Here is the sermon I gave at St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Brownstown, IN for the first Sunday of Advent. Outline and opening story are from Concordia Pulpit resources.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a king who was gifted wealthy and wise. The king made music on his harp and sang songs of praise to God. He won battles and conquered his enemies, he had everything you could want and still more. But the king also had a son. This son was handsome beyond all the young men of the land. From his feet to the crown of his head there was not as much as a blemish. The hair of his head was full and thick, but the thoughts inside his head were wicked and devious.
He murdered his brother, and his father the king wept over the pain in his family. Yet the king loved his son and called for his son to return again to the royal city. The son came home, but his thoughts were more devious than ever. He camped for four years at the gates of the capitol and played the politician. He heard the complaints of the people and promised solutions. In time he won the hearts of the population, and at the end of four years he revealed his secret plan: “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then say, Absalom is King at Hebron!”
The message came to his father David, the king: “The hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absalom.” Then David said to his servants, arise and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. So out of Jerusalem David went, the king along with his servants and all the people who had followed him. In time they came to the Mount of Olives, across the valley from the city. And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered.
Does this story sound familiar? It is from 2 Samuel chapter 15. But even if you had forgotten the exact details of Absalom’s rebellion, the story has a familiar ring to it. It is our story.
We like David experience the brokenness of sin. The treachery of Absalom is not all that different than what we hear in the news about revolutions and military coups, terrorist plots, and betrayals. The brokenness of sin causes the same problems today as it has throughout our long history of warfare and conflicts.
We see the brokenness of sin in our own families as well. Sometimes there is nothing like the holiday season to bring out the worst in our families. Whether it is because of busyness or other conflicts in our hearts, we can’t help but notice that family togetherness is not quite the same as what we see on a favorite Christmas movie from years past.
But it’s not just isolated incidents on holidays that show us the brokenness of sin in our lives. In his book, Unspeakable Evil, Oz Guiness notes that most people suffer today under the weight of grinding evils that he calls, “numbingly ordinary.”
One need not be the victim of spectacularly violent abuse. One need not experience the heart breaking betrayal of marital infidelity. Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes, each destroying hope, marriage, and life. Imagine talking with the man whose wife explains that she simply stopped loving him years ago, but that she lives with him “for the sake of the children.”
Guiness comments about the suffering of those two people living in a marriage that has died years ago; two people, benumbed, living in separate orbits from their spouse, living lives of whispered resentment and disappointment. They are enslaved to their history of hurts and recite to one another the injustices each has suffered at the hands of the other. And after years of exchanging those litanies, silence is all that they continue to share. These are people who are perpetually grieving for the marriage that might have been.
It is discouraging to think about how marriages blessed by God and entered into with such optimism and hopes can go so wrong over a period of many years. Like David we have wept and tasted the bitterness of our tears. We feel the consequences of our sins, as problems we deal with today have to do with sins and bad decisions from our past. We feel that we have only ourselves to blame for our sins and the consequences they have for ourselves and others.
For all of us who have experienced the brokenness of sin, who have been driven from comfort by their failures and have cried out to God for deliverance, there is good news: Your king comes to you!
Behold your king, the Son of David, “is coming to you.” Absalom was not David’s only son. Jesus is the son of David who comes to be the king that none of David’s other sons could be. Jesus is the royal son of David, whose Word is faithfully obeyed.
God took on our flesh so that we no longer would have the sorrow of a life story of brokenness. Jesus has come to give us wholeness in Him. Here and here alone we find our comfort and our peace.
Jesus comes to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives; from the place where David experienced shame, he comes to the holy city to renew the kingdom of God. Jesus came to renew the very family dysfunctions that bring us sorrow. He came to renew those things about us which causes such grief and anguish.
In contrast to some other sons of David, Jesus is humble and gentle. Though popular with the crowds, he does not come to curry their favor and will in fact be rejected. He will be driven out of the city, not for his sin, but for the sin of all humanity. He will die, rejected even by the Heavenly Father.
The king who rode into Jerusalem in humility comes to us. As he comes to you in humility, we behold how to live in humility ourselves. We see in Him the true wisdom of God, where living is to be connected with God, not about trying to be ‘gods’ ourselves.
In repentance we meet our Savior. As we find ourselves in the place where we are at rock bottom, grieving over how much of a mess our sin makes of our lives, we find that we are not cast away or judged deficient, but instead, forgiven. We meet our Savior in surprising circumstances where our brokenness is not held against us.
In the humble forms of Word, water and bread and wine he comes to us, personally and individually to forgive our sins and renew our sonship with the family of God. As Jesus comes to us in these ways we realize that the false idols of this world are as nothing in comparison to these gifts.
So behold your king, the Son of David coming to you this Advent season! Different in appearance and quality than we would imagine, yet just the King that we need!Today and everyday we join with the people long ago in shouting hosannas to the king
The day of the Lord is nearer than we think’ as we heard in our Epistle reading. Jesus will return, one marvelous day in glory. And already today He comes to us in His Word, bringing his mercy and peace to us.
We are joined by faith to the hope of God’s people of long ago. Like them we await the King to return and establish the house of the Lord as the highest of mountains.
This season of Advent, we have cause for excitement. We as the church have the sure promise that our King is coming to us. No circumstances in our lives or on the earth change the fact that our King comes to us. When we prepare our hearts for the coming of our king all other fears and worries and memories of brokenness fall away to the background. With our eyes fixed on the coming of our king, we can be content and secure in our identity as God’s people who are blessed beyond what we could imagine.
As this Christmas season begins in our society no amount of shopping, or holiday activities are required of us in order to receive our King. We don’t need to prove anything to others, we don’t need to find that perfect gift for each family member.
We really don’t even need to exchange gifts at all. instead we can rest and enjoy the Christmas season knowing that our King has perfectly arranged for our life in His kingdom. Our king is coming, let us rejoice and open our hearts to receive Him.