What do you mean your king is coming to you?
Doesn’t God know we’re Americans who have no king? We would never allow a single ruling authority to direct our days by executive fiat. Right?
We’re the land of liberty or death.
Or slaver—safety, right?
Let’s assume for the moment that we are okay with a king. The worst possible scenario would be for his word to be jumbled, mixed up, or misrepresented. Or for his work and our relief to be delayed.
Which is why we don’t do Advent very well at all.
“Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” (Matthew 21:5).
That He is coming means He is not here—which means we have to wait.
And that’s not what we expect. That’s not what we want. And I mean, come on, who cares about a donkey?
Now if it were a parade—with enormous balloon animals—and if Jesus were at the end of it—riding in a big sleigh pulled by magical deer—that would be impressive. If we could stay awake, we’d watch that.
But there’s nothing impressive about a man, riding into town on a donkey, who’s dead five days later.
Not unless what He brings and gives and is is worth waiting for.
We don’t do Advent well—because we’re impatient, preferring to see only our reflection in the water and not our neighbor in the world.
We’re impatient, thinking only of the here and now and how we feel and fret.
But God is bigger than us, praise be.
And the Church in pious patience waits for her Lord who comes to her humbly.
And so—the donkey—seemingly, perhaps, the least important detail in it all—becomes vital.
Today, in the Gospel lesson, on His way to Cross and death, our Lord comes to us on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.
And as the beast carries a burden not its own, so does its rider, our God and King.
“Hosanna” is the song sung now, but that’s not the last song we’ll sing Him. Come Friday, that’ll be replaced with refrains of “Crucify Him!”
They weren’t good with the Advent of the Christ either, but He comes, all the same, while we were yet sinners, to die for us and to save us.
And He does.
Today, into our quiet lives of mask-muffled desperation, Jesus comes to us humbly, speaking again through a donkey, if you will, bearing our burdens, forgiving our sins, and giving us life.
Through simple means, our King comes to us.
To help, save, comfort, and deliver us.
In simple, spoken words and finite bread and wine, the infinite and eternal God is at work, pleased to save those who call on the name of the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21).
God is patient—not slow.
He arrives exactly when He means to.
So we should perceive in our Advent waiting the patience of God and a call to repentance—that we would be ready to meet our Lord with joy.
For “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 23:5).
“[And] behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought [us] up out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel [into what He promised]’” (cf. Jeremiah 23:7-8).
Behold: “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” (Romans 13:11-12).
Let’s be honest: it’s easy to prefer Christmas to Advent.
It’s easy to prefer Thanksgiving dinner to Thanksgiving dinner preparation.
It’s easy to prefer the wedding night to the night before the wedding.
But we wait and hope in the Lord, so that midnight hears the welcome voices, and at the thrilling cry rejoices, to meet the Lord in wisdom pure.
Actually, come to think of it, Lutherans are pretty good at Advent.
Every week, before anything else, we confess our sins and receive the Absolution.
We come to the Lord’s Table prepared.
Every week, we sing the Kyrie and flee for refuge to God’s infinite mercy, trusting that He comes to us in peace and for it.
Every week, we pray the prayer that Jesus teaches, trusting our Father who art in heaven to hear our prayer and work to give us our daily bread.
We trust Him to forgive us our sins—that He has forgiven them in Christ.
We trust Him to deliver us from evil—that He has delivered us in Christ.
We wait—every week—and hope for God to do exactly as He has promised.
And here, today, He’s doing just that:
“Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” (Matthew 21:5).
Behold, the donkey, the tattered outlaw of the earth, bears the Christ into Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna,” “Save us now!”
Behold, the Man, the Christ, our God and King, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He bears the burden of cross and sin and wrath of God to save us now.
And He does.
In His death, God is satisfied, and now, that being the case, so are we.
During Advent, we wait for something we know is coming.
We wait for something we know what is.
We wait because it’s good for us.
You don’t have Christmas before Advent.
You don’t eat Thanksgiving dinner before you prepare it.
You don’t enjoy the wedding night before the wedding day.
You wait, and hope, and in the Lord you renew your strength, satisfied that your King is coming to you.
To save you.
And He does.
Whether you do Advent well or not or not at all, it is the Lord’s Advent, His coming to us, to bear our sin and be our savior.
To draw us to the Father.
To call us to Himself.
To raise us out of death to life.
And He does.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Advent 1 Sermon, 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt