First Sunday in Advent

“Who Is This?”

Matthew 21:1-11


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Who is this? Who is this who enters royal cities on the back of a donkey? He is the promised King of Zion. Hear the Word of Yahweh through the prophet Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9, ESV). He is coming to you. To you, who can never quite free yourself from your sinful desires and tendencies. To you, who find it hard to prepare yourself for His weekly coming, let alone His second coming. To you, who reluctantly gather to behold the humble King. To you, who have barred the gates of your home to Him. To you, unrighteous and unworthy of salvation. To all of you, He comes. He is righteous and He has salvation. For you. Rejoice greatly! Shout aloud! He comes for you.

Who is this? Who is this Son of David? He is the fulfillment of the promise Yahweh made to David, and that promise was this: “[T]he LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:11b-13, ESV). This prophecy was partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon, but the house of David was established forever in Jesus, who was, by means of His earthly parents, in the house and line of David (Matthew 1:16; Luke 1:32-33; 2:4; 3:23). As the angel Gabriel told His mother Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33, ESV). David’s greatest Son was David’s Lord. He is the true hope and glory of Israel and the light to lighten the Gentiles. He comes to enlighten you. You, who live in the darkness of your own secret doubts and your own phantom fears. You, who stumble and trip over the wreckage of a family you love, but whose members pierce your heart with their estrangement from each other. You, who cannot find your way out of the chains of that particular sin, a sin that remains a constant temptation, a sin that sneaks up on you when you are most vulnerable. He comes to enlighten you in your darkness. Hosanna to the Son of David! Son of David, have mercy on us and save us!

Who is this? Who is this Blessed One who comes in the Name of Yahweh? He is the One whom God has highly exalted and on whom God has bestowed the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-10). He comes in the Name of Yahweh, the One who is and was and is to come. He comes in the Name of Yahweh to save His people from their sin. Yeshua, the Name that has been given to Him, means “the one who saves.” And He bears that Name for you. He puts that Name on you. You have been baptized into that Name. You, who deny His Name so that you do not lose friends or their respect. You, who refuse to bow your knee to His Name because it would mean giving up a cherished vice. You, who neglect your baptism when you do not cast off the works of darkness: orgies and drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality, quarrelling and jealousy (Romans 13:13). Even and especially for you, He comes in the Name of the Lord. Blessed is He of His Father, and in the Name of the Son, the Father blesses you. Jesus is the rider on the white horse of Revelation, whose Name is Faithful and True. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11, 13, 16). He will judge with righteousness and He will bring vengeance on His enemies, but He will bring salvation for His friends. You are His friend because He has written His Name on your forehead (Revelation 22:4; cf. John 15:12-17).

“Advent” means “coming,” and it is the One who is coming with whom we have to do. He has come once in humility, hidden in the skin of a baby to save babies; He grew into a child to save children; He lived as an adult to save adults. He entered a creation sick with sin and in the throes of death, and the whole earth was stirred up, like Jerusalem at His triumphal entry. Nothing has ever been the same. You are not the same. You are not what you were. You cannot do what you did. Daughter of Zion, see your King comes to you! He still comes in humility, hidden in water. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! He still comes to save, hidden in bread and wine upon this very altar. Hosanna to the Son of David! He comes to build a House for you, and to build you into a House for His Name. From the outside, His House doesn’t look like much. It looks like it could fall at any time, and it is full of hypocrites and sinners. Oh, but inside! “Go into the Lord’s House, and go in a mile” (D.E. Edwards). The whole creation can fit inside His holy House. And it will, at His second coming.

Daughter of Zion, Bride of Christ, you have come into His House this Advent to await the coming of your Lord. In this place, time is of no consequence. Your planning, baking, inviting, decorating, trees, and cards can wait. Because all of that means nothing if He has not come once in Bethlehem and if He is not coming again in the clouds. “Jesus is the reason for the season” is a bit of an understatement. If He is not here, if He is not with you, then it makes no difference that there is something rather than nothing. Either He is and so you are, or He is not and you might as well not be. Beloved, today we begin our preparation for the season of Christmas, a season of light, joy, peace, and hope. But if it is not the season of Jesus, who is the Light of the world (John 8:12); if it is not a season to take joy in the God of our salvation (Habakkuk 3:18); if it is not the season of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6); and if our hope is not in Him who is the hope of all the ends of the earth and the farthest seas (Psalm 65:5); then Christmas is just another excuse to spend money and keep the economy going. If Christmas ceases to be the Mass of Christ, then it will be just a time to reminisce about nostalgic Christmases past, to attempt to capture some feeling you had when you were a child. But we know that Jesus Christ has come and that He will come again. O house of Jacob, as we await His Advent, come, let us walk in the light of Yahweh (Isaiah 2:5)! Who is this? He is much more than a prophet. He is your light, your joy, your peace, your hope. He came for you in Bethlehem, He came to you in water, He comes to you in bread and wine, and you have this promise and this hope: He will come again in glory to take you home.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

–Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 11/28/07


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