In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christmas is coming. The merchants are in a desperate frenzy. Disappointment and loneliness are crouching at the door.
But the question should never be so much, will it be a happy Christmas full of happy memories or not, but Who is coming? It is not Santa Claus, a kindly elf who gives bad children presents they don’t deserve and who really just loves everyone the same, who just happens to be exactly what our fallen and inwardly turned flesh wishes God were. Santa’s magic is only good for making candy. He doesn’t heal broken hearts. He doesn’t reconciled divorced parents. He comes one day a year and leaves worthless junk.
The Advent question, “who is coming?” is meant to draw our attention to the Christ. Jesus – born in filth, poverty, and shame – comes. He comes to be a Sacrifice worthy of our sins, whether we want Him or not.
We’ve been waiting for this since history began. “From one step out of Eden, through a worldwide flood, during captivities in Egypt and Babylon, God’s people were waiting for the Savior to come. God did not leave them hopeless: He promised the Savior” immediately upon the fall “in Genesis 3, and renewed that promise repeatedly throughout the ages.” We call that promise the Gospel and it is the power of God for salvation.
David begins Psalm 24: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” The Lord who spoke from the burning bush and led the people out of Egypt is the Creator and all-powerful, the only God.
“In verse 3, David abruptly switches subjects. ‘Who may stand before God in His Holy Place?’ The obvious answer is the high priest. David adds that the high priest must have clean hands and a pure heart, and God will bless him.” David then tells us this is Jacob. He is the priest. Remember that God appeared to Jacob in a dream, at the top of a ladder, upon on which angels were ascending and descending. There God promised the Savior again. “Jacob called the place Bethel, ‘house of God,’ a holy place were he had stood. David switches again in verse 7: The King of glory is coming! He’s coming with strength and might, and He’ll reign forever.”
There are some obvious problems. Jacob’s hands, clad in goat skins to deceive his father, were hardly clean, and neither was his heart pure. So how can he stand before God in His holy place and be our priest? You know the answer. David didn’t just start speaking of the Savior in verse 7. He’s been speaking of Jesus, the Lord Creator in the Flesh, the Redeemer, all along. Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, is our High Priest. Jacob, like all prophets, priests, and kings was only a pale imitation. Jesus can stand in the holy place for He is holy, He is good. And He, as our Priest, has made the perfect sacrifice in Himself and now sits at the right hand of God where He intercedes for us. He’s the ladder that Jacob saw in His dream. He bridges heaven and earth, not that we might ascend, but that God might dwell among us, and the Holy Angels would be able to serve us. He is the King of Glory who reigns forever with power and might, the fulfillment of all the Psalms, of all the promises, of all the Law and types.
And that is how He comes enter into Jerusalem on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. He is the King of Glory come in perfect humility. Like all kings, His glory is in His might, but His might is distinct from all other kings, for it is not in violence and strength against others but it is in suffering violence against Himself. This might is perfect and complete and is thus known in weakness. It is unlike any other might. The devil is a strong man well-equiped to guard his kingdom. But He is undone by the stronger man, Jesus Christ, who empties him of his strength. The ram that took Isaac’s place showed us the kind of Substitute that would take our place. He was caught by his horns, by his strength. The Lord’s strength is His love and His mercy. He is caught. For either He lets the devil have us as his rightful prey or He Himself becomes the devil’s prey to crush the devil’s head.
You know the answer. The Lord is strong enough to submit to all that Hell can dish out and to die. He is strong enough to not look back or hold a grudge, to do whatever it takes to win us back. He is strong enough to empty Hell, the Law, death, and sin of all its fury, to take it all into Himself, and extinguish it there. The devil’s teeth tear Him apart put they are ground dull and soft in the killing so that there is nothing left for us.
That is why we sing, “O Death, where is thy sting?” Death is spent, empty, done. He has no ammo, no strength left. The Law has issued all its accusations into the Christ and cannot now even think of any against you. They cannot hold you. They cannot accuse you. You are the royal heir, with the watery Name of God written upon you in cross shaped letters. Christ has satisfied the Law, death, Hell, and the devil on your behalf. He opens heaven for you. He calls you His own. He hands over the kingdom as a dowry even though you are the Bride. And along with that great strength to face and submit to death, without breaking or ever thinking of Himself, He is also strong enough to rise again out of death and open life eternal and the resurrection to all who believe in Him.
He rides into Jerusalem, a King, unknown by heads of state, despised by the upper class, five days before He is lifted up from the earth and eight before He will rise. He rides, the King, to His people’s praise and cries for salvation, and He who will bear their burdens in Himself and will clothe them with His own righteousness sits upon their clothes, draped on donkey and the road, upon a beast of burden.
For this, He is born in a stable and laid in a manger. For this, He rides, today into our midst, risen from the dead, in bread and wine that we would partake of His Holy Body and Blood and our hands be clean, our hearts made pure, our Hosannas ever more sincere and urgent. If we be desperate, let it not be for economic recovery and prosperity, let it not be for our children to love us and our peers to respect us, let us be desperate, eager, focused, and hopeful for salvation. If loneliness and disappointment crouch at the door, let us cover the doorposts of our hearts with the blood of Christ and know that whateve4r befall us, the angel of death will pass over.
Lift up your heads and rejoice. The King comes to you in perfect love.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Quoted portions from Rev. Tim Pauls’ daily Advent devotions “The Advent of Our King.” Hard copies of the devotions are available in the Narthex or you can download them at scholia.net.
Pastor David Petersen