Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1) Sermon, 2017
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
It’s not Christmas yet, but how many of you have been listening to Christmas music?
Do you have any favorites? I most certainly do—I sing them all the time. As soon as I hear someone else singing Christmas music, as soon as I hear it on the radio, I’ll sing it for months.
But it’s not Christmas. Not yet. It’s Advent.
And Advent means coming.
So, as the last few weeks of the Church year warn us to be prepared for Christ’s return and judgment, Advent announces His coming.
First, He came to us at Christmas.
And He came in humility.
Jesus’ second coming will be on Judgment Day where He’ll come again in glory to judge both the quick and the dead.
He came in humility. He will come in glory.
“A God who is everywhere is no better than a God who is nowhere, if He isn’t somewhere for me” (Dr. Norman Nagel).
Today, He comes to us in His gospel and sacraments. He comes to us in love. He comes to make his home with us. Here, in His Word and Sacrament, we know that God is for us.
Here, where Jesus comes to us and to all, we have the hope of everlasting life.
But where Jesus does not come, there is no hope.
Where He is not for you, no certainty of salvation.
That we may be certain of our hope, let’s look at how Jesus comes to us.
First, Jesus comes with knowledge.
In Proverbs chapter eight, Solomon calls Him wisdom. In John chapter one, St. John calls Him the Word.
He knows everything there is to know.
And for us to know Him is for us to know God.
Jesus knew where the donkey was and where the colt was. He knew that someone would ask them why they needed them. St. Mark records how the disciples told those who asked that the Lord had need of them and they immediately let them take the animals.
Jesus knew what was written about Him by the prophet Zechariah, and He knew He had to fulfill it.
Zechariah wrote: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
Jesus knew because Jesus is all knowing; He is omniscient.
God alone is omniscient. And Jesus is omniscient. So, Jesus is God. There is nothing He doesn’t know.
This would be a terrifying thought if we didn’t know that Jesus is for us.
But how do we know that?
If Jesus is God, and God speaks through his law, and we’ve disobeyed God’s law, doesn’t it stand to reason that Jesus knows every sin we’ve ever committed?
And if He does, how can this knowledge bring us anything but anxiety, if not outright fear?
Again, it’s not Christmas yet, but how many of you have already been listening to Christmas music?
One particular song comes to mind:
“He knows when you are sleeping; He knows when you’re awake; He knows if you’ve been bad or good, So be good, for goodness’ sake!” (“Santa Clause is Coming to Town”).
Now, if there was a Santa Claus flying around on eight, tiny reindeer, he couldn’t possibly know when you’re sleeping, when you’re awake, and whether you’ve been bad or good.
But that’s beside the point.
The point parents want their kids to pick up on is that if you’re good, mom and dad will have hair left to buy your what you want for Christmas, and, if not, they won’t.
As any good Buddhist knows, that’s karma.
What goes around comes around. Or, as we sing it at Christmas time, “You better watch out…”
But this is also more than karma.
This is Christianity.
St. Paul writes in Galatians that we reap what we sow. He says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
If we reap what we sow, the coming of the One who knows everything we’ve ever thought, said, or done is a time, not to celebrate, but to avoid.
Jesus really does know when you’re sleeping. He really does know when you’re awake. And He really does know what you’ve done, left undone, wanted to do, and talked about doing.
He’s omniscient. And He’s coming soon.
But look and see how He comes!
He comes with knowledge, yes. But He comes, also, in humility. He comes in meekness.
He who will judge the hearts and minds of the entire human race, who knows every sin you’ve ever committed, He comes in humility.
He comes to die for you.
His ride on the donkey into Jerusalem wasn’t a spontaneous decision.
He did it deliberately.
The confession of faith and outpouring of praise from the crowd was in fulfillment of Psalm 118. They confessed Him to be the Christ, the Son of David.
They cried out to Him for salvation.
They worshipped Jesus as their Savior, and He accepted their praise.
Then He went to the cross to die.
So the ride on the donkey was a ride unto death.
Why else would He come to Jerusalem but to die there? He went to the place where sacrifices are made and shed His blood for the sin of the world.
He knew He would be rejected.
He knew He would suffer.
He knew He would bear in His own body the sin of the world.
That’s why He came.
That’s why He came in humility.
He came to obey the will of his Father. He came to fulfill the demands of the law. He came to suffer the penalty for the world’s disobedience.
When Jesus came in humility, He embraced what humility would require of Him.
Humility requires obedient suffering.
Pride refuses to suffer for anything, much less for the sins of others. Pride challenges God’s authority. Pride scoffs at the benefit of humble obedience. Pride sets itself up as a judge of God and neighbor.
“Pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18).
But God came to rescue us from that destruction.
The Son of God, sharing the majesty and glory and power of His Father, chose to become our brother, to share our human nature.
He chose to humble Himself and obey the divine law, all the way to His humiliating death on the cross.
But there, lifted up and mocked by the world, God obtained the greatest glory.
By His willing obedience and perfect sacrifice on the Cross, God was given greater glory than all the religious acts of religious people combined.
It was the greatness of love.
Why did the crowd worship him? Why did they offer him such a beautiful liturgy of praise?
Because He loved them.
He loved them, and they knew it.
He didn’t come to judge them or punish them.
He came to rescue them from the threatening perils of their sins. The almighty God rode the royal road to our redemption, hiding His power under meekness and humility.
Humility is how God saves sinners.
God becomes a man in order to humble Himself and die.
That is the greatness of our God.
That is how people corrupted by sin and unable to sanctify themselves are forgiven and set free.
That is how God is glorified.
His greatest glory is in separating sins from sinners.
So we, sinners, come to God in need of help.
And God, perfect and holy, comes to us, to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
Here, God comes to us and for us, that we eat and drink for the forgiveness of our sins.
We come to God burdened by guilt.
He comes to us to cover that guilt and to take away our burdens.
We come, confessing our sins of pride and self-promotion.
He comes to us with perfect knowledge.
But in knowing us, He neither turns away from us in disgust, nor turns against us in anger, but comes to us in love.
Your king comes to you.
He comes to you.
He comes to you. Not just to the other Christians who have everything together and are living good Christian lives. He comes to you who’ve repeatedly fallen short in your Christian duty and squandered the many opportunities God has given you.
He comes to you to forgive you and restore you and strengthen you.
There’s only one way to meet Him.
God comes to you not that you be afraid but that you believe He is your God and sing hosanna to the Lord!
Amen! Come Lord Jesus.
It’s good to remember that it’s Advent.
That Jesus is coming to us, to save us.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!