Summary: Advent 1: God prepares us to recognize and receive his Son. Through this we receive the blessings of peace and joy that we can receive only through the King - Jesus Christ.
[Note: This sermon makes use of some thoughts, concepts, phrases and sentences from, “Setting for an Advent Series,” pp. 12-13, in Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 14, Part 1]
A woman was known in her community for her calm, happy life. It seems that no matter what trials came into her life, even the personal trials, she could face them with grace and joy. Another woman heard of her and, being in lot of turmoil, decided that she should visit her. She said to herself, “I need to find the secret to her calm and happy life.” When she met her she said, “So you are the woman with the great faith I’ve heard so much about.” “No,” came the reply, “I am not a woman with great faith. But I am a woman with a little faith in a great God.” (Adapted from Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 14, Part 1)
Tranquility and peace of this sort are elusive to us, are they not? We can all point to many reasons for this. We can all look at our own personal situation and dwell on how unique it is. After all, few people can really understand the stresses that we each must endure. The worries, the anger, the loneliness, the pain that we each feel are, indeed, very personal.
Today is the beginning of a new Church Year – the first Sunday in Advent. We begin the season of preparation today, because the King is coming. As Jesus comes to us through the Word during Advent, our hearts are prepared to be cradles. We are made ready to receive and meet the Lord Jesus. Let us begin the preparation by reading Gospel Lesson together. [read Luke 19:28-40 here]
Many of you recognize this reading from Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus entered into Jerusalem on a donkey. He entered into Jerusalem on that Sunday to the cheering of crowds and by the end of the week, our Lord had been crucified and buried. Now, the idea of the Palm Sunday Gospel text at the beginning of Advent might ring a bit strange. But is it really? After all, Advent is the time of preparation for the coming of the Savior, and the Palm Sunday text so poignantly communicates the reality that the King of grace comes in lowly ways. Jesus is the Savior who wants to come to us and be a part of our lives and bring us the peace and joy and hope that only He can offer.
Beloved, I share in common with you the tendency to look for peace and joy and hope in places apart from the Savior. It is so easy to look for tranquility in the things of this life. The old saying goes, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Perhaps we actualize that saying in our living a bit more than we think. You see, it is easy to look for comfort and peace and joy in the things of this world. It is easy to look at the material blessings that God has given and think of them as the ends rather than as gifts from the One who is our true blessing. Looking for calm and peace in these things – things of this world, things we can possess, things we can control, things we can manage – will end in frustration.
When we are not prepared, it is easy to miss the King. After all, what king submits to such humility? What king gives up the throne to become one of the subjects? What King chooses a donkey instead of a mighty steed or a chariot? What King enters into the capital city to die? This isn’t the way of the world. And so the world does not recognize Him. It rejects Him. And because the world rejects Him, the joy and tranquility that He brings is missing in the world.
And so, beloved, God has called you and me - by grace, through faith – to recognize the King. He has prepared our hearts through the waters of Baptism to receive that King as He enters. He nourishes the faith that gives us sight with the very body and blood of his Son. He illuminates our vision with his Word so that we can see and recognize the King.
As we look at Jesus, we see that He is so very different from what the world offers. He rules not by force or coercion, but by grace. He rules not through use of power but through his death and resurrection. He doesn’t choose the palace but the way of the Cross. He doesn’t come to us in signs of glory nor in a Santa suit, but in the forgiveness that He offers to us.