Sermon for the 1st Sunday in Advent - Matthew 21:1-9
Childbirth is an amazing thing. A new baby. This little fragile life that had to be cradled by the mother for months now breaks forth into this broken world, and it takes all our might as parents to keep them from being broken themselves. I remember when I first became a dad. After my wife did all the work, and this amazing miracle happened of another life being created, I’m holding my daughter and that little hand latches onto my finger and I was done. I was terrified to hold her the first time. To give her a bath. To change her diapers. To feed her. Driving home from the hospital, I never drove so slow or carefully in all my life. Nothing so vulnerable or intimidating as a newborn baby. So small you worry you might drop her. Crush her. Neglect her. But then you also have a job. She needs love. She needs food. She needs cleaning. She needs warmth, naps, fresh air, stimulation, to be taught, to grow, to mature, to test herself, her gifts, her talents, to hear the word of God pronounced over her. Life happening to her, not by her. Eventually baptized in water she did not ask for, and marked with the cross of Christ forever, because this whole Christian life and the work of Jesus is something that comes to us. Happens to us. No us involved apart from being these recipients of the glory of Christ.
Now I ask you, could God come to you in anymore humble of way than as a baby? That is even more humble than a preacher riding a donkey. God, the creator of babies, the Creator of little fingers and toes and that smell of babies. He became that for you. He came as this baby for you, to redeem you. To preach his word to you as forgiveness pronounced in his name. To take on a body that can die. Is there anything more humble?
Think about it, God lived in a womb. Had an umbilical cord. Before he ever arrived as this great preacher entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, God himself sat in the saddle of Mary’s womb, cells dividing, had a heartbeat, brainwaves, and born in a barn. Not because there was no room in the inn, but because he wanted no reason for you to want him or need him apart from him telling you so. No pomp. No magical materialization in your midst like Scotty beaming him down from the Enterprise with the Transporter. God was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a 14-year-old girl because we could never think that a Savior or a King would come in such a way.
This God-man, Jesus the Creator of all things, who spoke your being into existence, was born in that stall on that silent night with no fanfare. There were no baby announcements. No gender revealing party. No endless maternity shoots on Instagram. No videographer came to document the birth story so that Joseph could share it with all his friends. God himself broke into that night in the wailing of an infant to bring righteousness and peace to a world which has very little of either. God coming in this way so that we would have no power to tell him how he should come, what it should look like, or what he should do when he gets here.
God came of his own accord for his own reasons. Those reasons were you. God breaking into history, soiling diapers, because he saw you in your troubles, in your sins, in your dying life and wished to bring life and salvation to you. What is more emblematic of this life than a baby? New life. Newness coming to an old dying world. To people who from the moment of our birth begin to die. Have the chance to not make it to 1 year of age, let alone 100. God becoming that for you. Taking on your same flesh. Your same weakness. Your same death. The King of the universe being born into your life when you least expected it that your salvation, your redemption, your righteousness, anything that is good or worthy in you being because of his interruption in your perfect little world.
This Advent, think about the fact that it is not about retaining the Christmas spirit. It is not about becoming a better person, or living the right way, or doing so much good for so many people. Those are all nice things. Admirable things. Things that can be done without Jesus. Without the manger. Without the pregnant Mary hoofing it to Bethlehem. Without the angel choirs or wise men. Advent is not about you not being Ebenezer Scrooge, but about the coming of God into your history. His appearing to you, not so you and I might get along, or buy the right gifts, or be thankful, or whatever. It is because we aren’t those things. It is because there was this necessity for God to make his life known among yours and mine in order to hand to us the very thing we usually forget at Christmas, life and salvation.
We get so caught up in the schedules, the parties, the shopping, the decorating, the cooking, the concerts, the basketball tournaments, bowl games, lights and nostalgia, that we fly right by the season as one to realize the reality of that holy infant, tender and mild coming forth into history in order to change your story. In order to turn over all your tables you have put up. All the things we have in our lives that take the place of Jesus and he tears them up. Ripping up the wrapping paper. Throwing away the boxes. Never worrying about the presents or the spirit of it all. Instead, wanting you. Needing you. Needing to be this baby born to die in order that you might live in him. To bring light into the darkness. To become your king of peace. Making sure that whether you have that spirit or not. Whether you have gotten started on your Christmas list, or sent out all the cards, or made the cookies. He doesn’t want those things. Doesn’t need those things. He is here to interrupt you. To throw you off your game and come to you when you least expect him in a way you never thought possible.
So these Wednesdays and Sundays, come to hear the story. The Words of Christ spoken to you by an ordinary sinful human preacher. Another creature being tasked with opening up the Word and delivering to you this Jesus who embodied flesh in order to forgive our fleshiness. Touch the water of the font and be reminded that Jesus had parents who bathed him, but also that Jesus bathes you. Washes you in him. In things ordinary like water, Christ comes to you in things we use regularly, Christ is present there as himself, the gift, for you. Coming to you in Bread and Wine. His literal Body and Blood. Communion not being a snack, but the literal Jesus, who took on flesh giving to you what he came to bring to you – life and salvation. Not in pomp but in the humbleness of a mother, a manger, a hand. Even for a moment today making your hands the cradles that hold this Jesus whose life was given that you might live in him. Cradling the incarnate God, the Bread of life, the Lamb of God who takes away your sin. Thanks be to God. Amen.