Tim Parker

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Happy New Year

Advent sunday readings (BCP): Romans 13:8-14 Mathew 21:1-13

Today is Advent Sunday, which is the start of the church year.

These days, we tend to think of advent as the time when we get ready for Christmas, a time when we do our Christmas shopping and also prepare our hearts to celebrate God coming to earth as the child Jesus.

But, If that is our only understanding of advent, then prayer book's choice bible reading for advent will be a bit surprising because there doesn’t seem to be anything that feels remotely Christmassy at all!

No Wise men, not shepards, no stars... There is a donkey!... but he isn't carrying Mary to Bethleham, he is carry Jesus on his final Jorney to Jerusalem.

And that is because advent isn’t just about getting ready for Christmas.

The season of Advent is where the church remembers two things.

Firstly, we remember the faithful Israelites, waiting for the Christ to come so we can learn from their example and from their mistakes. Secondly, and most significantly, we remember that we too are being called by God to wait.

In both Old and New Testament’s, the bible assures us not just that Jesus has come but that Jesus will come again.

And so we’re waiting, waiting for the second coming of our Lord.

And advent is a time when we especially remember that. We pray even more earnestly that our Lord will return soon, We encourage ourselves and others that one day, Jesus will return in glory, when we reaffirm our desire to live faithful, holy lives as we wait.

That’s what advent is about, and that makes it a lot easier to see why the great archbishop, Thomas Cranmer, chose Today’s bible readings for his prayer book.

In this morning’s epical, Paul reminds us that how we live today, should be shaped by the fact that Jesus Christ is coming back very soon. In Romans 13:12 we read that “The night is nearly over and day” that’s the day of Jesus return “is almost here. So let us put a side the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light”.

Lets have a look at the Gospel reading because there are several things in it that will be useful to us as we begin the season of advent.

I’m sure the story is very familiar us. All four gospel writers record that Jesus, after travaling all the way from Galilee, chouses to ride the last 2 miles to Jerusalem on a donkey.

And Mathew reminds us in verse 4 of our reading that:
This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:
"Say to the Daughter of Zion,
'See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.' "

Matthew is quoting from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah chapter 9. In that chapter, Zechariah gives a prophecy that one day God will send a King. A rescuing King. A gentle King whose reign will extend to the ends of the earth and who will release people held captive and under Judgment by the shedding of blood.

And the bit the prophecy that Matthew quotes is the bit telling the daughters of Zion, that’s is Zechariah’s way of talking about the people of Jerusalem, that “your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey”.

Those words were first spoken by Zechariah in about 500BC. And here is the Lord Jesus, half a millennium later, riding into Jerusalem, ready to shed his blood so that those held captive by sin can be set free, and he comes riding on a donkey.

Let’s take note of two things here, as we start our season of advent:

Firstly, God expects his people to be patient. The promises of God made through Zechariah 500 years early, were themselves the continuation of promises made by God 100s of years before. But despite the long wait, God hadn’t forgotten his promise to send Jesus, And we should take comfort in that during our own wait for Jesus to return.

Secondly, notice that the prophecy was fulfilled literally. The lord Jesus didn’t ride a metaphorical donkey, nor did he come to shed metaphorical blood, nor did he come to be a metaphorical king. He came on a real donkey, to shed real blood and to be God’s real chosen King.

And so just as the prophecies regarding our lords first coming were fulfilled in reality, we should expect the promises of our Lord’s second coming to be fulfilled in reality. At his first coming, our Lord came to earth literally in person and he will come to earth literally in person the second time.

He came in humility once, literally to suffer; he will come again in glory, laterally to reign.
Every prediction about our Lord’s first coming was fulfilled, and so will every prophecy about our Lord’s second coming. And for the Christian, and the Christian alone, that is a wonderfully assuring truth.

It means when we read in the bible of our Glorious future with Christ there need be no doubt in our hearts. It has been promised, it will be accomplished.

Now before we finish with this passage, let’s look at how the people of Jesus own day responded to his coming.

We are told that in verses 10 and 11.

Verse 10:
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?"

And what should the answer have been? Well it should have been something like:

“This is Jesus, God’s appointed king”
“This is Jesus, the one who was promised, the messiah”

But instead, we get verse 11:

The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

They have understood something of who Jesus is, but for all their singing and all their palm waving, they have missed punch line, they’ve missed out on who Jesus is. He’s not a profit, he’s the son of God, he is The Messiah, The Christ, God’s King.

Now there are lot’s of different reasons why they might have been so mistaken, but all of them come down to the same thing, the sort of messiah the people were expecting was not the messiah promised in scripture, and as such they did not know Jesus when he came to them.
It will be an even more tribal thing not to know Jesus when he comes a second time, but that will be the theme of anther advent reading, but for now, let’s resolve to know truly the Jesus of scripture and so to be ready for him when he comes.


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