Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1), December 2, 2012
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.