Vicar Kyle Backhaus

The first Sunday in Advent is a real change of pace. The paraments have been green ever since Trinity Sunday. Today, they are purple. The color change tells us that we are entering a different season of the church year. In fact today we begin a whole new church year.

The church year has three major parts: The time of Christmas, the time of Easter, and the time of the Church. The Time of Christmas has three seasons: Advent is a time of preparation, Christmas is when we celebrate the Son of God becoming man, and Epiphany is when we celebrate the revelation of the God-man Christ Jesus to the world. 

But the difficulty is that our culture rushes us into Christmas way too soon. We begin to see advertisements for Christmas as soon as Halloween is over. And we dash into Christmas so quick, now days, that Thanksgiving is often over looked. With Christmas just around the corner, we rush to buy the perfect gifts, we have to hurry up and clean the house for all the relatives and friends that are coming to visit. Those Christmas cards needed to be sent out yesterday.  We are so caught up in what society tells us the holiday is that we have prepared everything, but ourselves. 

Just think of the reason for the day after Thanksgiving being called Black Friday. Black Friday is a financial holiday, where if stores are still in the red or negative in the ledger, this is the one day where many stores make the incredible jump to the black, where they begin to see profits. And so their advertising starts to work its way into our lives earlier and earlier each and every year. It begins to ramp up to its maximum just in time to create all kinds of insanity on that Black Friday. It proceeds along at a fever pitch until Christmas Day.




Vicar Kyle Backhaus

The first Sunday in Advent is a real change of pace. The paraments have been green ever since Trinity Sunday. Today, they are purple. The color change tells us that we are entering a different season of the church year. In fact today we begin a whole new church year.

The church year has three major parts: The time of Christmas, the time of Easter, and the time of the Church. The Time of Christmas has three seasons: Advent is a time of preparation, Christmas is when we celebrate the Son of God becoming man, and Epiphany is when we celebrate the revelation of the God-man Christ Jesus to the world. 

But the difficulty is that our culture rushes us into Christmas way too soon. We begin to see advertisements for Christmas as soon as Halloween is over. And we dash into Christmas so quick, now days, that Thanksgiving is often over looked. With Christmas just around the corner, we rush to buy the perfect gifts, we have to hurry up and clean the house for all the relatives and friends that are coming to visit. Those Christmas cards needed to be sent out yesterday.  We are so caught up in what society tells us the holiday is that we have prepared everything, but ourselves. 

Just think of the reason for the day after Thanksgiving being called Black Friday. Black Friday is a financial holiday, where if stores are still in the red or negative in the ledger, this is the one day where many stores make the incredible jump to the black, where they begin to see profits. And so their advertising starts to work its way into our lives earlier and earlier each and every year. It begins to ramp up to its maximum just in time to create all kinds of insanity on that Black Friday. It proceeds along at a fever pitch until Christmas Day.

You see the commercial world doesn't help. That is because the commercial world is really celebrating its own form of Christmas.  Their Christmas is all about toys for good little girls and boys, toys that cost money, toys that bring a profit. There are Christmas specials on TV that tell us that the message of Christmas is that every child deserves toys, and lots of them. And then we have gifts that need to be purchased for spouses, grandparents, teachers, bosses, and the list goes on and on. The list of gifts for others can seem endless, and exhausting.  But in the commercial world it's all is glitz and glam, the opportunity to stay in business for another year. While the commercial world strives to make a profit on almost any holiday, Christmas is the big hitter.

Then right after Christmas, on December 26, you can already begin to find Christmas trees out on the curb. Our culture rolls quickly on to New Year's, and then Valentine's Day candy quickly makes its way onto the store shelves. We have become a nation of rushing to the next holiday, that we quickly forget why we even have the holiday in the first place.

The traditions of the church come from an older time, a time when holidays were savored, a time when holidays had more meaning. Although we are in the time of Christmas, we are in the season of Advent, the season of preparation. In church tradition, the Christmas season actually starts on Christmas Day and it continues until Epiphany.

But the question that many of you may have is why? Why has the church assigned this reading for today? Why are we reading the account of Jesus as He enters into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, for the Passover festival? Psalm Sunday occurred just one week before Easter, shouldn't we be reading about this event during the time of Easter? Actually, this account of Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem has as much to teach us here as it does on Psalm Sunday.

For the church, Advent brings us back to the Old Testament, the time before our Savior was born. It is a time of deep yearning, a time of spiritual darkness and the shadow of death, a time of waiting for the Savior. Waiting for the Messiah to arrive and give us freedom from our sin. The Collect that we prayed just a few minutes ago spoke of this great anticipation. It said “Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins, and saved by Your mighty deliverance.” We join those Old Testament saints, as they look forward to the coming of the Savior. We join them in singing “Savior of the Nations, Come.”

Advent is the spark of hope in the darkness of sin. It is the anticipation of rescue from the pit of despair. It is generation after generation of sacrifices that remind us of our sin, and point us forward to our Savior. And so, Advent is a time of repentance that prepares us for Christmas, in much the same way that Lent prepares us for Easter. It is a time for examining oneself and finding sin. It is a time to contemplate the idea that we desperately need God to come into this world and to save us from our sin.

Advent prepares us for Christmas by telling us why the Son of God needed to take on humanity - why He had to experience the pains of this world – why he had to be tempted in the same ways we are. We stated the reason for his coming in the creed, which we said earlier in the service. It says: "Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day he rose again from the dead."

The Son of God had to become Man in order to save you from your sin. It is your sin that placed Jesus in the manger just as much as it was your sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. Mary's miraculous pregnancy and Christ's birth were the first steps on the road to the cross.

Today's Gospel comes just a week before that cross. It is Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey to the praise of the crowds. We see the Advent theme of coming, can be seem as Jesus comes to Jerusalem. We see the fulfillment of the Advent theme of hope and rescue as God's sacrificial lamb enters the Holy city o fulfill God's plan of offering Himself up as the sacrifice for our sin. Jesus knows full well that He is coming to Jerusalem to die on the cross.

The crowds praised Jesus with the words, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of they Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Although these words of praise are absolutely true, it is very likely that the crowds had no idea why these words were true. Many had thought He had come to Jerusalem to take up the crown, and he did, but it was not the crown that they had expected. The crown of thorns was the one he had come for. He would be mocked and beaten, and he was crucified. This was not what was expected of the Messiah.  Jesus had come into their lives but they did not understand.

Jesus still comes to us. He comes to you when you hear His Word. He comes to you when you confess your sins and receive the very forgiveness that Jesus earned for you with his death on the cross. He comes to you at the altar as we eat His body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of sin. As Jesus comes to you, He brings heaven with Him, for where Jesus is, there is heaven.

And so one week after Jesus entered Jerusalem, He arose from the dead. His resurrection is what make Easter so important. It is also the event that reminds us of the way that Jesus will come again. With His resurrection, Jesus opened up the way to eternal life. This promise of everlasting life leads us to His future coming, His coming in the clouds with glory. 

Advent is a time of preparation, preparation for the coming of the King of Kings. It reminds us to prepare for three comings. The first was what Jesus came to do for us through His perfect sacrificial life, death, and resurrection. The second is that Jesus does come. He comes in the Means of Grace through water and the word, through Body and Blood. The third is that Jesus will come again. Our epistle lesson says that Jesus will come again with all his Saints. When He comes, He will gather together all those who believe in Him and take them to live with Him forever.

The Holy Spirit prepares us for all three comings by creating and sustaining faith in us. By that faith, we believe in the One who gave Himself for us on the cross. By that faith we receive the benefits of His coming to us in his Supper. By that faith, we prepare for the day when we shall see Jesus face-to-face in heaven.

And so here we are, preparing for the birth of Christ, with the hustle and bustle of the “christmas” season all around us and commercials and advertising pulling at us non-stop. But don't let the season push aside the Savior's gracious coming. For God has fulfilled his promise! The righteous branch of David is with you NOW, establishing your heart as blameless and holy before our God and Father.  So in this advent season, we prepare for Christ. We prepare by seeing our sinfulness and waiting for the birth our Savior. For Christ came to save you from your sins. That is what really matters in this Advent season, and in every season of life! 

 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a