Advent 1, 2015
The Epistle. Romans 13:8-14
The Gospel. Matthew 21:1-13
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The Advent Season seems to have its origins in the 4th century Gallican Church…and in the 6th century it took more of the shape that we continue to follow today.
Christmas Day celebration had not even spread to completely to this region of the West in the 4th century! This was a penitential season rather, to prepare the candidates for baptism that would take place on Epiphany.
So the penitential side to this season historically lies in preparation for baptism, not in preparation for Christmas. The colors are violet.
Floral arrangements are absent or severely subdued.
It has the flavor of Lent but is not the same in severity regarding penitence.
However it is completely logical that we use it the way we do….
…as preparation for Christmas and the most important Advent of all time…..the Advent….the coming… of Christ.
This is the season then of the coming….the arrival of the Christ unto His people.
Our Gospel lesson (though seemingly out of place for this time of year) is an Advent in its own right.
It symbolizes the coming of the King, the Messiah into the midst of His own people…riding on the foal of a donkey.
Our lessons in the season of Advent actually work in reverse order. Today, we have a story coming from the last week of Jesus’ life.
Next week we find Jesus in the middle of His ministry speaking in Luke 21 teaching on the signs of the last days.
The Third Sunday in Advent lesson is earlier in Jesus’ ministry when John the Baptist has been imprisoned and sends out his followers to ask if Jesus is the one to come or ‘shall we look for another?’
And the Fourth Sunday in Advent will give us a lesson from John 1 where we hear of the record of John the Baptist just beginning his ministry.
Being questioned by the religious authorities regarding his identity. Are you Elijha? Are you the prophet? And him replying, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness…make straight the way of the Lord.”
So Advent is replete with the signs of arrival….of coming.
So how did we pray this morning?
“ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life…In other words, while we have time….and while we await Christ’s Second Coming.
While we have time, give us grace as the Second Advent approaches, strength to withstand all that Satan throws at us….all that we can conjure up in our own hearts.
Arm us with thy Holy Spirit, the Armor of Light, that protects us from all things hurtful and keep us until the Day of the Lord.
The prayer says that Jesus, in the time of this mortal life, came to visit us in great humility. The power and strength….the might of God comes in humility…..
….The seemingly paradoxical thing about Christianity.
We will see the coming of God in humility on Christmas Eve when the Christ Child is born to a virgin girl.
Today we see this humility manifest itself in this Gospel story.
Jesus sends a couple of His disciples this day, into the village to acquire a donkey to ride on. He does not do so, because He is wearied from His journey. He does so because His time of death is near and He intends to show, by this humble entry, what the true nature of His Kingdom was.
This was not going to be a showy performance. It would be a testimony to His Kingship and Lordship.
Up to this point, when many sought to take him by force and make Him King, He resisted.
Now, this day, He reveals and declares Himself King in a most unexpected and unorthodox way.
Riding on a beast of burden.
But now, this King…nearing the end of His life is about to, by His death, declare Himself to be King and commence His reign.
His departure was at hand. He was about to enter Heaven where He would sit down at the right Hand of His Father and inaugurate His reign….but He was doing so before the eyes of all that were now gazing upon Him riding this donkey.
The clarity and fullness of this event would not strike at the hearts and minds of men until He was raised from the dead.
Just when we seemingly can’t fathom this display any longer we look further to find Him….riding in unseemly common clothing, no saddle on His donkey, but rather garments to sit on. The donkey…borrowed, not owned. No visual appearance in any way of royalty.
All pointing to the fact that Christ’s Kingdom is not made up of earthly power, riches, wealth, fame, status, or office.
It was necessary that He would take this route and use this method of demonstration.
Matthew tells us, all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Prophet Zechariah who said:
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The fulfillment of this prophecy is the evidence that Jesus was their King, coming to them, humble….as promised.
It is this humility that just frustrates those who think power through force, stature, strength, or riches is what anyone is to look for or to aspire to.
And then, Phase II of Christ’s Triumphal Entry, His Advent: Cleansing the Temple.
He establishes Himself as King through this humble yet powerful entry.
He now establishes Himself as Prophet and even more, Priest through the cleansing of the Temple.
He finds the moneychangers and others buying and selling in a House of Worship….His Father’s House to be exact.
And though the Temple was ultimately destined for destruction and its sacrifices destined to cease, He continued to hold this place with the reverence everyone at that time should have held.
Christ, in cleansing the Temple, was not ultimately set on restoring order and preserving the long traditions of sacrifice.
His immediate actions may have reflected that and brought some semblance of order back. But the longer view of all of this was to, again, publicly demonstrate His office as purifier……as Prophet.
Bringing God’s judgment.
The worship of God, now, then on that day, and from times past, had and has been corrupted and Christ was setting forth the image that purification was at hand. That judgment was at hand.
Christ, the True High Priest was declaring to those corrupt priests of the Temple that their greed for gain was not tolerated and not appropriate for the House of God.
This shall be a house of prayer and you have made it a den of thieves.
This also was a foreshadowing, again, of His return to judge the living and the dead.
Our prayer acknowledged that. “…that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal.
That is the Advent Christians are looking forward to. That is the Advent unbelievers should be very afraid of.
And Paul, this morning, after listing off a good number of the Commandments closes by saying:
“…you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:11-14 ESV)
There is the holding pattern for the Christian as we await the Second Advent. Paul tells us what we are to be showing forth toward one another in the mean time.
Those powerful signs performed under the great humility of our Lord Jesus Christ at His Triumphal Entry and Temple Cleansing are signs even for us today that have been recorded for us to hear and take seriously to heart.
The day is coming when He shall return in His Glory. The Second Advent of Christ. Let us spend this Advent Season thinking on these things and looking for the Spirit of God…as the day of our redemption draws closer, to draw us ever closer to Himself.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.