Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why We Start Here

First Sunday in Advent
November 29, 2009
Luke 19:28–40

Today is not Palm Sunday. Today is quite a ways away from Palm Sunday. Lent is even a bit away; we haven’t even gotten into Christmas yet. Today we begin the Church Year and the Church Year always begins with Advent. So why do we start here, with the account of Palm Sunday?

Because we always start in the same way. Your focus is always on the cross. Today’s Gospel reading is pointing us to the cross. Each portion of the Church Year will be preparing us for Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week and the Passion of our Lord. That week is at the center of the Church Year and the center of history and the center of our lives. From Easter on through the rest of the Church Year, there is nothing that is different from our focus. It remains on Christ and Him crucified. The one who is risen from the grave is the one who suffered on the cross for the sins of the world. The Lamb who was slain is the one who reigns forever in glory.

Throughout the Church Year our focus will be on Christ and Him crucified. As we move through the Church Year we will be centered in Him and His cross. Everything we hear in the seasons and Sundays of the Church Year will flow from that singular event of history, the crucifixion of our Lord.

That is why we start here. Throughout Advent we will be preparing for our celebration of the birth of our Lord. We will have an eye also toward that Coming of our Lord that is yet to be, the glorious Return on the Last Day. Because of that, our eye will also be on the coming of our Lord here in time and nature in our Baptism and His Holy Supper; in the proclamation of the Gospel and the pronouncement of the Absolution.

Why we start here with the account of Palm Sunday is to help us see that the birth of Christ is not so much a beginning but a prelude. What Luke tells us in the Gospel reading is more of a beginning: “When He had said these things, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” He was beginning His trek toward the cross. That’s what we need to be focusing on here at the beginning of the Church Year.

As He entered Jerusalem, He did so in a way that seems odd to us. He came in on a donkey. He came in with pomp and circumstance, but that was because of the crowd. They were singing His praises. But the donkey is what really tells us what our Lord is about. He is about coming in humble means. As we prepare for our celebration of Christ’s birth we ought to prepare now that His coming as Savior was not in glory but in humility. He didn’t come in a castle but a stable. Not much changed thirty years later when He entered into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Not much has changed even two thousand years later. He still loves to come to us. And He still comes in humility. He comes to us in the water and the Word. He comes to us in the bread and the wine. In the lowly words spoken by a preacher. In the simple words on the pages of the Bible. Why we start here is because that entrance into Jerusalem by Jesus really says it all. He came in a lowly way to die a lowly death.

He did this to raise us to the highest heaven. To the heights of His eternal glory. And if we are tempted to seek glory apart from the humble coming of our Lord in a manger, a donkey, and a cross, then we ought to be reminded that our Lord can cause even the stones to cry out His praises. If we can be replaced with stones we shouldn’t think too highly of ourselves. What we ought to do is simply see ourselves in light of the cross. Our lives are bound up in the cross. That’s why we start here and why we continue through the Church Year and our lives in looking to the cross and living because of the cross.

The Lord who had need of a donkey to usher Him to the cross has need of water that washes away your sins in Baptism, ushering you into the Kingdom of Heaven. The Lord who had need of a donkey to carry Him to the place where He would sacrifice His body and shed His blood for the sins of the world has need of bread and wine that carries Him into your mouth for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins. The King who came in the name of the Lord on Palm Sunday is the King who comes in your Baptism and His Holy Supper to bring you peace in heaven and glory in the highest.

Why we start here is because it’s where our focus always is and where we always end up. Look to the cross and there you will see your salvation. He brings it to you in His Word and Sacraments and will bring you into it in glory when He returns in glory on the Last Day. Now is a prelude, then will be the beginning for you of eternity. Amen.


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