Tag Archives: Advent

Coming (Advent 1C, December 2, 2012)

1 donkey

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1), December 2, 2012

Luke 19:28-40

12-02-2012advent1.mp3

TITLE: “Coming”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  Our text for this morning is the Gospel lesson just read, with focus on the words from Zechariah, Behold, your King is coming to you.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come to rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins, and save us by Your promised deliverance…we begin our Advent season with that ancient prayer.  Stir up your power, O Lord.  You almost get a picture of someone rousing out of a deep sleep to come and save us.  Or maybe of God baking a great big batch of salvation.  God rises up and comes down to earth to save us.  As Paul wrote in Romans, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  Advent is a time when we look forward and prepare for our Lord’s coming to save us.

But what are we saved from?  We are saved from the threatening perils of our sins.  If you were to ask people today what are the dangers in the world, I think the perils of our sins would be pretty low on the list, wouldn’t it?  This time of year, the threatening perils would be the economy, the Middle East, the violence that seems to shape our world today.  Those are the dangers.  To this list we could perhaps add things for some like materialism, hunger and how to put food on the table.

But what do I need to be saved?  Why does God need to stir anything up?  Why did our Lord have to come down as a humble servant?  This Palm Sunday reading really draws attention to the fact that the way the Church celebrates Advent and Christmas is totally different from how the world celebrates the holidays.  Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly, with palm branches and cries of “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  But He enters on a donkey, the animal of peace, and He enters from the Mount of Olives, the sign of mercy, and He enters as a King who comes to die.  What kind of an entry is this?  What kind of a King comes into His Kingdom in such a humble and lowly fashion?  Only the true King of Israel.  Only your King.  Only Jesus.  And He came because of your sins.  Nothing more, nothing less.

But this is something that is lost on all of us.  For the world and those all around us, Advent is a time of hurried preparations and excitement.  Advent is a time for baking, a time for parties and a time for buying presents.  For many, too, Advent becomes a time of great stress.  The bills go up, you see friends and family more, which is sometimes good and sometimes not so good.  Oftentimes you see people you frankly don’t want to see.  It’s a time when we long for peace and tranquility, but it always seems just around the corner, always just out of our grasp.

To this our Lord says, “step back, and remember that my life is your life, and that what is important to me is what makes you who you are.”  In other words, Advent is about Jesus, about who He is, and about why He had to come to earth to save us.

Our Lord comes down to earth to save you from the threatening perils of your sins.  You are held fast in Satan’s chains.  He is the one who has control over you by nature.  Your sins cling to you with cords of death.  The trials and troubles of this life are just glimpses of that great battle which goes own for your soul every day.  But our Lord enters into this world as a humble King, lowly and sitting on a donkey.  And when He enters into this world, He enters into your life.  The crazy, topsy-turvy nature of your life then becomes His life.  For you.

Think back to our text for a moment.  Jesus enters into Jerusalem, the Holy City, on a donkey.  People wave Palm branches before Him, and since this was the Feast of Tabernacles for the Jews, they are all wearing white robes, which they lay down on the road before Him.  But Jesus is not a King that comes to destroy.  He doesn’t ride a horse, the animal of war.  He rides a donkey, an animal of peace.  For He brings a peace that cannot be bought, it cannot be negotiated or won in the usual way.  The Prince of Peace comes to bring peace by His own death.

For dear friends, peace always has a price.  It’s true in places like Iraq and around the world, and it is especially true when it comes to our everlasting peace with God.  Sometimes when we search for peace, we want a peace with no cost.  Dear friends, that isn’t peace, that’s appeasement.  That’s avoiding the conflict which has caused the war to begin.

This is why Jesus great and wonderful title as the Prince of Peace is so comforting.  He is the price for your peace with God.  He is the payment for your sins.  That is why we pray that God would stir up His power and come.  It is a wonderful and amazing thing, but when God stirs up and power to come down and save us from the threatening peril of our sins, He does it in a way that we cannot even dream of.  He comes to take your place.  He comes to make everything right which you because of your sin have ruined and messed up.

What a comfort that is to hurting sinners like you and I!  You don’t need to feel guilty for your failures and shortcomings.  The burdens which plague you and trouble you are now his.  He takes them off of your shoulders and puts them on himself.  And in their place He puts His own life.

This is why we can say with the crowds that day, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!  Hosanna means Lord save us!  God has promised to come and save us.  This Advent we remember the beginning of that great journey for heaven to earth and back again for you.  God stirs up his power, and in His work things are far better than they ever were before.  We pray:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come to rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins, and save us by Your promised deliverance; for You now live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting.  Amen.

Advent Donkey Preachers

We’ve all heard how if He could use a donkey then perhaps even me. Commendable humility, but don’t stop there looking at your humility–there’s more to being His donkey than that, gloriously much more. You are His donkey as you are no one else’s. Now there’s freedom! Let no one take it from you or lay on you some other yoke. …The yoke He puts on you at ordination. You belong, then, to no other lord, no other work, than what He puts you to do, than what He does by His use of you. You instrument. You donkey. For His use, for His doing, and so, Holy Ministry. …A yoke can be bondage, but not our Lord’s. He knows His donkeys and exactly where they are as Mark tells us with vivid locatedness. He has promised to be with them whom He sends. He is not a burden who crushes them. Quite the reverse. Who’s carrying whom? Dr. Luther has faithful donkey Peter say if we drown He does too. Royal donkeys. If that got through to us we would, as Luther was wont to say, die of joy.

 

Norman Nagel,

In the Name of Jesus, Advent 1, 1994

“The Lord Has Need of Them” – Advent 1 (Ad Te Levavi) 2011

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.

 

Advent Longing

Annunciation 1 large

It is always dangerous to say that a season is my favorite time of the year.  But there it is.  Right now Advent is my favorite time of the year.  The hymns are sublime, the Gospel is clear and beautiful.  The hope of the One to Come washes over you like a flood.

The longing of Advent for me is also closely associated with death.  Our daughter, Nadia, died in utero the day after Thanksgiving in 2005.  Our Son, Emmanuel, died in utero on December 21, 2009.  My mother died on January 9.  So this season is really a time of longing for me.  Longing for what is gone.  Longing for what can never be.

But that really is what our Lord’s coming is all about.  Our Lord’s birth is miraculous.  It should not have happened.  By all reason and common sense, it is impossible.  Yet it is true.

This season as we long for what is lost, look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  He is the One who wipes away our tears.  He is the one who will create all things new.  He is the one who has gives us hope (Nadia) by becoming one with our flesh and blood.  He is God-with-Us (Emmanuel).

Lord, make all things new.  I hope in your Word alone.

-Pr. Peperkorn

 

Losing the Cares of the Season in the Blood of Jesus (Advent 4, 2010)

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Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Messiah Lutheran Church

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Advent 4 (Dec. 19, 2010 rev. from 2003)

John 1:19-28

Advent4-2010_01

TITLE: “Losing the Cares of the Season in the Blood of Jesus”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  Our text for today is from John chapter 1, Prepare the way of the Lord, and also the words from our Epistle: Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

This is hardly the time of year for us to be talking about letting go of anxiousness.  There is more anxiety this month than the other eleven months of the year combined.  Don’t you ever wonder why that is?  What is it about the way we celebrate and remember our Lord’s birth that makes it so that we hardly have time to sit down, far less meditate and reflect upon the Word of God that was made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary?

And yet here it is.  These two messages from God’s Word, side by side: Prepare the way of the Lord and don’t be anxious.

So let’s do a little bit of self-examination according to the Word of God right now.  What is it about your preparation for the coming of the Messiah which makes you anxious?  In other words, how do you prepare for Christmas?  What does it mean to prepare for Christmas?

What it means for the world is decorating the house, making cookies, buying lots of presents, eating, drinking, maybe caroling, being with family, and the like.  Church, I suppose, might fit in there somewhere.  And, as we talked about last week, everything that can go wrong will go wrong in the month of December.

Now I’m going to tell you something that is very important and yet may offend your sensibilities a little bit, but in keeping with John the Baptist it seems both appropriate and necessary.  The Lord doesn’t care what your house looks like on Christmas.  He doesn’t care how nice your presents are or what the tree looks like.  He doesn’t care what you have for Christmas dinner or whether Aunt Thelmalou is going to make it from up north this year.  That is not what the Lord means when he says prepare.  Well, I should back up a little bit.  It’s not that He doesn’t care.  He cares very much.  But that’s not what he means when he says to prepare for Christmas.

What He means when he says prepare is repent.  Repent of believing that you have everything under control.  Repent of believing that Christmas is all about you and all about your traditions and niceties which seem so very important at the time.  Repent, for if these things distract you from the real point of Christmas, then they do not serve you and your family, they have enslaved you by pulling your attention away from Jesus and His work for you.

Is that possible?  Is it possible in this most holy of seasons that in the midst of all of the hustle and bustle and silver bells and cockleshells that we might actually forget about Jesus?  It certainly seems that way.  Maybe you read the article in the paper this past week about the public school here in town that forgot to put any Christmas music in their holiday concert.  The answer, of course, was that in the midst of Kwanza and Hannukah and all of the other really important holidays, well, it seems like they just forgot.

Now it’s easy to poke fun at others, but John the Baptist preaches to you today, not them.  We shouldn’t expect the world to understand the Gospel.  But John asks you the question today, have you prepared your heart for the coming of the Righteous One?  Have you reflected on why Jesus had to come to earth as a little baby?  Do you know why He came?  He came to die.  That’s it.  It is your sins that caused Him to come down and die.  That is something worth reflecting on.

This gets us a long way toward letting go of the anxiousness of the season that the devil and the world try to thrust upon us.   It is his goal to see to it that all of the “stuff” that makes your life crazy and stressed and hard to deal with will draw your eye away from the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

So enough talking about you.  Let’s talk about Jesus.  For that is what the season is really about, isn’t it?  In fact, that is exactly how Paul understands this whole question of rejoicing and anxiousness.  Remember Paul’s words again from our Epistle reading: Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God

Paul calls on you to rejoice this season and be gentle toward everyone you meet.  Why?  Because Santa is watching?  Hardly.  Paul calls on you to rejoice because the Lord is at hand.  The Lord is at hand.  He is waiting at the door.  Right around the corner.  He is nearby.  He is so near, in fact, that he is in your ears by His Word and in your mouth by His Sacrament.  That is how close the Lord is.  And that is what Advent and Christmas are all about.  Jesus.  For He comes down mightily to save you.

So think of it this way.  The Almighty Lord and King of the Universe is just about to rain down His salvation from heaven in the form of his only begotten Son.  The He is coming down for you, and only for you.  That is the message of the preacher, John the Baptist.  Right after our Gospel reading for this morning, John points to Jesus and says behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as our choir sang so beautifully a few minutes ago.  He is the very Lamb of God, who takes away all your sins.  And if your sins are gone, then what is there to be anxious about?  If God will come down to earth to die for your sins, then I believe that he will take care of whatever it is that causes you worry and anxiousness.

Jesus is coming soon, dear Christians.  He is coming soon for you.  Cast aside all of your troubles and worry that this and every season seem to bring on.  Cast them away!  For in the light of His eternal love, they are but a gentle snowfall on a midwinter’s day.  Jesus is coming.  Let us pray:

Stir up your power, O Lord, we implore You, and come among us, that by Your grace whatever is hindered by our sins may yet be speedily accomplished through Your mercy and satisfaction; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith unto life everlasting.  Amen.