And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
In the churches, the first reading in the season of Advent is always the account of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. As we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, the reading brings out the most important themes of his incarnation.
Jesus comes in humility. Notice that Jesus does not storm into Jerusalem on a white horse, trumpets blasting, flags waving. Jesus rides in on a humble donkey. Jesus speaks not word. Palm branches and worn clothes are the decorations used to celebrate his coming.
In the same way, when Jesus was born into the world, he was not born to a king and queen. Jesus was not born in a palace. Jesus’ birth was not celebrated with parades and orchestral performances. Rather, Jesus was born to an impoverished virgin and a carpenter. Jesus was born in a rented stable and laid in a manger. While the songs of angels signaled Jesus’ birth, his first visitors were fearful shepherds.
Jesus comes to serve. The reason Jesus came into Jerusalem in the first place was to die. Jesus knew that he would soon be betrayed by Judas, arrested, tortured, and crucified. Yet he willingly, humbly went.
In the same way, Jesus was born into this world knowing he was born to die. He would be harassed; attempts would be made on his life, and he would be driven from town after town. Jesus knew he would be ridiculed and that he wouldn’t even have a place to lay his head. Jesus knew his life would end with his murder, and yet he was born anyway.
Jesus comes to save us. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” the crowd shouts. And blessed are you because the Lord comes. For the Lord comes to take away your sin, to take away your shame, and to take your death upon himself. Jesus comes because you cannot save yourself. Only God can save you, and so he does.
Jesus was born for the same reason. He comes to save you. He is born under the law and lives a perfect life under the law on your behalf. He lives a life like yours, but without sin. He dies a blessed death to save you from eternal death. He comes to save you from hell and bring you into his eternal kingdom.
Stir up your power, O Lord, and come, that by your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by your mighty deliverance; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 a day we will never forget because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Generations earlier, Texans cried, “Remember the Alamo!” When Jews refer to the Holocaust, they remind one another “never forget.”
And yet, the real possibility is that we will indeed forget. While the Holocaust is still a strong part of the Jewish ethos, ask young Americans to explain the events and significance of Pearl Harbor, and they might not be able to tell you. You might know what you’re supposed to remember about the Alamo.
Moses, knowing that we are apt to forget, urges throughout the book of Deuteronomy to remember the goodness of God. God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. God was physically present with them though their desert wanderings. Every day, God fed them with manna from heaven. God protected them from their enemies. Their sandals and clothing didn’t wear out because of God’s loving provision.
And now, as they prepare to enter into a good land, they are likely to forget. When they taste the goodness of the land, drink the fresh water, enjoy a great abundance, they may indeed forget all that God did for them…the way the Alamo is forgotten…or Pearl Harbor…or the way the Holocaust may fade from memory.
The same is true with us today. There is always the danger of forgetting the goodness of Jesus. When you have a warm bed and clothing, you are in danger of forgetting the fact that Jesus provides these things for you. When you have so many things going on, it’s easy to forget Jesus’ goodness. When your neighbors are behaving poorly, it’s easy to forget your own sins and Jesus’ death for the forgiveness of those sins.
As forgiven Christians, we make efforts to be thankful to God at all times, not just at Thanksgiving. We remember Jesus’ death and Resurrection for our forgiveness at all times, not just during Holy Week. We always strive to acknowledge his loving-kindness toward us. We trust that when we become forgetful, God never forgets us.
Heavenly Father, God of all grace, govern our hearts that we may never forget your blessings but steadfastly thank and praise you for all your goodness in this life until, with all your saints, we praise you eternally in your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Jesus is the one who makes all things new; Jesus is the one who makes you new. You are a new creation in Jesus Christ. The old is gone, the new is here. Jesus took the old you with its sin and regret and hopelessness to the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, that old you died on the cross as well. When you were brought to the waters of Baptism, that “old you” was taken to the baptismal waters—sinful, harassed by the devil, destined for death.
But now, through Jesus, the new is here. He has made you new. When you were brought up from the Baptismal waters, what emerged was a new, perfect creation. The sin is gone. The death is gone. The devil has no hold on you. You are clothed with the white robe of Jesus’ own righteousness, and you are a light in this dark world, and you are ever watchful for Jesus’ coming. When Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, he established you eternally. You are united with Jesus’ resurrection by faith. It is your resurrection now and it will be your resurrection anew on the last day.
For the day is coming when Jesus will return. He will return in great glory with angels and archangels and the entire host of heaven. Jesus will come with the regal blast of trumpets and the shouts of all the heavenly host. The sky will make way and every eye will see him.
When Jesus returns with unparalleled glory, he will begin his eternal reign by showing unparalleled kindness toward you. The King will notice your thirst and give you cool refreshing water. He will speak tenderly to you, speaking of his love for you and the forgiveness that is yours. He will show himself your mighty God, and he will love you tenderly like a favorite son.
The same God who created you and re-created you will return to bring you to where he is. Take heart! As our God resides eternally in the courts of heaven, there you will be with him for all eternity.
Lord Jesus Christ, so govern our hearts and minds by your Holy Spirit that, ever mindful of your glorious return, we may persevere in both faith and holiness of living; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
When I was a child, the book of Revelation scared the socks off of me. I remember praying that I would not be alive to see that “time of trouble, such as never has been.” I didn’t want to see the fear and the violence. I didn’t want to see the return of Jesus.
Now I pray that Jesus would come quickly and begin the judgment Daniel writes of.
What changed? First, as I grew older, I came to understand that I can’t escape fear and violence. I will never live in a world in which I won’t be afraid of some things at some times. I will always learn of new instances of violence on the television. There will always be wars. Diseases will spread. Parents will do horrible things to their children and vice versa. We simply cannot escape these things.
Closing our eyes and ignoring the wickedness in the world doesn’t make it go away. It is still there and it will still touch each of us.
Only one thing can rid the world of sin and violence and tears—Jesus. On that day when Jesus returns, he gets rid of the violence. He abolishes the fear. He kills death and disease. When Jesus returns, parents and children won’t do horrible things to one another anymore and all wars will cease. The thing I feared the most about Jesus returning (all the human suffering) was the exact thing he was returning to abolish.
Second, I came to understand that Jesus’ return for Christians is not a fearful thing. Jesus isn’t coming to punish me. Jesus isn’t coming to make me cower in fear. Jesus isn’t coming to humiliate me. When Jesus comes, he comes to glorify me. Jesus comes to declare me innocent. Jesus comes to give me eternal life. He comes to welcome me as his beloved friend and show heavenly hospitality to me forever.
Now that I have children, I pray for Jesus’ quick return for their sake. I don’t want them (or you) to experience any more pain, danger, or sadness. When Jesus returns, their eternal happiness finally begins.
O Lord, by your bountiful goodness release us from the bonds of our sins, which by reason of our weakness we have brought upon ourselves, that we may stand firm until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you on the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen