“Now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” Do you not hear the urgency in these words? Granted, St. Paul wrote them 2,000 years ago, but all that means is that you are 2,000 years closer to what God through his Apostle had already declared to be near.
And who knows when death will overtake you? But this you do know that you will die - it is the wages of your sins, - and after that face the Holy Judge. Thus, as the Parable of the Virgins taught us, the time to prepare for Jesus’ final Advent is now.
But, “Who will stand when he appears?” That’s what the Prophet Malachi asked God’s people of old in regard to Jesus’ first advent, and believe me, it is just as appropriate to ask the same of God’s people today, as they wait for his Return on Judgment Day.
Jesus informed his disciples that when he comes again, he will take the righteous with him into everlasting life. Sounds good, until you hear what St. Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declared, “There is none righteous; no, not one... For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God... Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” Anyone who tries to defend himself before the Holy Judge on the basis of what he thought, felt, said or did in this life will hear these most horrifying words, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” So, once again I ask, “Who will stand when he appears?”
A King is coming. That’s what Advent means. He is coming to do what kings do, and that is to deliver his people from the enemy who is holding them in captivity.
But this enemy is not of flesh and blood. He is a spiritual enemy who dwells in darkness and in the spiritual realm. Therefore he who is coming to set his people free from his evil power is no ordinary king. He is, in the words of Jeremiah the Prophet, “The Lord Our Righteousness.”
How about that for an irony? The Holy Judge who will soon come to cast the guilty sinner into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels is also the Righteous King who once came to save you from the curse of sin, so that you can dwell with him in everlasting glory.
And so, we see this King ride into Jerusalem today on a donkey, even as did his ancestor Solomon nine centuries earlier. As he does, he receives, and appropriately so, the welcome of a king. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” the crowds sing, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Hosanna means “Save now!” And how fitting this cry is for Jesus, who rides into Jerusalem this day to save his people from sin, hell, and from the power of the devil.
Yet he who comes into Jerusalem to do the work of a king does not look at all like a king. He is not flanked by ranks of armies, chariots, and spears glistening in the sunlight. Though he does have an army, the most powerful army of all in fact, as it consists of countless hosts of mighty angels, nevertheless, he rides alone this day, to fight a battle that he can win only by suffering what appears to be a crushing defeat. He comes to be captured, tortured, condemned, crucified, and at the end of the battle to die. For only one price can redeem his people from the eternity they merited for themselves by their sins. It is the holy, precious Blood of God’s only-begotten Son.
And therein lies the answer to Malachi’s question, “Who will stand when he appears?’ Who will escape the eternal death sentence that the Holy Judge will justly hand down on all who are guilty of sin? He who is righteous, that’s who; righteous not by his own merits - in that sense St. Paul was right: no one is righteous - but righteous by imputation. Simply put, he has been set free from eternal captivity who is clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
So your once dead, now risen King has sent out his called and ordained ambassador to loose you from the bonds of sin, just as two of his disciples loosed a donkey and her colt from the ropes that bound them, and to bring you to him. This he first did for you when you were baptized in Christ’s Blood mingled with Blessed Water. And this he now does regularly for you at this Altar where he feeds you Christ’s Body under Blessed Bread and his Blood under Blessed Wine for the forgiveness of your sins. And you who faithfully receive your King in this Advent will be among those who will sing, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” when he comes again in glory.
But that doesn’t mean your enemy has given up the fight to recapture you in the meantime. He hasn’t and won’t till the day you die. So, as you live out your life in this world, waiting for your King to return, you would do well to heed what St. Paul also told the Christians in Rome, “Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The First Sunday in Advent
Sunday, December 2, 2018
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