Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.
One of my favorite Christmas movies to watch is the movie “Elf.” When Buddy the Elf finds out that Santa is coming to the department store, he exclaims, “Santa’s coming! I know him! I know him!” That seems to the focus right now, isn’t it? It’s all about Santa coming. But the season of Advent isn’t about the coming of Santa Claus; it’s about preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ.
In Advent, we look forward to the coming of the King, and we remember how He came. We look forward by looking back. It doesn’t matter that the crowd was small, or large. The crowd proclaimed the truth that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promises of the prophets. Their testimony tells us that we are awaiting the coming of He who will fulfills the promise to us. We aren’t looking forward to His death, or the work of redemption. They were, but we do not look forward to that because we can see by looking back that He has already done it. Rather, we focus on the words of the prophet Zechariah, “Behold, your king is coming to you.”
In these weeks leading up to Christmas, the world will offer us, with a vigor that is unique to this season, what we should be doing between Black Friday and December 25: shop! New toys for both young and old will be dangled before our eyes, each one promising to make us better or happier. That’s the focus of the world in this season of Advent – the coming of great deals and bargains for Christmas gifts. But there is more to the season of Advent than deals and bargains. Advent is a season of preparing. We prepare for the remembrance of the first coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we hear that our King is coming, this message is the call to prepare by opening our hearts to His grace. We need not fear, for He comes in meekness and lowliness. But He comes as King, mighty to save, full of grace and truth.
When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, Jerusalem was poised for the celebration of the Passover. This annual remembrance of God’s act of deliverance of His children from Egypt would have swelled the streets of Jerusalem with holiday crowds. The day of the slaughter of the Passover lambs was fast approaching. People were anticipating the delight of being with family for the Passover feast. But when King Jesus comes into Jerusalem, it interrupts the sort of celebration people are expecting.
We see much the same with Christ at this time of year. We begin celebrating the “real” reason for Christmas: gift giving, parties, but most importantly, gift receiving. We are doing our own thing, enjoying what Christmas is all about, and then Christ comes to ruin everything. For all who think like that, just remember one thing: you can’t have Christmas without Christ, no matter how hard you try.
When Christ does make His appearance in this earthly life, it isn’t with great pomp and circumstance. He is born to lowly parents in very circumstances. It should be no surprise that when Christ enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He does so in a very unexpected way. He doesn’t enter with trumpets blaring behind a large processional. Rather, He comes riding on a donkey. This is done also to fulfill what the prophet wrote: “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” You see, whatever perception the people had of the Messiah and what He would look like and what He would do, Zechariah puts them to rest several hundreds year before the Messiah first graces us with His presence. He comes into Jerusalem, the city of the temple – the place of sacrifice – to suffer and to die as God’s ultimate Passover Lamb. His sacrifice interrupts the monotonous routines of sin and death. Here is a King like no other, for this King comes not in royal splendor or with military might, but in the humility of the Servant who embraces the cross for you.
Today, we begin preparing ourselves for Christ’s entry into this world, coming into this world by being born in a stable in the small town of Bethlehem. We prepare our hearts for what Christmas brings: it brings the Savior of the Nations, the Virgin Son who makes His home amongst the chosen people of God, as sinful as we are. God came to His people and lived among them as one of them. As God came to us in flesh and blood, He experienced all the things we experience – gestation and birth, childhood, weeping and laughter, pleasure and pain, and all the other things that make up the human experience. He even experienced temptation, but He never gave in to it.
All of this, He did for you. He is the Blessed One, for in His saving death, He brings all the blessings of heaven – forgiveness of sins and peace with God – down to earth, down to you. It is no wonder that during the season of Advent, we especially hear that Jesus is indeed Immanuel, God with us. Even as God lives with us, He still comes to us. He comes to us as we read and hear His Word. He also continues to come to us in His flesh and blood as we eat and drink the bread and the wine of His Table.
Later on this month, we will remember how the Kingdom of God came to a virgin named Mary as the Son of God took on human flesh in her womb. We will remember how the Son of God came as a baby in a manger. This is God’s Kingdom coming to restore peace. Today’s Gospel reminds us that the Son of God took on human flesh in Mary’s womb in order to come to Jerusalem and die. His death is the way He makes it possible for the Kingdom of God to come in peace.
That is what Advent is really all about. It is a season of repentance and belief while Jesus serves us with His coming. Just as Lent is a season of repentance and belief in preparation for Good Friday, so also Advent is a season of repentance and belief in preparation for the coming of Jesus, not just as He came at Christmas, but also as He comes to us now and will come to raise us from the dead and live with us forever.
Consider God and His coming during this Advent. Consider His coming at Christmas, but don’t limit your consideration just to Christmas. Consider the love that God shows in His coming in that even while sin causes terror and hatred, He continues to come with His love. Consider how He came to save us with His suffering, death, and resurrection. Consider how He now comes in Word and Sacrament. Consider how He will come to take His people home with Him. Consider the blessings that He once gave, that He now gives, and that He will give when He comes again. In Jesus name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.