FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 12-3-2017
Pastor Michael Larson
It is this time of year when preachers of the Gospel wage war against the culture. Sometimes pastors even have to go to war against their own altar guilds (thankfully not this one) who want to jump ship on advent and fast forward to Christmas Day. Shopping, Christmas sales, and Santa Claus take center stage and the churchly observance of Advent, like wrapping paper is torn up and discarded.
It’s safe to say that the season of Advent simply goes against the grain. It’s a season of repentance but we rebel and say “but God made me this way!” Advent is about renewed watchfulness in prayer but we cry out, “I’m so busy and my calendar is full!” Advent is about almsgiving and increased generosity, but we say “Hey, I’ve gotta look out for number one.” Advent is about fasting and more attention to the word of God but our appetites for more are insatiable.
Today in our epistle Paul directs our attention to our struggle against sin: “let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies or drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealously. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
In our opening collect this morning we asked that the Lord would stir up His power and come and save us from the threatening perils of our sin. That, dear Christian, is what advent is all about. First, realizing the seriousness of our sin. That it is threatening us. That it is perilous and dangerous – in fact, deadly – threatening to cast both body and soul into hell.
This is why the crowds cry out and sing when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. They sing, “Hosanna,” which simply means, “save us now.” Save us from sin, save us from death, and save us from ourselves.
No black Friday – no Christmas sale – no gimmicky adds for things you don’t need will bring you any help. We are slaves to sin, slaves to our compulsions, and slaves to the false gods of this fallen age. Like that donkey and unbroken colt, we need to be untied, broken by the law, and unshackled from our sins.
We need to be ridden by a new master, to control our flesh, bridle our passions, and harness our souls. He alone can tame us and bring us in subjection to the will of his Father.
Watch him ride into Jerusalem, gentle and lowly. We greet him with palm branches, a sign of the waters of holy baptism and new life amid this desert of burning sins. In Him, after all, is an oasis of refreshment and perfect healing. Like those who greeted Jesus at this triumphal entry, we too cast our shame and unrighteous deeds upon his path – that he might trample them – all so that we may clothe ourselves with robes of righteousness and join in his royal procession.
This day we Christians celebrate a happy new year. Another year of grace filled with the Lord’s blessings. Dear Christians, you have not yet exhausted His love. He continues to come to you in mercy, in gentleness, and kindness. His invitation continues to be preached to you: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The truth is no thanksgiving meal can ultimately satisfy. The stuff we thought we needed on black Friday is already collecting dust. No Christmas sale or shopping spree can fill the giant hole left if our heart. It’s ok to recognize this reality: that happiness, true contentment eludes us. Even the Badgers can disappoint.
This is good. Advent is about penitence and learning to be discontent with life as it is – to long for life with God more than the passing allurements of this present age. This season we learn again to hunger and thirst for Him who is our righteousness.
The crowds who greeted Jesus on Palm Sunday were likely a little confused about him. They thought he would liberate them from the Romans and take back Jerusalem. They were looking for a little more worldly success.
At this time of year we are tempted to want the same. A little better job, a little more spending money, better retirement, success, better health etc. But when Jesus rode into Jerusalem he was thinking something much better. Like riding into Jerusalem to bear your shame – to be mocked – spat upon and nailed to a tree between two criminals – to triumph over it all by his resurrection.
Don’t miss him when he comes to you this morning in this new year. You won’t find him on a chariot of war – with white horses, a purple robe, and a crown of laurel. You’ll find him humble and on a donkey.
Behold how your King comes to you. Close your eyes and open your ears. Behold Him, riding in on a preacher’s voice announcing the forgiveness of sins.
You’ll find your king Jesus – with a crown of thorns – a cross for his throne - bleeding and dying for the salvation of the world. He comes to you, even now, upon bread which he declares to be his body and wine which he declares to be his holy blood.
Know that Jesus words to the disciples are words about the likes of you: “untie them and bring them to me,” and you will be free. Behold the gates of a new Church Year are open. Behold, your king is coming to you. He is here. Rise! Hurry to meet Him. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Heavenly Father, You breathed life into the dust of the earth and created Adam. You visited Adam and Eve after they fell into sin with the promise of the Savior. You continued to be present through the word of the prophets. Today, we welcome Your continued presence as we enter the new Church Year. We are not worthy of Your love and grace, which You continually bestow upon us. Forgive our many trespasses over the past year, and create in us clean hearts. Bless us throughout this next year, that we may be cleansed of sin, make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires, and walk in the newness of life. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Merciful Lord, just as Christ made His entrance into Jerusalem as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, so also He comes to us today through the Word and Sacraments. During this holy season of Advent, grant that we may rejoice in Christ’s first coming, receive Him as He comes to us today, and look forward to His return with readiness. Grant faithfulness to Your children, and extend Your Kingdom to many who do not know You. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Almighty God, the children sang Your praises upon the entrance of Christ in Jerusalem to the indignance of the chief priests and scribes. Today, many do not want to hear Your word of truth and try to thwart the proclamation of the Gospel. Stop the efforts of those who try to replace Your truth with lies or water down Your Word. Bring to naught the efforts of those who wish to eliminate Christianity. Grant faithfulness to all pastors and church workers in their preaching and teaching. Grant faithfulness to all Your people when they endure hardship or persecution. Bless Your people with confidence that nothing can separate them from Your love in Christ Jesus. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Everlasting Father, You provide for all the needs of body and soul. You have given us far more than we can ask or recognize. All that we have belongs to You. Thank You for blessing us so richly! Yet, our trust in Your provision is weak. We greedily claim as ours the things that are Yours. We have not been good stewards of the possessions You have granted to us. Grant that we may this new year use our belongings for the benefit of our neighbor and be good stewards of all that we have. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Compassionate Lord, You made the heavens and the earth in six days and declared it was good. Sin has corrupted Your wonderful creation and has brought upon us all sorts of hardship, grief, sickness and injury. Bless Lou, Shari, and Theresa and all who are affected by the effects of sin. Visit them with Your grace, and comfort them with the promise of complete restoration that will occur when Christ Jesus comes again in glory. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Heavenly Father, even before the fall into sin you blessed man and woman with the holy gift of marriage, and blessed it by your Son’s presence at the wedding at Cana. Bless Mark and Kimmy Wieting with your grace as they have entered into this most holy estate. Give them your Holy Spirit that they would ever look toward your Son as they live sacrificial lives toward one another, and come at last to the eternal joys that You have promised. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Lord God, as Your Son entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna!” and instituted the Lord’s Supper, so also He saves us now by coming to us in the same Sacrament. Grant repentant hearts and a firm faith to all who commune, that they may continue to sing their hosannas until the day they join You in paradise. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.