So, it is here. The season of Advent is upon us. Advent is a peculiar time in the Church year, a time that gets increasingly swallowed up by all the Christmas celebrations and preparations. Advent is viewed as a pre-Christmas anticipation. Growing up at my parent’s house, we had one of those felt advent calendars with all the figures in the little pockets you could take out and place on the manger scene building up to Christmas morning when we would put the baby Jesus in the center of the scene. There was excitement and anticipation built into the entire process. But historically, in the Church, the time of Advent had its own distinct flavor. It was not simply about getting to Christmas. It was a time of repentance and devotion, much like the season of Lent. The word “advent” comes from the Latin adventus which means “coming.” The season of Advent is a time to recapture the wonder that our God is not a God far off, but a God who has come to His people. As Isaiah prophesied, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call His name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” God comes to be with us. God desires to be with you.
So, when you recall how this is what Advent is all about it actually makes sense that every year on the first Sunday of Advent we hear again about our Lord’s triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. If this season of the year is to focus on the arrival of our God, then it is hard to find a better text announcing His arrival than the crowds cheering Him on as He rides as a humble king into the city. The whole scene is fantastic. It is the proper for the arrival of the Messianic King. They throw their cloaks on the road, they cut down palm branches, and process into the city with Him. The whole time they are crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” The cry of Hosanna is actually the Hebrew for “Save us.” This is why the people in Jerusalem greet our Lord riding as a humble king shouting out, “Save us Son of David!”
God has come. God has arrived in the person and work of our Lord. His first arrival, His first advent was in the little town of Bethlehem all those years ago. It is what we will celebrate, of course, on Christmas day, but it is also the reality we live in here and now. Your Lord has come. Jesus did not abandon sinners and leave them confined to their doom, but He came to them. He came to seek and save the lost. He came to bring life and salvation to all who believe. The advent of Christ changed everything. God had come to do what we could never do. He lived the perfect life, faithful to the Father in thought, word, and deed, in what He did and did not do. Then He gave Himself as a living sacrifice to atone for your sin. He takes your place on the cross. He dies for you. Therefore, as we look back on the arrival of God in human flesh, we find the root, the source of our confidence in the promise of life everlasting.
And if that was the advent of our hope, we also know this is not the end of the story. Our Lord has promised to return, to come again. There is another advent we anticipate. This is an advent of promise. It is the promise of the completion of all things, the promise of the end of this age and the full participation in the age to come. Christ has come and in His coming He has brought the promise of restoration and new life. But that reality is continually frustrated by the corruption and decay of our world. The very sin for which He died still entangles you, it still drags you down and holds you tight. But the story is not finished. He will come again. He will return as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He will come to bring His great work to completion. So, as we look back to His first advent with wonder and joy, we also look off toward the horizon for the promise of His great second advent.
Truth be told, we often need to be reminded about this second advent our Lord. We tend to sell this one a little short. That is, we know our Lord has come, that He arrived in the little town of Bethlehem. We know He rode triumphantly into Jerusalem and was greeted with shouts of, “Save us, son of David.” As a result, we know that those who trust in Him, who believe in this coming of the Son of God, received the promise that they are covered in His righteous acts. Which means when a believer dies, he is not simply removed from memory, but is carried to Paradise, to the bosom of Abraham, to the place where there is no more fear, pain, or sorrow. Therefore, we often hear people when they comfort a widow say to her, “He’s in a better place.” At times, I suppose that might be comforting, but at other times I am not so sure. But the truth is this separation, this parting from those we love is not the end of the story. The is another coming of our Lord, a second great advent we long for.
Scripture promises us that this advent of our King will bring with it the resurrection of the dead. Not only is it the final defeat of sin and temptation and the Devil and all his minions, but it is also the final defeat of death itself. The grave will work backwards. Those marked by the blood of the Lamb will rise-up in new, glorious bodies and there will be a reunion and gathering of all the saints of all time in worship and praise of the victory of our God. The second advent of our Lord ushers in the finality of His work, for not only will there be a resurrection and a reunion, but there will also be a rebirth of creation, a new Heaven and new Earth, and eternity with no more tears, heartache, sorrow, or death. It is eternity in a new paradise of God. That is what we long for. That is what is promised to you in the great advent of your Lord.
But standing here today between these great advents of our God, we are given something truly wonderful, something precious and life altering. For the great Immanuel, the powerful God with us, is in fact with us even now. And I do not just mean He is within you, in your hearts, prayers, thoughts, and desires. I do not mean He is with you in some vague, wishful way you might discover if you meditate long enough. No, I mean He continues to advent with His people. He actually comes to you over and again. There are places He has promised to be for you, places which may look foolish and lowly to our world. But it is no more foolish than a manger in Bethlehem or on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem. See, Jesus promises to be in the preaching of the Word and the giving of the Sacraments.
Our Lord advents with us when He washes us in the waters of Holy Baptism. There He connects us to His death and resurrection, to the promise of life and salvation. In those waters between His first coming and the promised second coming He grabs ahold of you and declares you are His. In fact, this same promise is echoed repeatedly when we hear the words of absolution, when forgiveness is proclaimed to you. This is not just a wish or hope, it is a proclamation that you have been baptized, Christ has come to you once and so He comes again to declare how His promises remain. You are forgiven all of your sins. You are heirs of eternal life. You are the children of God.
Every week we gather around the altar of our Lord, and again our Lord advents with His people. He comes lowly and humble, not riding on a donkey into the city of Jerusalem, but in, with, and under bread and wine, to give life and salvation to you here and now. Our King has come, and He will come again. But your King comes to you even now. He comes to bring you forgiveness, to embrace you with His promises, and to remind you that you are loved.