Matthew 21:1-11 Advent Message

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Does it not seem odd that on the first day of Advent that our Gospel lesson for today was on Jesus coming to Jerusalem on a Donkey?  Is this not a text that we typically read on Palm Sunday?  So why on earth did we read this Palm Sunday text today in the midst of our Christmas decoration and the beginning of the Advent Season?  Shouldn’t we be reading Bible passages about the manger, the wise men, the star, Mary and Joseph?  Hmm, maybe the pastor accidentally got the scriptures passages of Easter week and Christmas mixed up?  Right?

Actually, today is the first day of Advent, not Easter as you all know.  Furthermore, your pastor did not get Christmas and Easter mixed up.  You see, the word Advent is Latin for ‘Coming.’  Thus, today is the first day of the Advent season where we celebrate God ‘coming’ to us.  That is what Christmas is ultimately about.  Indeed each Sunday of this Advent Season is a celebration, a countdown if you well, to Christmas—the birth of Jesus; God with us.  Yes, each Sunday is the celebration of the coming of Christ to us in a manger.  Therefore, when we consider the Gospel text for today it begins to make sense. 

In our Gospel lesson we see that Jesus is approaching the city of Jerusalem on a Donkey.  Keep in mind that he wasn’t going to Jerusalem for a weekend get-away.  He wasn’t going to Jerusalem for a week-long conference.  Rather Jesus came to Jerusalem some two-thousand years ago to die.  He was on a mission.  He had his eyes fixed on the Cross.  Over and over and over in the four Gospels we see Jesus telling the disciples that He needed to go, that He must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die.  Therefore, by reading the text of Jesus coming to Jerusalem on a donkey towards His death on this first day of this Advent season of Zion Lutheran Church, it actually reminds us right now that Jesus came into this world for the purpose of not being served but serving us and giving up His life as a ransom for you and me. 

This puts a whole different perspective on the Christmas Season does it not?  Mary became pregnant and Jesus was born so that He might die.  He was born to die.  Yes, the Advent Season is a time of God coming to mankind and Christmas Day is when the God-man Jesus meets man.  Then from Christmas on we see that the life of Jesus presses towards and funnels into the Cross.

It is rather amazing to take a step back and consider the fact that Jesus was born for the purpose of the Cross.  It is rather remarkable to think about Jesus’ focus and intent being that of the Cross where He would suffer and die.  What I am getting at is that Christ approached pain and suffering.  In fact, He rode right into it.

How many of you enjoy going toward or approaching conflict, pain, and struggles?  When someone gets a cold or the flu how many of you immediately flock to that person to embrace them and love them?  When you think of a hospital, how many of you enjoy or like going into hospitals?  When you have a marital conflict and you are getting done with work for the day, how many of you are excited to approach an upset spouse?  When you are expecting a large credit card bill and you approach the mail box, are you excited or dreading to see that envelop?  When you go on trips, how many of you enjoy driving into a snow storm when you have an option to go around things?  When a person is disappointed with you or you have had a past conflict, how many of you want to go and hang out with that person? 

The reality is that we try and avoid conflicts, pain, and struggles at all costs.  This is a part of what some call our survival instinct.  We just don’t march into pain, struggles, and conflict.  Now, just to be clear, much of this is certainly healthy, for we are to be good stewards of our bodies, health, and so forth.  It is not wise nor Godly for us to subject ourselves to things that would inflict harm or intentionally jeopardize our ability to parent and serve others that depend on us.  However, let me ask you this, how are you in dealing with your sin? 

You see, as people of the church we are very diligent to identify and call sin-sin.  In fact, both church-goers and complete pagans are very good at pointing out the plank of sin in other people’s lives.  Indeed, we are very good at identifying sin in other people’s lives and then we typically do nothing about it except distance ourselves from it.  Furthermore, when we are confronted with our own sin we try and avoid it all costs.  For example: we deny our sin (i.e., I didn’t do anything wrong); we run from our sins of the past (i.e., keep them locked thus they become our skeleton’s in our closets); we blame others (i.e., the Devil made me do it); we minimize our sin by saying it is not as bad as other major sins (i.e., at least I am not like those people); we try and overcome our sin by doing an abundance of good works; and we drown out our sin by numbing ourselves with illegal substances or abusing over the counter drugs.  Truly, we are master escape artists when it comes to our own sin; always keeping it at least an arm’s length away. 

So, what do we learn from our texts today and what does this Advent Season teach us in regard to our sin that we try and avoid?  My friends, we believe, teach, and confess each Advent Season that the sinless Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ, was born into this World for sinners, for you and me.  “Had there been no sin on earth, there would have been no Christmas.  Had there been no sinners, there would have been no need of a Savior.” (Fredrick Wisloff, Hvil eder litt)  Two-thousand years ago Jesus Christ approached your sin in His birth and He approached your sin on the donkey as He rode into Jerusalem towards Calvary’s Cross.  And get this, upon that Cross—a Cross that should’ve been for you and for me, a Cross where you and I are not only unable to pay for our sin but a Cross that we are totally and utterly afraid of—Jesus encountered your sin and mine, bore it upon Himself, was forsaken by the Father, endured hell, and then said, “It… Is... Finished!”  My friends, the very sin that causes us to step back from is the sin that Jesus stepped towards and into when He was born in the manger.  The very sin that we try not to own is the sin that Jesus owned, as His own, on the Cross.  He did this because He loves you and is not willing to let you perish.  Like a boxer stepping into the opponent’s punches to deliver a knock out uppercut, Christ stepped into our sin, He stepped into our death; He stepped into hell on that Cross… and said “It is Finished.”  These word echo throughout eternity and they are words especially for you and for me right here and right now. 

That is what Advent is about.  It is about the God of the universe not being content to leave us helpless and alone in our sins, but rather pursued us and ultimately brought death to sin. 

This changes everything!  Because of Christ and His mission of coming to you and me we can confess with boldness that we are indeed great sinners but that we have a greater Savior.  No need to deny our sin, blame, minimize, and so forth!  Rather, when the world and the devil throw your sins in your face and declare that you deserve death and hell, we can confess with Martin Luther,
"I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”

Indeed my friends, Christ came for you.  You are baptized into His death and resurrected anew in Him.  

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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