Advent 1 • Luke 19:28–40 • November 29, 2015
By David Wollenburg
Two gospel lessons are offered for this day: Both were recorded by Luke and so both are clearly Series C. They have complimentary emphasis as one, Luke 19:28?40, is Luke’s account of Christ’s triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, and the second, Luke 21:25?36, is about the times and seasons pointing to the coming of the son of man (the lesson of the fig tree and the call to watch yourselves).
Clearly these are “third Advent” lessons about Jesus coming again in glory. The tension here, as always at this time of year, is that we are expecting to celebrate his “first” coming as the Savior of the world, and we want to rejoice over his present coming among us in our daily lives. That last part isn’t so hard to see (daily presence also has an “end time” feel), but what should be our emphasis this Sunday? And which text shall we use?
It depends . . . not just on what you want to say, but also, to some extent, on which Gospel you used for the last Sunday of the church year. The choices for that Sunday are: Mark 13:24?37 and John 18:23?27. The John lesson talks of Jesus before Pilate, Peter’s denial (to fulfill what Jesus had said about that) and Jesus telling Pilate “My kingdom is not of this world.” Mark’s gospel, on the other hand, is (like Luke’s lesson for this Sunday) about the times and seasons pointing to the coming of the son of man—a parallel passage to today’s offering in Luke 21:25?36.
And then there is the final consideration that next Sunday’s gospel (Advent 2) is the story of John the Baptist crying, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” And so we ask, with the crowds that came out to be baptized, “What then shall we do?”
For me, it is time to jump with both feet into that part of Advent which emphasizes Christ’s “first” coming as King: the time of his birth and beginning of his visible, physical presence in our world. There are several reasons for this:
First is fact that for the Christian church, this is our New Year. It is a time for new beginnings. And so we are reminded of the need for confession of sins and absolution as the year ends and the celebration/remembrance of Christian history begins again. In response to our confession, then, we join with “the whole multitude of his disciples” as they “began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’” (Lk 19:37?38).
The second reason I am ready to jump with full force into this emphasis is found in that line of the Nicene Creed which confesses: He “was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” I experience a thrill each time we confess that fact. God became man, for us and so, on the cross God is forsaken of God for your sake and mine. (What a marvel, and what a gift.)
Thirdly is the fact that the events which this season celebrates are the answer to and fulfillment of the Lord’s eternal covenant with David as stated in today’s epistle (1 Thes 3:9?13): His promises are fulfilled (and continue to be fulfilled today), the righteous branch is here and we are saved. “And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jer 33:16).
Our response to these events is to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all his mighty works (v. 37). Our response is to go to work—untie the colt and take it to Jesus, spread our cloaks before him in joyful procession and give praise saying “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”
St. Paul says this best: “For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel . . . before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day” (1 Thes 3:9). “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13), and Advent gives us the opportunity to call on his name and tell others about him so that they too may believe.