nonetheless, dear friends, Jeremiah clearly says concerning this hopeful promise: “declares the Lord.”

And in fact, Jeremiah speaks again, saying “declares the Lord,” yet another time, promising “then they shall dwell in their own land.” How ironic this must have sounded to the people of Judah as they were being led away in chains from their promised land into slavery, hundreds of miles away. How hopeless it must have seemed!

And while many may well have mocked the prophet’s words, others embraced this oracle of hope, clinging to the promise of God of a Deliverer, a Savior, the Christ who would come into the bondage of this world to set God’s holy people free from their enemies.

And indeed, those days were coming. The King drew nearer with each passing day – even as the people of Judah suffered and waited.

But the time of waiting was to come to an abrupt end.

And as He “drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives,” we see this promised King carrying out the plans of His own triumphal entry into David’s royal city, preparing the royal highway. Indeed, the daughter of Zion, the people held captive by their enemies of this world and of the world unseen, would to hear these prophetic words anew: “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

And though six centuries have passed, Jeremiah’s words of David’s Righteous Branch are vindicated. For this is God’s Word, ringing true even from the lips of children who made sweet hosannas ring to their Redeemer King.

For “the disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and He sat on them.”

And while not knowing what awaited this King, and while not yet understanding the Kingdom, the people confess Jesus as the Son of David, even as they “spread their cloaks on the road,” and “cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road,” cheering the royal refrain, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

What a stupendous event to see, dear friends! How glorious it must have been to join this crowd, being in the presence of our Lord, and singing “Hosanna!” Can there be a greater privilege? Indeed, the only privilege greater is to be baptized into the name of, and given the gift of faith from, this Redeemer King! For we who likewise confess Him, we who acknowledge His kingdom and bow before Him as Lord, we who humbly confess our sins and receive His grace and mercy, have eternal life and salvation. For we are the people of God, ransomed from our captivity, our exile ended, singing “Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”

And we have the delight to re-welcome the Lord’s coming, week in and week out in our Divine Service at the holy altar, singing anew: “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” For unlike the crowds, we know what awaited this King – His sacrificial passion and cross and His saving death and resurrection. Unlike the crowds, we understand His Kingdom – which is not of this world, and which is about the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, and communion with God. It is about redemption and eternal life. It is about the re-creation of the universe, perfect as it was meant to be, and we who confess Christ and are saved by His grace, are part of that new creation.

In one sense, dear brothers and sisters, our wait is over. We have been redeemed by the Lamb and baptismally washed by His blood. We confess Him and receive absolution. We enjoy the foretaste of the everlasting feast of the Royal Banquet of Holy Communion. And yet, like the people of Judah, we do continue to “mourn in lonely exile here.” For we are still surrounded by sin – that of the fallen world, and our own in our fallen flesh. We continue to yearn for the fulfillment of the Kingdom – which is here now, but not yet. We struggle with sin “until the Son of God appear.”

And so, dear brothers and sisters, this is the meaning of our Advent season. We look back to the fulfillment of ancient prophecies that foresaw the Savior’s coming, His Advent. We rejoice in our own salvation. And yet, we look forward to the consummation of the ages, of the Savior’s coming again, His second and final Advent. We sing Hosanna to the one who came in the past, who comes to us now, and who is yet to come at the end of time. And we, like the people of Judah, can become impatient in our wait.

But take heart, dear brothers and sisters, and hear anew St. Paul’s words of hope and encouragement: “You know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Nearer than when we first believed!

No matter what continues to befall us in the struggle of this life, it is temporary. Each day that we cling to the promise is one day closer to the promise’s fulfillment! St. Paul urges us to hang in there, to endure, to persevere, for he also reminds us that we live out the Christian life not by our own strength, but rather by Him who strengthens us. And when we are weak, that is when we are strong. His victory is our victory.

For even as the Father did not forget his promise of old to Jeremiah and the people of Judah, and even as the Lord Jesus continued to govern the happenings of the world as He approached Jerusalem to be crucified, even so the Holy Spirit does not forget the promises he has made to us in His Word, even as we sojourn under the cross, dear friends.

For the Kingdom was brought into being at the cross. And the Kingdom is yours under the cross of our crucified Lord – even when you must bear your own cross of suffering in this world. The Kingdom became yours at Holy Baptism when you were marked by the cross. And by the blood of our Lord shed at the cross, you have assurance of forgiveness and life and salvation.

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to Thee, O Israel.”

For “behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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