Sunday, December 03, 2017

Sermon: Ad Te Levavi - 2017

3 December 2017

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

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Words are important.  Every year, there is a cultural battle over whether or not it is appropriate to say, “Merry Christmas” or not.  Sometimes the words of traditional Christmas carols are changed to make them more politically correct.  Some words are not worth fighting over, but some words are certainly worth defending, and contending for them to be said and understood. 

Many people put up trees and plastic snowmen and celebrate Christmas without knowing what the word means at all.  Christmas is “Christ’s Mass,” as He comes to us in the manger and in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

We have just begun the season of Advent – a four Sunday preface to Christmas. “Advent” means something very specific: a coming towards, or, an approach.  In Advent, we anticipate Jesus coming near to us: in the past in His birth, in the future in His second coming, as well as in the eternal present of Holy Communion.

And in this first week of Advent, there is another word that is so important that we say it in its original Hebrew.  This word is of such gravity that it was never translated into Greek or Latin or German or English.  It’s easy to forget what this word means.  On the one hand, we only encounter it in our readings on Palm Sunday, and the first week in Advent.  But we also hear it every single Divine Service in the Sanctus, when we say: “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna, in the highest!”

This “Hosanna” was used to welcome King Jesus to David’s Royal City five days before His coronation as King upon the cross.  The crowds chanted “Hosanna!” as they waved their palms.  Our Lord rode a donkey into Jerusalem just as did another King who entered Jerusalem to be crowned: and that was King Solomon, the Son of David.

We might think that “Hosanna” means “praise” or “hooray” or “long live the King!” or something like that.  But it means something a little different.  And it is indeed an important word, for it sums up His purpose in coming, why He was born and why he died, why He came and will come again, and why He comes to us week in and week out in the Holy Sacrament.

“Hosanna” means “Save us!”

Whether they fully understood what they were saying or not, the crowds prayed for salvation as Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem as Holy Week began.  Whether we fully understand it or not, we pray for salvation as we await the Lord’s return in glory.  And whether we fully understand it or not, we pray for salvation each and every week that we partake of His body and blood in Holy Communion.  “Save us!” is our prayer, our motto, our hope, our joy, and our confident confession of who Jesus is, why Jesus came, and what Jesus’s mission was, is, and is to come.  “Hosanna!  Hosanna!  Hosanna!”

Jesus is inseparable from the salvation of sinners that is His mission, His Advent to us.

As St. Paul reminds us in our epistle, “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”  Time marches on.  One year draws to an end, as a new year begins.  “The night is far gone,” says the apostle, “the day is at hand.”

He means “the” day, the day of our salvation, the day when Christ will come again.  For He has not come to condemn us, but to save us.  He has come to answer our Hosannas with salvation itself, to rescue us from sin, Satan, and death, from our fallen world and mortal flesh, from the darkness of a broken world and a heart turned in on itself. 

“Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna!”

“Besides this you know the time,” St. Paul says, “that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.”

Jesus has come to awaken us from our slumber and to rouse us to the glory that is ours in Him: forgiveness, life and salvation.  These are exciting times, just as it was on that Palm Sunday when the people welcomed their King, humble as He was on a donkey; or when the shepherds welcomed their King, humble as He was in a manger, a food trough for donkeys; or when He comes to us as Eucharistic food, freely given to us who are stubborn as donkeys in our fallenness.  And so we Christians continually pray, “Save us!”  Hosanna!

And let us reflect on the prophet Jeremiah’s words for us as well, dear friends, as He spoke of our Lord and King and Savior Jesus as “David’s righteous Branch,” as a “King” who shall “deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”  For “in His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.  And this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”

What a glorious answer to our prayer of “Hosanna!” dear brothers and sisters!  For we are not saved by our own righteousness, but rather by His: “The Lord is our righteousness!”

Our King who was born in Bethlehem is our righteousness and our salvation, Hosanna!  Our King who rode into Jerusalem and was crucified, died, and rose again is our righteousness and our salvation, Hosanna!  Our King who will come again with glory is our righteousness and our salvation: Hosanna!

And what’s more, dear friends, even as we ponder His miraculous birth and as we expect His return, we do not live in the past or the future.  For our King is with us here and now, in His Word and in His sacrament: our righteousness and our salvation, Hosanna!

Words are indeed important.  And the Word of God, the Word Made Flesh is most important of all, dear friends.  For He has come to answer our prayer and to save us!

“Hosanna in the highest!”  Amen.

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

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