“Advent: Receiving the Coming King” (Luke 19:28-40)

First Sunday in Advent
December 2, 2018

“Advent: Receiving the Coming King” (Luke 19:28-40)

Well, it’s Advent. And you know what that means: We’re beginning the countdown to Christmas. Of course, the world has already been celebrating their Christmas for several weeks now, what with Hallmark Christmas movies, and Christmas TV specials and commercials, and radio stations playing songs about “Santa Baby” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” But that’s the world’s Christmas. In the church, though, we get to celebrate the real thing, the true Christmas. And Advent, which begins today, serves as the lead-up to it.

But that’s not all Advent does. Oh, we will be getting ready for Christmas. Our midweek services start this Wednesday, under the theme, “What Child Is This?” And after the service we’ll put up the tree here in church. The Ladies’ Guild is having their Christmas party on Thursday. And later this Advent we’ll be singing hymns like “Savior of the Nations, Come” and “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel.”

So Advent is the lead-up to Christmas. But it’s a lot more than that, too. It’s about how we prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming. It’s about how we welcome him as he comes to us. As we just sang, “O Lord, how shall I meet you, how welcome you aright?” And it’s about the various ways and times our Lord does come to us, then and now and still to come.

The thread that connects all these themes is summed up in the word “Advent” itself. For “Advent” simply means “Coming.” This season is all about Christ coming to us and how we respond to that. Thus our message this morning: “Advent: Receiving the Coming King.”

A passage that brings all of this together is found in the Holy Gospel for today, from Luke 19. There the whole multitude of Jesus’ followers are rejoicing and praising God, as Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem. And in verse 38, we hear them shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Now every year on the First Sunday in Advent, we always get an account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But why do we get a Palm Sunday reading here at the beginning of Advent? It seems a little odd. But really it isn’t, if you think about it. This text is all about the coming King, which makes it a good fit for Advent.

It sets the stage for the Sundays that will follow in Advent. Next Sunday, the Second Sunday in Advent, John the Baptist will be preparing the way for the coming King by calling us to repent and bear fruits fit for repentance. The Sunday after that, we’ll be dealing with the perplexity that arises when Christ’s coming doesn’t match our expectations of what it should be like. And on the Fourth Sunday in Advent, we will join Mary as she is about to give birth to the Christ child. The thread that runs throughout this season, then, is this idea of the King coming to us and how we respond to his coming.

So let’s let Advent be Advent. We don’t have to skip right over it and jump straight to Christmas. There’s enough to ponder and prepare for over these next few weeks, and we would be the poorer for it if we didn’t let Advent be Advent.

Now not only does the account of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday serve as a good start to Advent, it also serves as an excellent introduction to the new church year that begins today. It points us to the focus and the fulcrum of the whole church year, which is Jesus going to Jerusalem to suffer and die for the sins of the world and then to rise from the dead in victory on Easter Day. That is the heart of the church year. That is the heart of the gospel.

So our reading today sets the tone for the whole church year. It’s all about Jesus being our Savior. The church year begins with anticipating our Lord’s coming during this Advent season. Then at Christmas, it’s Jesus coming in the flesh to be our Savior. During the Epiphany season, Jesus is revealed in his power and compassion as the Savior sent from heaven. Then comes Lent, when Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die for us, which happens during Holy Week. Good Friday and Easter are the pivot point to the whole church year, as they are really the pivotal events in all of salvation history. Jesus rises from the dead, declaring his victory over sin and death. And with Ascension and Pentecost, the risen Christ now sends out his church to spread the good news of salvation to all of mankind. And at the close of the church year, our thoughts are directed to Jesus coming again to judge the living and the dead and to raise us up to everlasting life. This is why, then, we follow the church year: because it keeps us close to Jesus our Savior. He is the King who comes to us back then, and even now, and will come again at the Last Day.

So getting back to our text: Jesus is riding into Jerusalem, and the crowds are shouting, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Why were they shouting those exact words? Well, for one thing, it was Passover time. At Passover, all the Jews would travel to Jerusalem for the festival. And one of the appointed psalms for Passover was Psalm 118, where it says: “Save us, we pray”–that’s “Hoshiana,” or “Hosanna,” in the Hebrew–“Save us, we pray, O LORD!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” So those words from Psalm 118 were on the minds of the Jewish pilgrims as they are coming into town. And the thing is, they are applying them to Jesus! They are acclaiming Jesus as the one who can save them. They are saying that Jesus is the blessed one who is coming in the name of the Lord. That his coming into Jerusalem to save them would mean death by crucifixion, rather than enthronement as Israel’s deliverer–that was not what they were expecting, but still, they are acclaiming Jesus as the one coming in the name of the Lord, as prophesied in Psalm 118.

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Notice, they also are calling Jesus the King. This is a way of calling Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ. Here they are saying that Jesus must be the Davidic Messiah, promised from a thousand years earlier. The Lord had told King David that one of his descendants would be the greatest king of all and would have an everlasting kingdom of abundant blessing. Well, these Jewish pilgrims had seen Jesus’ ministry in action, his many healings, his works of mercy. They had heard the authority and wisdom of his teaching. They had heard Jesus say, “The kingdom of heaven is among you,” meaning that Jesus himself is bringing in that long-prophesied messianic kingdom. And now, as Jesus is riding into Jerusalem, the city where David had reigned, the crowds are acknowledging Jesus to be the King, the great Son of David.

And what would that kingdom mean? “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Those words should sound somewhat familiar. They are echoes of what the Christmas angels sang at Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.” Jesus is coming to establish peace between heaven and earth, and this gives all glory to God on high. With the coming of our King in the flesh, with his coming into Jerusalem to die in our place on the cross, now peace has been established in heaven between God and us. We were alienated, separated from God, strangers to his kingdom, because of our sins. But now, with Christ’s sacrificial death atoning for our guilt and shame, we have been reconciled back to God, and we are at peace. God is not mad at you, my friends! The barrier has been torn down! Your sins are forgiven! Christ’s holy blood covers them all. There is peace in heaven now. God declares it so, because of what Christ has done.

And this gives all glory to God. There is glory in the highest, as the angels are leading the praise of God. And there is glory down here among us, as well. We join our praises with those of the angels and all the company of heaven. The crowds in Jerusalem were rejoicing and praising God with a loud voice, because of the mighty works they had seen Jesus do.

And Jesus is not done with his mighty works! Christ will come again to raise us up and take us home. We have his sure promise as the anchor of our hope. You have been baptized into Christ, and you will share in his resurrection and his life. And even now, yes, today, Jesus is here, doing a mighty work among us. He has absolved you of your sin. He is preaching the good news to you. And in a few minutes, our Lord will give you his very body and his blood for the forgiveness of your sins. And what do we sing as our King is coming here to do this? “Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!” Just like when Jesus rode into Jerusalem! You see, our King is coming to us even here and now!

Dear friends, Advent is a wonderful season in its own right. So let the world have its version of Christmas, as long as it doesn’t distract you from the real thing. And if you want to sing a song or two about wanting a hippopotamus or rocking around the Christmas tree–well, that’s OK, I guess. But let Advent be Advent. This is a wonderful time of preparation. We look forward to celebrating the real Christmas, which is all about the coming of our King in the flesh. We look forward to our King’s coming again at the Last Day, to gather his church together from the four corners of the earth. And every Advent service, on Sundays and on Wednesdays, we greet our King as he comes here among us, to give us his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” “Behold, your king is coming to you, righteous and having salvation.” And so we will rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all these mighty works. Because if we didn’t, if we were silent, the very stones would cry out!

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Published in: on December 1, 2018 at 10:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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