Jesus is coming! That’s what Advent is all about. That’s what Advent means! That’s what a new Church Year is about. That’s what every Church Year is about. Jesus is coming! He came as a Baby in Bethlehem to die on The Cross. He is coming to us today in His Word and Sacrament to forgive our sins. He is coming in power and great glory on the last day to judge all flesh.
Jesus is coming! He’s come to Liam today. His Holy Spirit came to wipe him clean of sin and give him eternal life. He came to tear him away from the devil’s kingdom and place him securely in Jesus’ kingdom. He came to deliver him from all evil and to enable him to reject temptation.
Today we hear the story of our Lord riding into Jerusalem. If Jesus came to earth today, we’d expect Him to ride to Capitol Hill or the White House in a motorcade. In reality, He might just ride the Metro and borrow a bike. Jesus didn’t ride into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday on a mighty steed. He didn’t ride in as Rome’s conqueror. He rode a donkey and her foal, and I have to think that foal wasn’t too happy about it unless God let it know just Who was sitting on it.
Jesus doesn’t come the way we expect. God doesn’t operate the way we expect. We expect great signs and wonders, but He works in weakness. He made His presence known to Adam not with a thunderclap, but with footsteps. He came to Elijah not in an earthquake or a tornado, but in a whisper. He saves not by looking victorious in battle, but by dying. He comes to us meek and gentle, not rude and loud.
He still works this way. He does not force anyone to believe with the sword. He does not speak from heaven. He speaks through simple preachers in pulpits around the world, preachers who preach His Law and Gospel, who preach that we deserve eternal death from Him because of our sins but He decided to save us instead. He comes not through big visible miracles and manifestations of His power, but riding on meek and lowly water or bread and wine. He comes not to subjugate but to love, not to condemn but to save.
He comes a baby, meek and mild. This teaches us He was born to help us, not to hurt us. Had He intended harm, He could have descended from heaven to Jerusalem with power and great might and never bothered to become human. He was born a baby in a stable with a manger for a bed. He was born in the cold of night right after they finished their trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. He is come to help sinners, not to hurt them.
He comes as one crucified. He should have been king; instead He made Himself a slave. He enslaved Himself to our salvation. He should have been above The Law and able to do whatever He wanted. Instead He kept it fully and completely. Then He let Himself be arrested by wicked men who were out to get Him and even let them treat Him horribly and condemn Him and drag Him off to a kangaroo court where He was declared innocent and still sentenced to death. He could have stopped it at any time with many legions of angels. But He came to help us. God on high came down to save us.
It is by that Death that He saves. He saves no other way. There is no other way to heaven. Only The Death of Jesus forgives sins and earns eternal life. He has risen from the dead in order to give these most precious gifts to you. He gives them in humble ways as He baptizes young and old, as He gives His Body and Blood to us to eat and to drink with a little wafer of bread and a sip of wine, as He preaches and absolves through words spoken by sinful men. He comes humbly not to condemn, but to save.
He is coming again, and He will come in power and great glory to judge. He came at first in meekness to save, and He comes to you now to save. He does this so that when He comes again you will lift up your head out of your grave in joy and not in shame. Do not be mistaken. Things will keep going as they are until all of a sudden, with a blink of an eye, they won’t. He will be back. He ascended up with the clouds and He will again appear in the clouds. The earth trembled and shook when God arose to judgment from the grave declaring sins forgiven. He will rise from His throne to show the world His triumph and to reward those who love His appearing.
So get ready. The disciples didn’t just get the donkey and foal. They put their cloaks on them so He wouldn’t have to sit on those dirty backs. The people didn’t let Him ride on that dusty road either; they put both their cloaks and palm branches on the road to make it clean and soft. They didn’t stand by quietly but sang their prayers and praises begging Him to forgive the sins of the world by means of His Death.
How do we prepare for His return? Let’s use all our lives. Let’s always be anticipating it, always waiting for it, never forgetting it’s going to happen, not letting our guard down. But we are sinners; we can’t prepare ourselves for Christ. He works to prepare us. He sends us His Spirit. He works in us to prepare us for Christ. How does He do that?
He works through His Word and Sacrament. He works in this place and at home. His Word tells us about our sins and about our Savior. It tells us, each one of us, that, even though we can’t see it, our sins have earned for us the threatening perils of eternal death. It tells us, each one of us, even though we weren’t there and even if we were we wouldn’t know what it’s about, that Jesus’ Death is the mighty deliverance that saves us from the perils of hell.
That Word needs to be part of our lives. Without it we will eventually forget our great need for Christ. We will forget that the life eternal is far more important than the present life. We may forget to repent of our sins and desire to do better, and instead be happy with our sins and not want Jesus to forgive them or help us do what is right. So be in the Word. Make time for it, not just on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening, but a few minutes every day. Let it be as important to you as your job, your family, your evening meal, your fun and games.
For we are at war. Ever since He baptized us we’ve been at war. We’re warring with the sinful flesh which wants us to sin. We’re warring with the world that wants us to deny Jesus. We’re warring with Satan who wants to drag us down into hell. They will use any means possible. They will tempt us to do what is wrong and work hard to get us to sin. They will try to get us to think God’s Word must be wrong about how we are to live or how all things came to be or how they will end. They will tempt us to think anything and everything is more important than Jesus. They want us out of God’s camp and back in the devil’s camp.
Don’t listen to them. Listen to His Word. Soldiers stand at attention waiting for their orders. They do what their commanders tell them to do. They follow their orders to the letter or else they’ll be disciplined. They go out to fight with the weapons they’ve been given. Be no different. Arm yourself with the armor of light. Arm yourself with the fruits of The Spirit. Arm yourself at all times with The Word of God. Have that Word with you wherever you go. Don’t leave it behind. Hear it and believe it, and believing it, do what it says.
A new Church Year has begun today, and God has gained for Himself another child. We talk about New Year resolutions on January 1, but we can do that now. Resolve this year to confess your sins to Christ. Resolve to learn from Him and His Word. Resolve to do better than you have before. Resolve to help your neighbor and provide for the work of The Church. Resolve to not let Satan get the better of you. Pray for The Spirit’s help, for you can only do these things and continue to do them with His help. “Arise, O sleeper, and Christ will shine on you.” “Show us Thy mercy, O Lord: and grant us Thy salvation!”