Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Daily readings for December 4-10, 2011

The signs in the heavens, the distress of nations, and the perplexities upon earth are nothing for the Christian to fear. Although the whole world might be falling apart around us, the Christian takes courage from the Lord's Word because He knows that these are merely the signs of the Lord's coming. The Lord is in complete and total charge and He will not forsake His flock, no matter how difficult the end times might get. The Lord will have "the last laugh" on the last day, for everyone "will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." Our response to the signs of tribulation of the end times is to "look up," or anticipate the Lord's return all the more. In other words, when we see the signs which cause the world great distress, we are called to be encouraged that the Lord is fulfilling His Word just as He said. "This generation," the church, "will by no means pass away till all things are fulfilled. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." That is wonderful comfort for the redeemed of the Lord!

            2012 LUTHERAN WITNESS – Renewal rate for 2012 will be $15.75.  If you plan to renew your subscription, please advise Jane Jones as soon as possible.
         CHURCH DECORATING: On Sunday, we will decorate the church for Advent and Christmas. This will take place right after the Thrivent Lunch.
            LWML will have its annual Christmas gathering on December 15. We will meet at Doc’s Soda Fountain in Girard at 11:30 to eat and play games. At 1:30 we will visit Shut-ins.
            OPEN HOUSE: Pastor and Valerie will once again host an open house for the members of Trinity. It will be on Sunday, December 18th from 2:00 – 5:00 pm.
            ADVENT MIDWEEK SERVICES: Services will be held on Wednesday, December 7, 14, and 21, will begin at 7:00 p.m. Dessert will be provided after the service. This weeks Theme: “Mary.”
            CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS PROGRAM PRACTICE: The Children’s Christmas program practice will be held each Sunday at 9:00 am. Dress rehearsal is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, December 22, from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm. A pizza party will follow dress rehearsal.
            CHRISTMAS EVE: Christmas Eve Children’s Service will be at 5:30pm. The Christmas Eve Candlelight Service will be at 11:00 pm.
            CHRISTMAS DAY SERVICE will be at 8:00 a.m.
            Food Pantry Assistance
Assist at Virden Food Pantry December  13 2-3 pm.
Assist at Girard Food Pantry December  22 1-3 pm.

Daily Lectionary For December 4-10, 2011
Dec 4                                 Daniel 11:36-12:13, 1 John 4:1-21, Psalms 123:1-4
Dec 5                                       Hosiah 1:1-3:5, 1 John 5:1-21, Psalms 124:1-8
Dec 6                                      Hosiah 4:1-5:15, 2 John 1:1-13, Psalms 125:1-5
Dec 7                                      Hosiah 6:1-9:17, 3 John 1:1-14, Psalms 126:1-6
Dec 8                                       Hosiah 10:1-14:9, Jude 1:1-25, Psalms 127:1-5
Dec 9                                    Joel 1:1-3:21, Revelation 1:1-20, Psalms 128:1-6
Dec 10                                                                  Looking ahead to Advent 3      Isaiah 40:1–11, 1 Corinthians 4:1–5, Matthew 11:2–11

Isaiah 40:1–11, 1 Corinthians 4:1–5, Matthew 11:2–11
John the Baptizer Prepares the Way for the Lord
The voice of the Baptizer cried out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord . . .” (Isa. 40:1). John called the people to be made ready for the Messiah’s coming through repentance, for “all flesh is grass” (Isa. 40:6). Now He asks from prison, “Are you the one who is to come . . .?” (Matt. 11:2). Jesus’ works bear witness that He is. The sick are made well; the dead are raised, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. Their iniquity is pardoned; they have received from the Lord’s hand double forgiveness for all their sins. The “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1) still deliver Christ’s overflowing forgiveness to the poor in spirit, comforting God’s people with the word of the Gospel which stands forever. This Gospel produces rejoicing among all those who believe.

Saturday       December 3         5:30 pm                                     Worship Service
Sunday         December 4          9:00 am Children and Youth Christmas Practice
                                            9:00 am                                            Bible Class
                                            10:00 am                                     Worship Service
                                             3:00 pm                          Adult Information Class
Monday        December 5         5:00 pm                                       Decorate Float
Wednesday   December 7         5:00 pm                                         Confirmation
                                             7:00 pm                        Advent Midweek Vespers
                                             7:30 pm                                                       AA
Thursday      December 8        10:00 am                                       LuHigh Chapel                          Thanksgiving
Friday          December 9         5:30 pm                                Christmas in Virden
Saturday     December 10        5:30 pm                                     Worship Service

We are once again collecting coats, sweaters, hats, and gloves for elementary age children. Please place them on or under the tree at the entrance to church.

2nd Sunday in Advent December 3-4, 2011

Populus Zion – The Second Sunday in Advent
December 3-4, 2011

One area I wish I was better at is time management. I tend to work best on a deadline. If something isn’t due today or tomorrow, it’s easy for me to put it off. One exception to my usual habit of procrastination was when a brilliant but highly unpredictable professor in seminary told us that we were going to be tested on his book entitled, “A Latin Ecclesiastical Glossary.” The book is only 53 pages, but it’s 53 pages of Latin theological terms all in very small print. “When is the test going to be?” “Sometime this quarter,” he replied.
Seriously? He’s not giving us a date? How am I supposed to get ready for that? One more question: Which terms will be tested? “All of them.” Of course, the book is filled with great phrases to help the seminarian spice up his life, like media gratia instrumenta iustificationis (The means of grace are the instruments of justification).

A week or three went by, and there was no mention of it again. Most of the students assumed he’d forgotten about it, and so didn’t study the book, of which each horrible page has between 40-50 Latin phrases. Now if you’re going to memorize all 53 pages of this beastly booklet, you need to be pounding away at it every day. The test is coming, but you don’t know when. Unless, of course, you subscribe to the theory that the test is just a myth, that there really won’t be one.

It wasn’t a myth. The day finally came when the professor walked in six or seven weeks later and started passing out the exam. Howls of protest went up, with seminarians muttering about how unfair it all was, that the professor hadn’t given adequate warning. “I told you there’d be a test!” he barked.

The Day of the Lord is coming, the day of judgment. There won’t be a test; the kingdom of God has no entrance quiz. Sins—your sins—are atoned for in the death of Jesus. But for those who reject that, those who eschew repentance and live as if God did not matter and as if they mattered most, that day will come as a snare, a trap, a day of judgment and wrath. I’m sure the cry will go up, “You did not warn us!” Maybe we all really should make signs that say “The End Is Near!” and go march around Old Town. That would likely not be effective, although acting as though the only deadline we have is the number of shopping days left is what Jesus has in mind when He says, ”Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”

The season of Advent is particularly the time for disciples of Jesus to be reminded that our lives will come to an end, perhaps sooner than we imagine, and the world will come to an end, perhaps sooner than we imagine. Your inbox will still be full, tasks uncompleted, emails and phone calls still unanswered. And it doesn’t matter. One thing matters: Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

How can we be “counted worthy”? That sounds like there is something I need to do, something I need to accomplish, so that the Lord will count me worthy. Whenever we come to a difficult passage of Scripture, or something we don’t understand, we must apply this little rule: Scripture interprets Scripture. We interpret the difficult passages in Scripture in light of the clear ones. And Scripture is very clear on the matter of human worthiness, as it is written in Psalm 130: If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand?” No one stands before God because of how much good he has done. No one stands before God because of how much sin he has avoided. No one stands before God because of the amount of his offerings or sacrifices or the amount of emotion he has felt. Good works are good, avoiding sin is good, tithes and offerings likewise are good fruits born from a good tree. But they do not make you worthy to stand. Nothing you do can make you worthy. “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand? But,” the Psalm continues, “with You there is forgiveness, therefore You are feared.”

Mark well the word Jesus uses to comfort us in the face of ecological disaster, a cosmos breaking apart, our world coming undone. When everything is in chaos, when men are frantic and having panic attacks because the end has come, Jesus says straighten up and lift up your heads – why? Because your redemption draws near. See how he cannot discuss judgment without discussing redemption! To be redeemed is to be rescued as a slave from bondage, as a prisoner from the dungeon. You cannot effect your escape, you cannot purchase your freedom. You were redeemed not with gold or silver, but, the Scripture says, with the holy and precious blood of Jesus as a lamb without blemish or spot. Your redemption depends on Jesus, not yourself. Your standing before the Son of Man on the day of judgment depends on Jesus, not yourself.

And that’s what faith is, saying “I trust in Jesus and not myself for salvation in the day of chaos and fear, the day of apocalypse and judgment and the end of all things.” And that is what carries you through this day and the next, as you bear your crosses. Everything has been accomplished already, Jesus is your redemption and your worthiness and your salvation, so what if your body is wasting away, what if your life is not as you had once hoped, what if the demons of hell itself come against you? We simply say, “I am baptized, I am a child of God, what can man or death or devils do to me? Nothing. Though the earth give way, though war rise against me, though Satan accuse me, though my flesh waste away and senses fail, I have lost nothing. I am baptized, I have forgiveness in Jesus, and therefore I stand against all of this and say, ‘Behold, my Redeemer comes for me and His whole Church.’”

So don’t let carousing and drunkenness, drinking parties and making a good impression distract you from what matters. Don’t let your lusts carry you away from your Lord and His Word. Don’t let the cares of this life weigh you down so you forget the One who cares for you.

The return of Christ is drawing near, and you are made ready by abiding in Jesus, living in and from the Word He speaks to you and the Sacrament by which He joins Himself to you. Repent, Receive His forgiveness, and say with fervor those ancient words repeated in the Sacramental Liturgy: “Come, Lord Jesus!” Amen.

Advent Midweek 2 December 7, 2011

Advent 2
December 7, 2011
“The Womb of Mary”
Luke 1:26-33

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

The promised Advent of the Incarnate Savior is the hope that sustained Old Testament Christians. From shortly after “in the beginning” to the moment when the angel Gabriel told a Jewish maiden, “The Lord is with you!”, the children of God awaited the arrival of the Messiah. Adam’s Hope. Eve’s Seed. Abraham’s Offspring. Job’s Redeemer. The One like unto Moses. David’s Greater Son. Isaiah’s Prince of Peace. Jeremiah’s Righteousness.

The promised Seed of the woman would be the Savior of the world, the LORD whose Advent into His creation would be part of God’s Good News. The Incarnation of the Son of God would require that He come into this world and dwell therein.

Thus, the first temple of the Incarnate LORD God would be the womb of a Jewish virgin. So this evening we meditate on this text under the theme ...

... “The LORD Comes to His Temple ... the Womb of Mary”

As the centuries gave way to millennia, this fallen world continued to regress in the darkness of continual decay and all creation groaned in the wretched throes of certain death. And what is true for the whole, is also true for each member thereof. Every individual who draws the breath of life is born into a world of hurt, a time of trouble, a life with suffering, and a date with death. While some of this may not be of your own doing, much is due to your own sin and your own sins. Add to this the unalterable Commandments of the LORD God Almighty and His demands of perfection, and well, the darkness of the Day only grows deeper ... for each of us knows that we are utterly and totally lost.

Does God know all of this? Does He know everything about this land and all who dwell therein, including whatsoever resides within your hearts, fulfills your desires, forms your words and brings about your deeds? Yes, and you know that He does. Certainly such a fallen world and surely a sinful soul deserves a visit from the righteous, just and holy God Who hates sin. I mean, just consider the visitation at the time of the Flood, or judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Thus even the promise of Emmanuel ... that is, “God with us,” ... does not, in itself, give cause for gladness within us or joy to the world.

But behold, when this world was ready and history prepared, in the fullness of the time, God sent the angel Gabriel “to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.” What does this mean? Was this visitation one of the Law of God that always accuses the old sinful nature that Mary had by virtue of being born in the likeness of Adam and after his image (Genesis 5:3), or one of the Gospel, that is, the Good News of God that comforts the repentant soul that Mary had by virtue of her God-given trust in the LORD God her Savior?

And the angel said to her, “Fear not, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His Name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the Throne of His father David, and He will reign over the House of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there will be no end.”

Thus, the eternal Son of God, begotten of the Father from eternity, is incarnate by the Holy Spirit, and dwells within the womb of Mary. Here is the first temple of the Incarnate Jehovah. This God made flesh and dwelling among us first resides within the temple of the Jewish virgin’s womb. From the instant of the Incarnation “Mary, the most blessed virgin, did not conceive a mere, ordinary human being, but a human being who is truly the Son of the most high God, as the angel testifies. He demonstrated His divine majesty even in His mother’s womb in that he was born of a virgin without violating her virginity. Therefore she is truly the mother of God and yet remained a virgin.” (The Formula of Concord: 2, VIII, 23-24).At the instant when Jesus was but a single cell, “He had this majesty immediately at His conception even in His mother’s womb” (The Formula of Concord: 2, VIII, 26). This is the Immaculate Conception; that is, the Incarnation of God.

Thus we know Who this is, for “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the Throne of His father David, and He will reign over the House of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there will be no end.” But why has David’s Descendent Who is Son of the Most High come and taken up residence in this first temple, the temple of His mother’s womb?

Well, first consider what is happening with this single cell Savior. This unborn child becomes a mass of two cells and then doubles again and again and again and again. Shortly thereafter His sacred head will form. Within 40 days He will develop a heart and His Holy Blood with begin to flow as it pumps. At six weeks He will develop eyes that will see the crowds and look into the souls of each one. At ten weeks He is about an inch long and His arms will sprout and hands will bud in order that they may be extended as He reaches out and holds the world. Within the same period of time, the Incarnate Son of God will have legs and feet. His lips will part in order for Him to but say the Word. His gestation will be the same as ours ... nine months. He will be human just as we are, yet without sin.

Second consider what will happen. One day, those legs of His will carry Jesus up to Jerusalem where He will be force-marched to Golgotha. His back will feel the stripes whereby we are healed. His Head will be capped with a crown of thorns as man mocks His Maker. Those feet and hands of His will be punctured by crude nails as He is offered for the Life of the world and is the sufficient Ransom for all.

That mouth of His will speak the Word of forgiveness and full atonement from the cross. His eyes will behold His mother and His lips will speak of love and comfort to this woman whose womb was His first temple. When it is finished; that is, when the sins of the world have been atoned for and when the wrath of God against sin has been vented, He will have been faithful unto death, even death on a cross. Jesus’ heart will be stilled, pierced and silent for two nights.

Third, consider what will happen on the third day. The Risen Redeemer will stand upon the earth and speak peace to His disciples. He will extend His nail-pierced hands and breathe His forgiving Spirit upon His undershepherds. He will ascend into heaven and will be enthroned in the eternal habitations, and even as His is Present there, also He is most certainly and truly Present with His Church here as He promised. Thus, in the twelfth month a messenger was sent from God and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

But in order for you to hear the Good News that, in the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit, you are forgiven of all your sin, it was necessary for the Son of God to become flesh and dwell among us. Thus, “the LORD comes to His temple” and for nine months He dwelt in His first temple, which is, the Womb of Mary. Amen.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Daily Readings for November 27 - December 3, 2011

Looking Ahead for 
Malachi 4:1–6, Romans 15:4–13, Luke 21:25–36

The Lord Comes on the Last Day
The day on which our Lord returns will be a “great and awesome day” (Mal. 4:5). For He will come in a cloud with great power and glory. To the wicked and the proud, it will be a Day of judgment that will “set them ablaze” (Mal. 4:1). The signs preceding this Day will bring them fear and fainting. But to those who believe, who fear the name of the Lord, this Day is one to look forward to and rejoice in: “. . . straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). Christ our Redeemer is coming; the Sun of Righteousness will bring healing in His wings. Let us, then, give attention to the words of the Lord, which do not pass away. Let us “through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures” (Rom. 15:4) be strengthened in our hope by the Holy Spirit and watch diligently for Jesus’ coming. Then, by God’s grace, we shall escape all these things that will come to pass and stand before the Son of Man.

Daily Readings for November 27- December 3, 2011

November 27                                                     Daniel 4:1-37, 2 Peter 1:1-21, Psalms 119:97-112
November 28                                                   Daniel 5:1-31, 2 Peter 2:1-22, Psalms 119:113-128
November 29                                                   Daniel 6:1-28, 2 Peter 3:1-18, Psalms 119:129-152
November 30                                                    Daniel 7:1-28, 1 John 1:1-10, Psalms 119:153-176
December 1                                                              Daniel 8:1-27, 1 John 2:1-17, Psalms 120:1-7
December 2                                                        Daniel 9:1-11:1, 1 John 2:18-3:6, Psalms 121:1-8
December 3                                                       Looking Ahead to Advent 2 
                                                                           Malachi 4:1–6, Romans 15:4–13, Luke 21:25–36

Advent Midweek 1 Sermon November 30, 2011

November 30, 2011-11-22
Advent 1 Midweek
Luke 1:5ff
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Saint Luke reports that Zachariah and Elizabeth were both righteous, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.
This was not righteousness in the strict sense, as spoken of so often by St. Paul, but is a Hebraism not so different from modern American speech where we say someone is a “good person.” Here righteous simply means pious, decent, reliable, trustworthy, good.
The phrase “commandments and statutes of the Lord” was a common way of dividing the Law. The commandments were those particular commandments given by God to the Hebrews through Moses. We sometimes call them the “ceremonial law.” The statutes of the Lord were those things which are required of all humanity. We sometimes call the statutes “moral law.” Thus, in a good, pious, and external way, Sts. Zachariah and Elizabeth kept the law. They were ritually pure and morally decent, as such, they were honored by their peers and recognized as “good” or “righteous” people.
From this we may well infer that they were sincere and active in devotion toward God and reverence for His Word and Temple. Their childless home must have been full of love and laughter, even as they must have been showing constant charity toward their neighbors and also engaged in the communal care and teaching of children. And, finally, they most certainly held a fervent and expectant hope that looked for the consolation of Israel in the coming of the Messiah.
None of that is really spelled out by Saint Luke. It is expected that we will know what it means to be righteous, to walk blamelessly in the commandments and statues of the Lord, that even if we are self-victims of divorce, perversions, gluttony, pride, and greed that we would still be able to recognize what the Law of God upholds and desires, and that even from within our failures and shame we would honor it as good.
Now for Lutherans that last bit, that Saints Zachariah and Elizabeth held a fervent and expectant hope in the Messiah, may not seem so obvious. Because, Saint Luke says nothing of their faith, only of their deeds. But where we might get hung up, the Holy Spirit did not.
We were birthed in the heresy that works are required for salvation and aren't quite able to forget it. It was an age that had mostly forgotten what faith is and which found faith's greatest defender since St. Paul in the blessed reformer. Nothing wrong with that. But single-mindedness can be a sort of blindness. We need to confess that even though faith alone saves, faith is never alone.
Perhaps an incredibly wise man could keep the moral law in an outward way, out of his own self-interest, apart from faith. Because, the moral law only requires of us that which is good for us. Aristotle comes awfully close to at least recognizing this reality, if not quite living up to it. So did Cicero. Nothing immoral is ever expedient, useful, or helpful. Gossip and slander, for example, don't just hurt those who are talked about. They also hurt those who do the talking and though it may not seem so on the surface, in fact, the talkers are hurt worse and more deeply than the talked about.
But no man keeps the revealed Law of God, as given though Moses, without faith. There would be no reason to. Because, apart from faith the sacrifices, the cleansings required for various impurities, and even the absolution have no value at all. So while it is theoretically possible for a person to keep the moral law apart from faith, simply because he recognizes the goodness of it, it is impossible to keep the ceremonial Law apart from faith.
Thus when St. Luke records the deeds of Zachariah, he is recording his faith and hope. While faith alone, apart from works, saves, faith without works is dead and faith is never alone. Still, this righteous man was infected with original sin. And righteous though he was, he sinned in the most holy place. He doubted the Word of the Lord from the mouth of Gabriel.
Our instinct is to defend him. It was a small thing. It is not like he laughed, as Abraham and Sarah had or tried to argue with Gabriel. Humanly speaking, it was completely understandable. How long had it been since Zachariah had prayed for a child? Certainly he and Elizabeth had prayed for this very thing when they were of child-bearing age. But that time had come and gone a long time ago. It was far from his mind, the last thing he would expect and an angel to tell him at his age and that in the Most Holy place.
At some point, we do give up. We figure it simply isn't going to happen. Imagine if one of our 90 plus widows was praying to get pregnant. We'd think she was more than a bit odd. So if an angel suddenly appeared to you and said Great-Grandma Schimdt will have a child, wouldn't you have a little trouble swallowing it immediately? Might you ask how you would know this? Doesn't it seem reasonable to ask for a moment to contemplate it?
That is one of the striking differences between us and God. He doesn't understand. He Himself endured all that we endure and more, yet He never failed, never even slightly. We think the Law ought to be tempered with mercy, with extenuating circumstances. But that is mainly because we ourselves are hoping to somehow get off and to escape the threatened wrath. We are quick with excuses. But the Law doesn't care for excuses, only facts. How fast were you driving? It doesn't matter why. What matters is what the law says and what you were doing, nothing else. Zachariah should have realized that if an angel appears in the Most Holy place and tells you something, it is true and needs no other proof.
Still, he got some proof. The silencing was a miracle. It was proof. No doubt, it was difficult, but so also it must have been a joyous assurance that the angel's word was true, for I doubt that Zachariah's doubts all disappeared in an instant. But every time he tried to talk, he was reminded of the truth, of what had happened. I'd guess that brought some relief and comfort to the nine months of silence. He was able, even without a voice, to insist that John be John and not Zachariah. For God is gracious. And when his voices came back, he sang God's praise, not for John really but for the Messiah.
What a joyful time it must have been for them, Elizabeth hidden away in solidarity with Zacharias' silence. Imagine the notes he wrote, the glances, the kisses, the laughter they must have enjoyed as their lives were ending, their son was being born, and most significantly the new age was dawning. For if the Lord is harsh with the Law, He is generous and extravagant with grace. He even answers prayers we've stopped praying, along with prayers we are too timid to ask.
There is joy for the barren couple, for the single mom, for the lonely man. The Lord sets the lonely in families. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. He remembers us and works all things together for good. But greatest of all joy is that known by sinners who have a Redeemer, whose Lord has taken up flesh to be a sacrifice and turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.
The name Zachariah means “the Lord remembers.” Elizabeth means “God's promise” or “God's daughter.” John means “God is gracious.” Indeed. He is all those things, and has remembered His gracious promise to us in giving us these saints, in giving us His Son.
In +Jesus' Name. Amen.

Advent 1 Sermon November 26-27, 2011

Advent 1         Matthew 21:1-9          November 26-27, 2011

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

Christmas is coming. The merchants are in a desperate frenzy. Disappointment and loneliness are crouching at the door.

But the question should never be so much, will it be a happy Christmas full of happy memories or not, but Who is coming? It is not Santa Claus, a kindly elf who gives bad children presents they don’t deserve and who really just loves everyone the same, who just happens to be exactly what our fallen and inwardly turned flesh wishes God were. Santa’s magic is only good for making candy and gifts. He doesn’t heal broken hearts. He doesn’t reconciled divorced parents. He comes one day a year and leaves worthless junk.

The Advent question, “who is coming?” is meant to draw our attention to the Christ. Jesus – born in filth, poverty, and shame – comes. He comes to be a Sacrifice worthy of our sins, whether we want Him or not.

We’ve been waiting for this since history began. “From one step out of Eden, through a worldwide flood, during captivities in Egypt and Babylon, God’s people were waiting for the Savior to come. God did not leave them hopeless: He promised the Savior” immediately upon the fall “in Genesis 3, and renewed that promise repeatedly throughout the ages.” We call that promise the Gospel and it is the power of God for salvation.

David begins Psalm 24: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” The Lord who spoke from the burning bush and led the people out of Egypt is the Creator and all-powerful, the only God.

“In verse 3, David abruptly switches subjects. ‘Who may stand before God in His Holy Place?’ The obvious answer is the high priest. David adds that the high priest must have clean hands and a pure heart, and God will bless him.” David then tells us this is Jacob. He is the priest. Remember that God appeared to Jacob in a dream, at the top of a ladder, upon on which angels were ascending and descending. There God promised the Savior again. “Jacob called the place Bethel, ‘house of God,’ a holy place were he had stood. David switches again in verse 7: The King of glory is coming! He’s coming with strength and might, and He’ll reign forever.”

There are some obvious problems. Jacob’s hands, clad in goat skins to deceive his father, were hardly clean, and neither was his heart pure. So how can he stand before God in His holy place and be our priest? You know the answer. David didn’t just start speaking of the Savior in verse 7. He’s been speaking of Jesus, the Lord Creator in the Flesh, the Redeemer, all along. Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, is our High Priest. Jacob, like all prophets, priests, and kings was only a pale imitation. Jesus can stand in the holy place for He is holy, He is good. And He, as our Priest, has made the perfect sacrifice in Himself and now sits at the right hand of God where He intercedes for us. He’s the ladder that Jacob saw in His dream. He bridges heaven and earth, not that we might ascend, but that God might dwell among us, and the Holy Angels would be able to serve us. He is the King of Glory who reigns forever with power and might, the fulfillment of all the Psalms, of all the promises, of all the Law and types.

And that is how He comes enter into Jerusalem on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. He is the King of Glory come in perfect humility. Like all kings, His glory is in His might, but His might is distinct from all other kings, for it is not in violence and strength against others but it is in suffering violence against Himself. This might is perfect and complete and is thus known in weakness. It is unlike any other might. The devil is a strong man well-equipped to guard his kingdom. But He is undone by the stronger man, Jesus Christ, who empties him of his strength. The ram that took Isaac’s place showed us the kind of Substitute that would take our place. He was caught by his horns, by his strength. The Lord’s strength is His love and His mercy. He is caught. For either He lets the devil have us as his rightful prey or He Himself becomes the devil’s prey to crush the devil’s head.

You know the answer. The Lord is strong enough to submit to all that Hell can dish out and to die. He is strong enough to not look back or hold a grudge, to do whatever it takes to win us back. He is strong enough to empty Hell, the Law, death, and sin of all its fury, to take it all into Himself, and extinguish it there. The devil’s teeth tear Him apart put they are ground dull and soft in the killing so that there is nothing left for us.

That is why we sing, “O Death, where is thy sting?” Death is spent, empty, done. He has no ammo, no strength left. The Law has issued all its accusations into the Christ and cannot now even think of any against you. They cannot hold you. They cannot accuse you. You are the royal heir, with the watery Name of God written upon you in cross shaped letters. Christ has satisfied the Law, death, Hell, and the devil on your behalf. He opens heaven for you. He calls you His own. He hands over the kingdom as a dowry even though you are the Bride. And along with that great strength to face and submit to death, without breaking or ever thinking of Himself, He is also strong enough to rise again out of death and open life eternal and the resurrection to all who believe in Him.

He rides into Jerusalem, a King, unknown by heads of state, despised by the upper class, five days before He is lifted up from the earth and eight before He will rise. He rides, the King, to His people’s praise and cries for salvation, and He who will bear their burdens in Himself and will clothe them with His own righteousness sits upon their clothes, draped on donkey and the road, upon a beast of burden.

For this, He is born in a stable and laid in a manger. For this, He rides, today into our midst, risen from the dead, in bread and wine that we would partake of His Holy Body and Blood and our hands be clean, our hearts made pure, our Hosannas ever more sincere and urgent. If we be desperate, let it not be for economic recovery and prosperity, let it not be for our children to love us and our peers to respect us, let us be desperate, eager, focused, and hopeful for salvation. If loneliness and disappointment crouch at the door, let us cover the doorposts of our hearts with the blood of Christ and know that whateve4r befall us, the angel of death will pass over.

Lift up your heads and rejoice. The King comes to you in perfect love.

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