02 December 2012

King Jesus Comes into His Holy City

Behold, the Days are here, which the Lord your God has promised.  Your blessed King — the Christ, the Righteous Son of David — He has come, according to the Scriptures.  God has fulfilled His good Word in Him, in Jesus Christ of Nazareth; He has established justice and righteousness on earth — by the Cross of His Anointed, and in His Resurrection from the dead.

Death is abolished, because sin is forgiven; and there is peace on earth, because there is peace in heaven.  For God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.  His favor is upon you in Him.

This is the justice of God, the exercise of His almighty power in mercy, according to His grace.

Now the Church is saved, and she lives in safety by this Gospel, resting in the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is her Righteousness.  He is her surety, regardless of her location or her circumstances.

This blessed King, your Savior, reigns in love over His Church, and she increases in love for God and man.  She loves her dear children and her neighbors, even her enemies, because in Christ Jesus she is established without blame in holiness before God.  She is forgiven all her sins by His Cross.  She is justified in His Resurrection from the dead.  She is sanctified by His Holy Spirit.  And she abides with the Holy Triune God, forever and ever, in the Royal Priesthood of Christ Jesus.

All of this is yours, within His Holy Church, by the way and the means of His Gospel.  For He daily and richly completes and fills up whatever is lacking in your faith and life, by the Ministry of those whom He sends to you in His Name, who deal with you according to His Word.  And it is just as He has spoken:  “Your sins are forgiven.”

Repent, therefore, and believe this Gospel.  For the Lord has need of you.  Not that He is lacking in anything, but that you may be complete in Him, and live with Him in His Kingdom by His grace.

The coming of this Lord Jesus into His holy city of Jerusalem is really a twofold coming, a twofold Advent: That is, He comes to His Church on earth, and He comes to His Father in heaven.

He comes to offer up Himself, once for all, in faith and love, as the Sacrifice of Atonement for the sins of the whole world; to enter in, with His own flesh and blood, into the Most Holy Place.  But so does He also come to His people on earth, to call them and gather them unto Himself, and to give Himself to them in love, so that He should bring them to the Father, in and with Himself.

It is for this Royal Priesthood of His that He has been anointed as the Christ (the Messiah).

That is why He sends His disciples (who by this sending are Apostles) to unloose the colt, the foal of a donkey, and to bring it to Him.  That is why they set the Lord Jesus upon it, that He might ride that beast of burden into the city, to the Cross; that He might become the true King of Israel, not by oppression and violence, but as the One who comes in the Name of the Lord to bear the burden of sin and death for His people, and to bear His people in His own Body unto God.

It is this very thing that He now does for you by the Ministry of His Gospel, by His means of grace.  He sends His servants to untie you, to loose you from your sins, from the bondage of guilt and shame, and from the fear of death.  In His Name they set you free, and they bring you to Him, with His royal Word of Holy Absolution.  They clothe you as one of His disciples in Holy Baptism.  And they set this Lord Jesus upon you, upon your heart and mind; His Body and His Blood upon your lips and tongue, in the Holy Communion.  So does He abide in you, and you abide in Him, unto the resurrection of your body; unto the life everlasting of both your body and your soul.

Indeed, on this First Sunday in Advent, this Holy Gospel ushers you into the Divine Liturgy, and the Liturgy ushers you into this same Gospel: It calls you to receive this dear Lord Jesus Christ, the blessed King who comes to you here, in the midst of His Jerusalem, and so to enter with Him into that eternal City whose Architect and Builder is God.

Which is to say that, in this Liturgy of the Gospel, Christ Jesus comes to you here, that you may come with Him into the presence of His God and Father.

Have you not heard, in this Holy Gospel, the Gloria in Excelsis and the Benedictus?  The “Glory to God in the Highest,” and the “Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord.”  Just as you also sing this morning with the whole Christian Church, in heaven and on earth; as she ever sings at all times and in all places.  And have you not heard the Prophet of the Lord, calling out to you?  Rejoice!  Shout aloud!  Bless the Lord your King, who comes to you now.  It is truly meet, right, and salutary that you should so give Him thanks and praise, especially here in His holy House.

Therefore, in the Eucharist, the song of the angels, the never-ending song of heaven, is sung here in the Church on earth.  For God has come in the flesh to dwell among men, and in Christ Jesus, man has entered into the presence of God in peace and joy.

More than pretty poetry and pleasant piety, this is what He actually gives to you and does for you in the Sacrament of His Altar.  Here He is, the Holy, Holy, Holy One, who sanctifies you with His own holiness, with His own holy Body, and with His holy and precious Blood.

This is how He reigns over you in love, by and with His Gospel.  And this is how He establishes His Kingdom on earth: In the Life of His Church, to be sure, despite her own frailty and weakness under the Cross.  He establishes His Kingdom in the Liturgy, which is the heart and center of the Church’s Life, both here in time, and hereafter in eternity.

So does He also establish His Kingdom on earth in the love of all His saints: their love for one another, for strangers and aliens, for widows and orphans, and even for their enemies, for those who hate them and hurt them and persecute them viciously.  They love by the grace of their King, who is Love.  For the pattern of His Divine Liturgy is the pattern of His Church’s Life in Him, in this world and the next; just as Moses once constructed the Tabernacle and arranged the entire Old Testament Liturgy according to the pattern which God showed to him on the Mountain.

The Lord Jesus exercises His dominion over this fallen world, and over against the devil, death and hell, by this new Life that He now lives in you.  For He abides in you with His grace, by His means of grace, and so do you abide in Him, in faith and love, in patience and in peace.

This is the Truth of His coming (His Advent), though you may not be feeling it at all; even though you may, in fact, be feeling more dead than alive, more impatient and cynical than faithful.  Your experience is that of sin and its consequences, all around you and within you.

You are still a colt, the foal of a donkey.

But Jesus comes to set you free, and to set Himself upon you.  Even so does He now bear you into His holy city.  And so does He also now live in you, as surely as He has died for you, and as surely as He has risen from the dead and lives for you forever.

Right here in His Church is where He enters His Jerusalem, and you enter Jerusalem with Him.  So also in the world, He reigns in peace and love, and you abide with Him in safety, even though you are a stranger and a sojourner on earth.  Because He has entered the holy city, in flesh and blood like yours, by the sacrifice of His Cross.  And God has accepted His Sacrifice, and raised Him from the dead, and received Him to Himself, setting Him at His Right Hand, and setting all of His enemies underneath His feet.  Sin, death, and the devil are defeated, and they are overruled; and you are saved by Him who has subdued them forever.

By the Sacrifice of His Cross, and in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead, God is glorified in the highest, and the Name of the Lord is praised and glorified in His Church on earth, and His Church abides in safety and peace — whether in Jerusalem, in Babylon or Rome, in Nairobi or Jakarta, in Northern Indiana or Southern Michigan.

That is why your heart of stone has become flesh, as He, your Lord, has become flesh and blood for you.  And so it is, that your mouth is opened in praise, to confess His holy Name; and that your lips are silent no more, but they cry out in prayer, in praise and thanksgiving, with the cherubim and seraphim, with St. Michael and all angels, and with the whole great company of heaven.

For, look here, you sons of Israel and daughters of Zion: Behold, your King is coming to you — to justify you with His Righteousness, and to save you with His great Salvation.

He goes on ahead of you, through death and the grave into life everlasting, up to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to His God and Father in the highest.

But He does not leave you behind.

On the one hand, He rejoices over you with great joy before God in heaven, and on the other hand, He is here to bestow the peace of God upon you, which surpasses all human understanding.

Behold, the Days are here.  The good Word of the Lord is spoken and fulfilled.  The Church abides in safety, because her good King Jesus comes to abide with her in mercy.

Here, then, in His Church, the Holy Spirit lays the Lord Jesus upon your heart and mind, upon your body and soul, by the Gospel, in order that you may truly be His own, and live under Him in His Kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

And in His own crucified and risen Body, with His own precious Blood, He bears you through the gates into the Kingdom of heaven, and through the everlasting doors into the presence of God.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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