First Sunday in Advent
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Our lives are filled with first things. There is the first born child in a family. There are the first steps of a child and first words spoken. As a person grows there are many other ‘firsts’ such as first tooth, first day of school and through time the cycle comes back to that person’s first born child.
Today we recognize another first. Today is the first day of Advent, where we anticipate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The incarnation, or the act of our loving Father in heaven sending His only Son into the flesh of human kind, is the first day of the rest of our lives.
We all know that Christ has already redeemed us poor lost and condemned creatures through his holy innocent bitter suffering and death on that tree of crucifixion. We all know that his resurrection to life everlasting was our resurrection to live in the eternal presence with the God of all creation and to eat from the tree of life.
Because of our baptism into the body of Christ, we awake every morning in this new life. Because of the forgiveness of sin through the body and blood given to us by our Savior in the sacrament of Holy Communion, our bodies are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. Through Christ, we are born anew in the Spirit of God Himself. Yes, today is the first day of the rest of our lives.
Today begins our wait for the celebration of that first coming of the only begotten Son of God. This is the celebration of God becoming man in order to fulfill the promise he made to us the first day we betrayed His love by sinning against Him.
We wait just as our forefathers waited. We are not sure the day or the hour but we know God keeps His word.
Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah: [Jer. 33:14]
Jeremiah prophesied the salvation of two kingdoms with a king from God, a Lord of Righteousness who will execute judgment and righteousness in all the earth.
This king would come from the line of David and, “In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell safely.” [Jer. 33:16] And the people prayed, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’ The wait was long, but the people held to the true promise of God.
Interestingly, the Gospel lesson for this first Sunday in Advent does not start at the beginning, but at the beginning of the end. Jesus is at the end of his teaching & preaching and is approaching Jerusalem where he will be beaten, tortured and crucified.
This is not a picture one usually envisions in Advent. No, one usually pictures camels and wise men, sheep and shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and, of course, a newborn baby Jesus. We are supposed to hear about the first day of the rest of Jesus’ life. It is as if someone had opened the book to the wrong chapter.
The birth of the Christ is something to celebrate. His birth means we are not lost. Yet it is the entire life of our Lord that saves us. His life in perfect humbleness and obedience to God is the beginning but it is his death and resurrection that ends our captivity to sin and restores us to life.
Christ has shown his kingship over earth throughout his life; it is now time to fulfill the promise of his Father. Jesus enters the Holy City of Jerusalem as a conquering king. People who have made their pilgrimage to the city for the celebration of Passover have seen and heard the Son of God proclaim his sovereignty over the ruler of this world and rides into the gates of hell to proclaim his lordship over death and the devil.
The Lord who is our Righteousness rides into Jerusalem to execute judgment and to perform that good thing promised to the two kingdoms of heaven and earth. He brings to completion the promise of his Father thus ruling in righteousness in heaven. He conquers death thus bringing the rule of God on earth.
We may now join the whole crowd of disciples joyfully praising God in loud voices:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [Luke 19:37-38]
We need not be silent any longer. Our Lord has come and we are truly saved to truly live.
We now have the assured promise of life, yet we wait for the Second Advent of our Lord. For on that Last Day, Christ will come with all the angels in heaven and in all his glory in a triumphant entrance as the true King of all people. We know he is coming, yet we wait. With all confidence in his promise we pray, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’
Therefore, what are we to do while we wait in this Second Advent? We are to do much the same as humanity did in the first; we are to prepare for the coming of our Lord.
Think of it in the same way you prepare for Christmas. Do you sit idly by or are you busy preparing for that day? We engage in a frenzy of activity this time of year and, as the day grows closer, I am sure more than one of you will say, ‘I can’t wait until it’s over so I can rest.’
During this season, we spend extra time preparing for the visits of family and friends. We prepare more food. We decorate our homes and businesses. We send cards and letters to people we know and even those whom we do not know with messages of joy and thanksgiving. We think of other’s needs and we give what we can to fulfill those needs.
When I was a child, I believed my job at Christmas time was to open the Sears catalog to the toy section and carefully mark all the toys I wanted in order to ease any confusion my parents might have on what to get me.
As adults, we act in the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ in our business dealings, in our interactions with people and with our family. We promote peace and good will to all people. We put our neighbor first and put on the face of joy whether we actually feel it or do not.
Even non-believers act this way, but you and I are members of the body of Christ. We are all in the same family and therefore heirs to kingdom of God. We prepare for the coming of our Lord much in the same ways but with a different goal.
Today is the first day in our Advent season that continues for the rest of our lives. Today we follow the will and commands of our Lord. Jesus commanded us to prepare for his coming by baptizing all people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
He commanded us to visit the lonely and the downtrodden. We are to feed the hungry and heal the sick. We are to adorn our homes and businesses with the word of God through our thought, word and deed. We are to take the joyous message of Christ’s salvation to people we know and to those we do not know.
We are to act in the ‘Spirit of Christ’, that is the Holy Spirit breathed into us by Christ himself. By doing so we will think of the needs of our neighbors and, through Christ, fulfill those needs.
Those who are children in the faith are encouraged to open the Word of our Lord and carefully mark all the gifts and benefits they desire from God so that we may have no confusion on how to faithfully give them, through his teaching, what God desires.
We are to act in the Holy Spirit in our business dealings, in our interactions with people and with our family. We are to promote the peace of Christ to all people. We are to put our neighbor first whether we want to or not.
There will be those who wait until the last minute to prepare for our Lord. There will be those who will refuse to live in the Spirit. There will even be those who say, ‘I don’t believe, do not force your beliefs on me.’ Our Lord has told us that many will reject him, but we are not to decide who receives the message.
We are to forgive our brothers & sisters and we are to ask for forgiveness from each other. We are to love one another as Christ has loved us. Our sacrifices are small at the foot of the cross where Christ made the greatest sacrifice of all.
There will be times when we will say, ‘I can’t wait until it’s over so I can rest.’ Today is the first day of that journey to your eternal rest in Christ Jesus. Live each day as preparation for the coming of our Lord and he will, “…establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” [1 Thess. 3:13]
The first candle in our Advent wreath represents hope.
“Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah:” [Jer. 33:14]
God has fulfilled His promise. Our King now reigns in heaven and on earth. Our hope is that we all see each other in his kingdom fully known in his love.