Sermon for Ad Te Levavi – Advent 1
Jeremiah 33:14-18 + Romans 13:11-14 + Matthew 21:1-9
Today we enter the season of Advent, the season of waiting, as the Church waits in hope for the Advent, for the arrival of Jesus. The Church of the Old Testament waited for about 4,000 years in all for His first Advent, ever since God promised Eve in the Garden of Eden that her Seed would come and bruise the head of that ancient serpent. Or, if we count from the time of Abraham, with whom God made that first Testament, then the Old Testament Church waited about 2,000 years for the Heir of the Covenant to come. The Church of the New Testament has been waiting for about 2,000 years on the other side, waiting for Jesus’ second Advent. That’s a lot of time spent waiting, isn’t it?
Oh, it’s not a sit-around-doing-nothing kind of waiting. It’s not a sit-there-on-your-smartphone-looking-for-a-distraction kind of waiting. It’s a go-on-with-your-earthly-life kind of waiting, but always arranging that earthly life with the goal of being prepared to meet Jesus, always with an eye toward the Advent of the King.
Now, in spite of all the time that the Old Testament Church spent waiting for the Messiah to arrive, most of that Church, even most of the believers in the congregation of Israel, weren’t prepared for what Jesus actually came the first time to do. Jerusalem was prepared for the Christ to come on the clouds, with great glory. Jerusalem was prepared for an Advent of Jesus that would usher in an age of peace, and age of safety, an age in which the Christ would take control of this world, get rid of all the lies, all the immorality, all the violence, all the sickness, all the death. Don’t you yearn for that kind of Advent, too?
Here’s the problem with that, and it affects us, too. We get so wrapped up in all the evil going on around us in the world, we’re so eager for Jesus to come and make our life better that we begin to forget about the evil that dwells inside of us, about the real root of all the wickedness that infects our world: sin. And not just the sin of all those murderers and abusers and greedy people out there, but the sin that infects each one us, the sin that separates us from God, the sin for which we, too, deserve God’s wrath and punishment. Your main problem—the problem with which you were born and the problem that has to be solved or you will perish eternally when Christ comes—is your record of sins against the holy God. Many people, assuming themselves to be good people, foolishly long for Christ to come on the clouds with salvation for all the good people of the world and with judgment toward all the bad people. What they will learn with horror when Jesus comes is that there never were any “good people” to begin with. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
What you need is what Jerusalem needed, not for Christ to come immediately on the clouds, but for Christ to come riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. What Jerusalem didn’t understand, and what Christians today too often forget, is that there had to be two Advents of the Messiah, two separate arrivals of Emmanuel, one in which He would suffer, another in which He would put an end to suffering for His elect; one in which He would ride into Jerusalem humble, lowly, riding on a donkey, another in which He would come to His waiting Jerusalem riding in on a cloud and with great glory; one in which He would earn salvation for mankind by being beaten, tortured, and crucified, another in which He would forever save His believers out of this dark world and bring them safely into His glorious kingdom; one Advent whose symbol is the cross, another whose symbol is the crown.
You see our Advent paraments? The cross and the crown? Let them remind you throughout this season of the two Advents of Christ, because the Church celebrates them both during this season. Each Advent is critical for our salvation, and each one is meaningless without the other.
If Christ only came in glory to rid the world of wickedness, if He didn’t come to die for our sins, then His coming in glory would mean death and destruction for all of humanity, because no man deserves to enter with Christ into His glorious kingdom. No one loves and honors God as he should. No one loves his neighbor as he should. All have earned God’s wrath and condemnation. Christ had to come as a man—a humble man, like us, subject to God’s holy Law, like us, subject to hunger and thirst, subject to ridicule and rejection, subject to suffering, subject to death. Christ had to come to Jerusalem, humble, riding on a donkey, to suffer and die in our place, to earn a place for us and for all men in His glorious kingdom.
Or, if Christ only came to suffer and die and isn’t coming again in glory, then death wins and this world goes on in its perversion and depravity forever.
Or, if Christ had combined His Advent to suffer and His Advent in glory in one grand event 2,000 years ago, then hardly anyone—and certainly none of us—would enter His glorious kingdom, because the only way Christ’s merits get applied to anyone is through faith in Christ, and the only way anyone is converted to faith is through the preaching of the Gospel. The whole purpose of this New Testament era is for the word of the Gospel to go out into the kingdoms of the world so that the seed of the Gospel may be planted and grow into a bountiful harvest of souls at the second Advent of Christ. You and I are only members of Christ’s Church because His second Advent was separated from the first long enough for you and me to hear the word and be baptized into the New Jerusalem.
It took 2,000 years, from the time of Abraham, for the Church, for Zion, to see her King coming to her in His first Advent, riding down the Mount of Olives and up to the gates of Jerusalem on a donkey, having salvation. It may not have been the kind of salvation Zion expected, but it was exactly what she needed—a King so full of love and grace that He would take on human flesh, live among sinners as a Servant-King, and then let His people abuse Him and hang Him on a cross in order to atone for their sins.
Now, 2,000 years later, we wait for His second Advent in hope, but only because His first Advent gave us the hope of a loving Father in heaven to whom we have now been reconciled by the blood of His Son. The Advent with the cross paved the way for the Advent with the crown. Behold, your King is coming to you, Zechariah prophesied, but this time it won’t be lowly and riding on a donkey. This time it will be with great glory and with long-awaited salvation for His people. His Advent is nearer now than when we first believed. And even though we can’t see Him quite yet, even though He is just beyond the horizon, we know it won’t be long now, and so we join our song to the Church of every age, Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest! Amen.