Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for this morning is taken from the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter 21. We focus on the words, “The Lord Has Need of Them”.
Our Lord’s coming is one of humility and lowliness. One could hardly imagine a more contrary approach to what we call the Christmas season than Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Yet for more than a thousand years, the Church has welcomed each new church year not with the Annunciation or one of the pre-Christmas stories, but rather with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. If ever there was evidence that God’s ways are not our ways, this is it.
But there it is. While we shop ‘til we drop and have days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in the Church our eyes are fixed on Jesus. This is a season of contrasts for the Christian. On the one hand, the themes of family and friends and gift giving are certainly good and appropriate. It resonates with our American sense of pride and the way things ought to be. Yet there is this nagging sense that things are not right. Surely there is something more than home and hearth or trees and tinsel.
Jesus, the Righteous Branch, knows something that our world does not remember. His understanding of who you are and what you truly need is deeper, far deeper than we can even fathom. Jesus knows that you are suffering. He knows that you are mourning over your sin and brokenness. He knows that this season, these months, are the hardest of the year for most people. He knows that while you put on a happy face and try to exude Christmas cheer, He knows that there is mourning.
So what do you mourn this holy season? Do you mourn the death of a loved one? Or the shattering of a marriage? The loss of income, of friendship, or of something deeper? What is it that you fear? The unknown? Those inevitable conflicts with family, and the spent expectations which seem so inevitable? Whatever it is that you fear, it is pretty likely that it will be on your mind and in your heart this month. Life has a way of getting in the way when all we want to do is forget. And no amount of forgetfulness pills in alcohol and food and shopping are going to change that.
But back to our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. The scene is set just a few days away from our Lord’s betrayal and death at the hands of sinners. They are in Bethphage, just a scant mile from the holy city. This city was really the dugout or batter’s box for the priests. They went there after their service in the Temple, and it was there that they prepared for service in the Lord’s house. You couldn’t travel more than a mile on the Sabbath, so this was the staging area for those getting ready to do the Lord’s bidding at His house. So here is Jesus, ready to do the ultimate service of sacrifice, getting ready to go. Jesus then tells the disciples to go into town, find a donkey and a colt, and bring them back. And if anyone questions you about it, say to them quite simply, “The Lord needs them.”
God has a way of pressing things into His service that we never planned or intended. Our grief and our joy. Our sorrows. Even our sins have been pressed into His holy service. For however broken and troubled you are, our Lord with gentleness and care takes all of these pieces of your crazy life and says to you quite simply, “I need this. Can I have this? It would fit in perfectly into my plan for your salvation.” It’s as if God takes inventory of all of the junk in your life, and everything you would toss as as too hard or too painful, that is what He wants to use for His own holy purposes.
I will be the first to admit that this is hard to see at times. Ok. Not hard. Impossible. How can God use all of this junk to prepare me for His appearing? And I’ll be honest with you: I don’t know. I don’t know in my own life, and I don’t know in yours, either. But what our Lord says to you today is that everything you have and everything you are is pressed into His service.
But this is very important to understand. What I am not talking about is the sort of cheesy “God has a plan” sort of talk that we so often try to comfort ourselves with. It goes much deeper than that. What God wants for you this week and every week is that you recognize what is really going on around you through His Word and Spirit. St. Paul put it this way in our Epistle,
“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
So what our Lord asks of you today is simple. Wake up! Remember who you are, a baptized child of God, holy and beloved. Remember that our Lord’s coming is about you. It is about your salvation, which is right here, right now. Jesus Word is here, His body and blood are ever present, offering you forgiveness, life and salvation.
The Lord is our righteousness, we hear in Jeremiah. You, like those people lining the streets for our Lord so many years ago, are here awaiting His coming. You wait, but you wait in the prison cell of your sin and brokenness. But your wait is not in vain. Our righteousness is coming, indeed He has already come for you. He is here, even now, ready to release you from all that binds you and holds in thrall. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote this about this season:
“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes – and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The door to your freedom has been opening in the birth and death and resurrection of our Advent King, the Lord of heaven and earth. Be free. Our king is coming to you. Rejoice, daughter of Zion! Shout and rejoice! Sing with palm branches in your hards and faith in your hearts as we cry out with the people of Jerusalem, angels, archangels and all the company of heaven, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
He is coming for you. He is coming now. He is coming with healing in His wings. He is coming to set you free. Blessed is He who comes.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.