Listen to it:
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It is not too hard to get the picture from the four Advent readings from St. Luke’s Gospel: it’s all about the Coming One. The One who comes to Jerusalem. The One who comes along the way prepared by the Baptizer. The One for whose coming we have waited. And, finally, the One who comes in His mother’s womb to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth. But something strikes us as slightly off about these texts because they are not all from the time before Jesus was born, as we might expect from Advent readings. We have texts from before Jesus’ birth all the way to the last week of His earthly life. And that tends to mess with our neat, internal, Christmas chronology. Why do we have Palm Sunday, of all things, in Advent? Why is Jesus going on ahead, up to Jerusalem (Luke 19:28)? Why is the coming of Jesus to Jerusalem mixed in with His coming in flesh? To get to the point: what does it mean that Jesus is the Coming One?
It may go without saying, but some things should never go without saying. What should not go without saying today, on the first Sunday of Advent, is that Jesus comes in three ways. Advent teaches us to experience and look for the ways that Jesus comes to us. (“Advent,” in fact, means “coming.”) He comes, first and most obviously, from the womb of Mary. The infinite, eternal Son of God is conceived in finite, temporal flesh and is born into His creation as a Man. But He did not only come in the flesh, live, and die like any other man. He assumed, took up, our human flesh into God. He glorified and made our flesh holy and alive with true life forever. But He did not assume and glorify our flesh only for Himself, but for the sake of the whole world. So, secondly, He chooses to come to us in that flesh individually and personally: He clothes us in His flesh and blood at Baptism, then He gives us His flesh and blood to eat in the Supper. Third, He will come again in that flesh, shining as it is with all the blinding glory of Yahweh, to raise all flesh, some to everlasting life and some to everlasting death. He comes in the flesh of the Virgin; He comes to us in His flesh; and He will come again in the flesh. Notice that all three of these comings involve the flesh of the Son of God. It was through His flesh, as through a curtain, that He opened a “new and living way” to God for us (Hebrews 10:20). And, for that reason, He never comes to us apart from His crucified and resurrected flesh.
Which brings us to a fourth coming: the coming to Jerusalem on a donkey. Because of this coming, He came in the flesh of Mary; because of this coming, He comes to us in the flesh; and because of this coming He ascended and will come again in the flesh. Because Holy Week and Easter are often overshadowed by Christmas—or, we should say, by the hijacking of Christmas in the name of materialism and “happy holidays”—we can easily forget that the week of palms and nails is the pivot on which Jesus’ entire life turns. Not only Jesus’ life, but your life; and not only your life, but the entire history of the world turns on this holy week. Think of it this way: can you imagine never knowing where and how Jesus was born and still believing that He is who He says who is? On the other hand, can you conceive of any Christianity that does not know the cross and the resurrection? Obviously, Jesus cannot die without being born in real human flesh; but it would make no difference that He was a man if He simply died, a victim of Jerusalem’s hatred and Rome’s violence. All men are born and die; but Jesus alone defeated in His flesh the sin in which we are born and die. That is why He went ahead by Himself up to Jerusalem. No one else could be crowned with that crown. No one else could reveal the Name of God but the only Son. Only He could bring the peace of heaven down to earth, among those with whom God is pleased to dwell; only He could bring the eternal song of glory in the highest places down to the lowest places of earth, even into a Bethlehem manger (Luke 2:14; 19:38).
Maybe, then, Luke 19 has more to do with Luke 2 than we might think. And maybe Advent has more to do with Lent than we might like. And maybe—maybe!—the coming of Jesus, in all its senses, has more to do with our lives than we might like to admit. As Jesus saw Jerusalem come into view, He wept and said, “If you, even you, had known on this day the things [that make] for peace…the time of your [gracious] visitation!” (Luke 19:42, 44). Beloved, for you the day is today and the time is now. Now is the time for confessing everything that hinders our praise of the coming King. Now is the time for confessing that the stones often speak the wonders of God better and louder than we do. Now is the time for confessing that it was your sin, my sin, that sent Jesus on alone to Jerusalem to die. But now is also the time for the absolution of the Lord. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2, ESV). Today is the day of your visitation, when the God who cares for and watches over you appears in the person of Jesus for your salvation. His coming is one because He is one, but it is new every morning; until He brings the fullness of His gracious visitation, He brings to you the holy things that make for peace. So on this day, do not be silent; do not let the stones drown you out: Blessed is our King, who comes to us in the saving Name of Yahweh! We have peace on earth as it is in heaven. We have the very presence of the coming King, humble still as He comes by means of bread and wine. And we sing as Spirit-filled Zechariah sang: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and worked deliverance for His people” (Luke 1:68). Soon, He will come and all creation: stones, trees, animals, mountains, oceans—yes, and us—will cry out and rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for everything He has done. “Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (LSB 195).
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, 11/24/09