Did your alarm clock wake you up this morning? Today rings like an alarm clock. Last Sunday was midnight, the end of the Church Year. Today is daybreak, the beginning of the Church Year. Christ is coming! He is coming soon on the Last Day. He is coming soon to be born in Bethlehem. But you will sing on that day, “Be born in us today.”
Advent prepares us to celebrate our Lord’s first coming in the flesh. It also prepares us to celebrate His second coming in the future. But it also prepares us for a third coming, a constant and continual coming. It’s a coming that is happening right now. It happens in every church and home of Christendom. It happens when families do their devotions at the dinner table or at the bedside. It happens when His Word is preached and read in pulpits and lecterns and when He sits enthroned upon the Altar at the Holy Communion. Christ comes to us today.
Are you ready? The Church spent the entire month of November telling us to be ready for Christ’s return on the last day. Now she tells us it’s not enough to simply be ready for that day. She tells us we should be prepared for Him to come to us all the time. We should prepare to hear from Him and receive Him like it could be the last time, like He could arrive at any moment, like our end could come today. Prepare in the full knowledge that He is with us and knows everything about us, right down to our quiet thoughts.
Jesus wants us to prepare for Him to come to us. He illustrates that in today’s Gospel by all the preparations made for His parade into Jerusalem. He sent His disciples to get a donkey and her foal. He even told them what to say if somebody tried to stop them. When they brought them to Him they instinctively covered them with clothing so He wouldn’t be sitting on them. Others instinctively threw down more clothing on the road so He wouldn’t get dusty. Others cut down palm branches and waved them high. They even knew what to sing to their Savior-God.
How do you prepare for Christ to come? You don’t have to go to a farm to get a donkey and you don’t need to put clothing on a road, though you might put on your Sunday best. You don’t have to think about what to sing because the service is prepared by the pastor beforehand – our Church has so many wonderful hymns for today based on this Gospel, and the beautiful Liturgy for this Sunday and every Sunday and feast has been handed down to us from centuries before the Reformation. So how do we prepare for Christ to come?
Advent is a penitential season. That’s why the color violet is associated with it in many places, including our Advent wreath. It’s a royal color, telling us Christ is our King, but it’s also a color that reminds us of our sins. “Purple mountains’ majesty” can be scary, because if you fall off those mountains you die. They remind you there’s something bigger than you out there that can harm you, and that’s not a comforting thought. We prepare for Christ to come to us every day by repentance.
What is repentance? It’s a change of heart. The word has this idea of turning around, of no longer going the way you were going but going a different way entirely. How’s it look? It starts with realizing something’s wrong, and you’re the problem. Yes, you’re the problem. People don’t want to be the problem. They want the problem to be anything and everything, anyone and everyone around them. But no, the problem is you. You need to change. Realizing that is huge in repentance.
The problem is you, and the problem is you’re a sinner. The flesh is full of sinful desires. It wants to lie and loves to hear gossip. It loves to overindulge and get into fights. It loves to be jealous and envious of others and covet what the guy down the street has and you can’t. It loves to misuse God’s good gifts of sex and companionship and to badly desire the very people and things it cannot have. And you have had all these temptations. You have not escaped them. They all begin with the thoughts of the heart. Your flesh is evil. You are the reason you sin. You are a sinner. Your wicked desires lead you to do what is evil.
Repent. Admit you are your own problem and you can’t fix yourself. Pray God to forgive you all your sins where you have done wrong every night. Pray Him to forgive you your trespasses. Confess to Him that you are a poor, miserable sinner. Confess to Him that you need His help every day. Lift up your soul to Him and wait on Him. Pray Him to show you His mercy and give you His salvation. Pray Him to rescue you from the threatening perils of your sins and to save you by His mighty deliverance.
Why do we do this? Because He is the One Who comes in the Name of the Lord. He came to Jerusalem to die on the Cross for you. They sang, “Hosanna in the highest!” to Him. That means this: “Save us, please, O Thou Who dwellest on high, on heaven’s throne!” “Save us! Don’t allow us to die in our sins. Don’t let the wicked world subsume us. Don’t let our sinful flesh get the better of us. Don’t let the devil trick us into throwing away our salvation. Save us! You died for us. You shed Your Blood to save us. Don’t let Your Death be in vain for me! Stir up Your power and come and save me, even me, a sinner, O Lord!”
So He comes. He no longer rides a donkey or its foal, but He still is clothed in lowly forms. He rides on words spoken, words that the world despises but that bring grace and truth to you as they tell you what Jesus has done for you. He rides on the waters to cleanse you of sin. He rides on bread and wine to forgive you and give you the resurrection of your body on the last day. He comes to you in these lowly ways and in no other, and you are saved.
So prepare for Him to come to you. How do you do that? Confess your sins, then say “no” to sin. But we don’t even know how sinful we are. So be constant in learning what sins dwell in you that you may overcome them. This is why you are taught the Ten Commandments. Continue to study them to learn how God wants you to live and how He does not want you to live. I encourage you to take a moment every day in this new Church Year to hear a little from His Word and pray. The prayer inserts in the bulletin are designed to help you do that. They give you ideas about who and what to pray for and what Psalms to pray and Bible readings. They prepare you for the following Sunday by telling you what the readings, chief hymn, and theme will be. Advent devotions are available today, and Pastor Stechholz wrote this month’s Portals of Prayer. This is all provided to help you prepare for Christ to come to you today, every day, and on the last day.
Christ is coming. Soon you will celebrate His Birth in Bethlehem. Mary’s Baby was born to die for the sins of the world. Soon you will celebrate His Return on the Last Day, when He shall raise you and all the dead and judge the world with fire. You, O Christian will then live with Him forever. So He comes to you now to prepare you: He comes by means of His holy Word and Sacrament. He comes to show you the way to paradise: Confess your sins and believe the Gospel, and eternal life is yours.