Monday, November 28, 2011

The Return of the King

+ 1st Sunday in Advent – November 27th, 2011 +
Mark 11:1-10; Isaiah 64:1-9

Grace Mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ + Amen.

            Happy new year. Happy Palm Sunday. Happy Judgment Day. A Merry Advent to you all. Well, make up your mind already. Which one is it? All of thee above.

            Behold your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation. Today Advent begins the church year where Pentecost ended it. Prepare. Watch. Wait. The return of the King is near. Every eye will see him. The dead will arise. Every knee will bow. King Jesus is coming – not to conquer, not to condemn or judge. But to save you. Advent means – He comes.
            Today all Sundays are rolled into one. The first Sunday in advent is the true Palm Sunday: Great David’s greater Son rides into Jerusalem. Today we greet King Jesus, but we will not see him as king until he is enthroned on the cross.
            This is the Sunday of the world’s judgment. Today King Jesus rides the clouds of heaven in glory, enthroned on the cross surrounded by angels.
            Today, the King’s feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb begins. Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord. That’s song unites heaven and earth from Palm Sunday to the heavenly divine service. And it’s the church’s advent song here on earth as Jesus rides upon the bread and wine. To heal. To save. To ransom captive Israel.
            Behold your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation.
But you – like the people of Israel – want a King for all the wrong reasons. Pride. Power. Prestige. Earthly possessions. We cheer as long as we think God can do something for us. Otherwise, forget Yahweh and his promises. He’s not my king…I didn’t vote for him. We drop the palm branches and shove our way to the throne. I want a real king. One who’ll give me exactly what I want. That’s right. Look in the mirror. Behold, your king. Our sinful flesh doesn’t like King Jesus. What’re you talking about kings for? I hold supreme executive power. I’m no one’s subject. I’m no slave.
            And that’s where our sinful flesh is wrong. Dead wrong. Don’t fool yourself. We are subjects. We are slaves. Captive in the chains of our own sin. We sit blindly in the shadow of  death.
            The world attempts to overcome this darkness with artificial light. Forget Advent. Go right to Christmas. We like the feast but not the fast. And as a result we neither fast nor truly feast.
            What is your hope this Advent? What do you want this Christmas? A little sentimentality, a little inward uplifting…nice atmosphere? You don’t need Jesus or his church for that. Hallmark will do just fine. Jesus comes to give you something better.
            Just like the children of Israel - all our thrones and rulers – our fear, love and trust in ourselves; our pride, power and prestige - it all becomes our undoing and topples before Advent King Jesus. He comes to pull you down from your self-appointed throne so that he might rule and reign over you in mercy and love; he destroys the tragic kingdom you have made for yourself and replaces it with his everlasting kingdom. The time is fulfilled. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent. Turn. Clean up. Get ready. The King is coming.

            That’s where Advent begins, in old Adam’s ruins. Up from the ashes. Released from captivity. Only in the depths of our darkness does the Morning Star herald the dawn of a new day.
            Behold your King is coming; righteous and having salvation. Advent King Jesus comes for you who sit in darkness, casting out the shadow of death by his own. The dawn is here. The night is ended. In Advent Christ comes to bring true light and hope to our lives.
            Behold your king comes for you who suffer in a world broken by sin and death. This King dons a crown of thorns – the curse of this creation - to restore his creation by his body broken in death.

            Behold your king comes for you who were captive by the devil. The King has returned. Your exile is over. Advent is your home-coming. Your guilt and shame are replaced with honor and glory fit for a King.
            Behold your King comes not in judgment for he has already judged all things in heaven and on earth by his judgment on the cross. In Advent, neither the Kingdom of God or Christmas come on demand. But in the fullness of time. We await the unexpected party at an unexpected hour. Therefore, God’s people live in expectant joy. Holy fear. Like a mother-to-be in her 8th month.
            Can’t wait. Baby’s coming soon. That’s Advent. History is pregnant with the Promise of salvation; the new creation ready to break chaotic waters. Wars, rumors of war, earthquakes, famines, hurricanes, floods, fires, pestilence. These are the labor pains, Jesus said. The contractions of the new creation are getting closer. She doesn’t know precisely the day or the hour, and so she must watch and wait. She knows the signs. She knows that the day is coming soon. She watches and waits with eager expectation. Are you ready and waiting…waiting and ready?
            Advent is no time for despair. No time for heads hung low. Hope and expectation. He came. He is coming now. He will come again. Lift up your heads you mighty gates. Look up, you who are staring emptily down at the hopeless misery of the world. Look up, you whose eyes are heavy with tears and weeping. Look up you who are loaded down with guilt and burdens. Your redemption is drawing near. The battle is not lost. Raise your heads. Victory is yours. Heaven is bending near to earth. God himself is bending down to men – not as of old a little child, to bear and fight and die but crowned with glory like the son that gilds the eastern sky. Behold your King is coming; righteous and having salvation.
            If we don’t get this we will never be ready for the return of the King – let alone Christmas. For what this world despises, Jesus takes and uses to accomplish his great love.
            That his why Advent King Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey. He goes to die for you. Behold your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation. His Advent is for you.

            On this first Sunday in Advent Mark reminds us that Christianity finds its meaning in the cross. The cross does not come after Christmas but before. The creator of the stars of night plunges himself into the darkness and decay of sin and death. Here in Advent, God is preparing you to celebrate Christmas aright, for you cannot have a Merry Christmas without the King and his coming in Advent. God is preparing for history’s most significant moment. Fetch the donkey. The Lord has need of it. The creator is taking his creation back one creature at a time. A lowly donkey escorts Jesus to his lowly death. Nothing can stop the prophet’s words from coming true: “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold your King is coming to you.”

            All of Old Testament history is culminating in the procession. Here is Abraham leading Isaac to Mount Moriah for sacrifice. Here is David dancing before the ark of the Lord taking back the Holy City as God’s own. Here is Solomon seated on the royal animal, declared to be David’s Son. Here is the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies to offer himself as a sacrifice. Even before you see the crib. You see the glory of salvation laid before you in the cross.

            In the cross, King Jesus brings the kingdom to Himself. It is not in heaven but in the crucified Christ that we find the highest heavens singing: Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest. He’s not the King you expected…but he is the kind of King you need. The Suffering King who has brought you out of the kingdom of darkness and death into his Kingdom of light and life. You bear the badge of his subjects and that badge is a cross. You belong to this Advent King, Jesus, to his Kingdom.
            That’s the joy of Advent. We celebrate his first coming in the flesh because we hopefully, joyfully anticipate his greater and 2nd coming in glory. And yet, even now he comes. There’s no need to worry about Christmas or more importantly, the end of the world. You have it all in the Sacrament. Immanuel, God with us. Palm Sunday Hosannas and Christ coming in glory. Everything you need, Jesus provides. 
            Your King comes to you, through mouth and ear, righteous and having salvation.  Hidden under the ordinary and earthly means of water and word and bread and wine. The King gives himself as the treasure, for you. As he comes into his church in the bread and wine we sing a familiar song: blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!
            Prepare. Watch. Wait. Behold your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation. A Merry Advent to you all.               

 In the Name of Jesus + Amen.

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