*The text for this homily is Matthew 21: 1-9 and Romans 13: 11-14. This sermon was part of a vespers Bach cantata worship service at Bethany Lutheran Church on Dec. 6th, 2015.
We live in a world where things don’t always seem to fit. I often feel this is highlighted in this season of Advent or what our culture has been celebrating since October: Christmas. We are told by Lexus, Target, Walmart, and every other retailer in the world that this time of year is magical. Christmas is magical. All around is a Silent Night. Idyllic scenes of snow, peaceful and happy families gathered around a fireplace sipping coffee or hot cocoa, laughing and opening just the perfect gift. This is the picture that we are all sold in this season and we buy it hook, line and sinker.
But it doesn’t jive with our reality. Reality where in-laws don’t always get along; children don’t play nicely together, expensive gifts are not possible, beloved family members are missing for a variety of reasons, disease makes it impossible to feel hopeful, people are killed while at a work holiday party, or at school or while at a concert. Things just don’t fit how we think they should. The season seems off, not quite what we have built it up to be in our minds or what the world wants us to think it should be.
The Matthew 21 reading struck me as not quite fitting in with this season of Advent, or really almost Christmas and our other winter festive themes. You see in our modern Church year, this reading comes on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. It’s Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem right before Passover, right before he is killed on a cross as an enemy of the state. This is not the pastoral scene of young parents welcoming their sweet baby boy that we are used to hearing in December. But you see, this gospel reading was the scripture that Bach would have heard at Advent. This would be the biblical passage for those in attendance in worship. The people would be expecting the juxtaposition of Jesus final coming to the holy city as they prepared for Jesus’ coming to the world-God incarnate, made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us.
The crowds in Matthew 21 shouting Hosanna, which means “Save us now!” are not the cries of Merry Christmas or caroling choirs that we expect. But I wonder if the words “Save us now!” shouted to Jesus as he rode in on a lowly donkey are exactly what we need to hear today-even if it seems to not fit. Unlike other worldly leaders, Jesus was entering Jerusalem amidst fanfare but not as a typical celebrity or king. Jesus, as God dwelling among us, didn’t fit what the Jewish people thought of as a messiah and certainly didn’t fit the Roman Empire’s version of a leader. Unlike a worldly king, Jesus came to humanity not to demand service but to serve. Jesus entered into the world not to point to himself but to God. Jesus entered the world not to conquer the world with violence but to conquer our hearts with God’s unconditional love. Jesus entered the world not to judge but to forgive. None of that fit with what the people knew of a messiah and a king.
But they also knew that how they were living, didn’t fit, either. They were broken, lonely, stressed out, sick, hurting, oppressing one another, killing one another and the only words they had were “Save us now!” We also know today that how we are living, doesn’t fit. We know that we are created for more than what the world tells us. We are created to be more than consumers, more than taxpayers, more than medical patients, more than lonely people, more than political affiliations, more than whatever label others try to put on us. We are created in God’s image, we are created as God’s beloved people and we know that doesn’t fit with who we are today.
So maybe the words “Save us now!” are the perfect fit for this Advent season. Maybe the words “Save us now!” are exactly the prayer and the cry of our hearts as one people of God. Save us now from brokenness, save us now from fear, save us now from isolation, save us now from division and save us now from anything that separates us from you, God and your eternal and unconditional love through Jesus Christ.
Jesus entering the world didn’t fit the world’s plan, but it fit God’s plan. God promises to enter into our daily lives no matter how broken or how much we think we don’t fit into God’s plan. Through Jesus’ entering into the world through human birth, human suffering, human death and divine resurrection, God proclaims to us this Advent season that we all fit. We all fit into God’s very life and heart. We fit into the work that God is doing to save not just us but all people and all of creation. We fit into God’s plan of life and love forever. Hosanna, save us now, are the very words we need this Advent season. Amen.