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 Isa 61:1 "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,
 3 To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." 4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations. 5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, And the sons of the foreigner Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. 6 But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, They shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, And in their glory you shall boast. 7 Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs.

 Ro 13:11 And do this, (do what the preceding verse says to your neighbor!) knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
 Mt 21:1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.
 3 "And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them." 4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 5 "Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'" 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.  7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' Hosanna in the highest!" 10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, "Who is this?" 11 So the multitudes said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee."

Did I miss something here? How did we get from Advent to Palm Sunday? How does this Gospel reading find it’s way into the Advent season? Most of you know that advent means “coming.”

And I suppose we could stretch it a little here and say that there is a connection because of what the people are saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who “advents” who comes in the name of the Lord.”
But that’s a stretch.  I think it would be safer to say that this portion of Scripture epitomizes our Lord’s first advent. His first coming was marked by humility, grace and truth.

 Joh 1:14 And the Word became flesh (God became a baby) and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

That’s what we beheld. Grace, truth, humility, and compassion marked His first Advent.  And since we are still in this “first Advent” time frame, grace, truth, humility, and compassion ought to mark our lives as well. If you recall, the first portion of our Old Testament lesson was quoted by Jesus in one of His first visits back in His hometown of Nazareth.

 Lu 4:16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.  17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:  18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to  the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."  20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.  21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Notice where HE stopped. He stopped at “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” He didn’t go on to say, “And the Day of vengeance of our God.” And He didn’t go on to deal with the rest of that prophecy which speaks of pouring out the Holy Spirit, rebuilding His church and including the Gentiles in His church. That stuff would  all take place after His ascension.

His first advent was to preach the good tidings to the poor in spirit, those broken by the weight of their sins. (I think of the prostitute who broke the expensive tool of her trade (perfume) and poured it over the feet of Jesus because she wouldn’t be needing it anymore.

He came to heal the brokenhearted, (let’s just stop and think about the brokenhearted before we go on here.) Who are the brokenhearted? Are they not the ones who have lost a loved one? Whether it’s a breakup of a relationship,  or the passing of a loved one, ....their hearts are crushed....broken.

Well just think about Israel at this time. They had not heard from the Lord in over 400 years. The idea of a personal relationship with God had been swallowed up in the religiosity of the religious rulers of the day.  Many of these people were brokenhearted, they must’ve even felt a little jilted by God.

But Jesus came, just as had been prophesied....Immanuel, God with us, they had not been jilted after all, and Jesus was here to heal those who had been feeling broken-hearted. He was here to restore that relationship to those who would receive Him.  And I can’t help but think of Nicodemus.
He also came “to proclaim liberty to those held captive by sin,” the Samaritan woman at the well is a prime example.” He came to open the doors of those imprisoned and possessed by Satan and his demons. I think of the Gadarene demoniac, and Mary Magdalene to name a few.  

I think of His descent into hell, where HE declared His victory over Satan and threw open the gates of Hades and took all the believers with Him to Paradise, leaving the rest to continue in their eternal torment.

And, His first Advent was to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. What does it mean to “proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord? It means that Jesus came to proclaim a year of Jubilee.

This was an Old Testament practice ordained by God. Every fiftieth years all debts were cancelled. It was a year of Jubilee. Debts were cancelled and slaves were set free! The whole purpose of this OT practice was to foreshadow what God was going to do in “the acceptable year of the Lord.”

The year when Jesus would make the proclamation of the Gospel, the year when he would die for the sins of the world and pay the debt of sin, (the wages of sin....death). Jesus would cancel this debt on Calvary.  Slaves to sin would forever be set free, if they would just receive Jesus as Christ and Lord.

Make no mistake about it, the debt for every sin ever committed or that will ever be committed was cancelled when Jesus died on the cross.

 Col 2:14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

He said “It is finished!” And the Greek Word there is a financial term, and it means the debt has been paid.  We are in the year of Jubilee! All that is left, is for people to hear and receive that Good News, that’s why we preach the Gospel and pray that people will receive it.

I  want you to notice something here. This “acceptable year of the Lord” is not a literal year.  It is an extended period of time....a time of grace extended to the world.  We are still in this time. But look what Isaiah says about vengeance.

Does he talk about a year of vengeance? A month? A week? No! He talks of a Day. One Day when Jesus Advents the second time and judges the world. There will be no season of vengeance, no extended time of plea bargaining, it will be a sudden one day second coming in which believers will be taken up to be with Him forever, enjoying the new heaven and the new earth. Unbelievers will be damned and spend eternity in hell.

Isaiah speaks of this elsewhere, in
Isa 63:4 For the day of vengeance is in My heart, And the year of My redeemed has come.
Again, we see the day of vengeance, only in His heart right now, as a reality that He knows will one day occur, and a year (extended period of grace) in which redemption has come and is given to all who will receive it!

So, there are two advents of Christ. His first advent of course was the incarnation. The miraculous conception and birth of the Babe in a lowly manger in a little town called Bethlehem.
The second advent of Christ, is still to come.

I guess you could call us “tweeners, because we are living between the two advents. We are an Advent sandwich. And since we are living between the Advents, what do you suppose we are to be about? We are to be about proclaiming the jubilee, the gospel to others. It’s called the great commission.

Just as no one could predict and pinpoint the exact date of the first Advent, so it is with the second Advent, no one knows the exact date of our Lord’s return and that’s a good thing, because it should give us all a sense of urgency. We all ought to have kind of an edgy anticipation of the return of our conquering King. And above all, we should all be ready.

 Mr 13:32 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  33 "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.
 34 "It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.  
35 "Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming--in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning–  36 "lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.  37 "And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!"

We ought to be found working for the Master when He returns. We ought to have that attitude of “not on my watch.” In other words, “I won’t be asleep when He returns. I’ll live my life as if He were coming today! And that means living a life led moment by moment by the Spirit. A life that is dead to self and alive to Christ so that we  love God and our neighbors.

That means learning to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.

One of the most frequently asked questions this time of the year is, “Are you ready for Christmas?” Bad question. Think of the pressure put on an individual by that question in our crazy Christmas world. Is the shopping done? Are the cookies baked? Travel and entertainment plans set? Decorations all up?

Do you have film for the camera? Is the Christmas program done? What are you going to buy for the “secret Santa” thing at work? Don’t forget to do something charitable.  And when you do set off to do some of your shopping, it’s bumper to bumper, elbow to elbow greed and short fuses.

 I love my neighbor’s inflatable Christmas decoration, (it’s Frosty the Snowman!) because when it’s not plugged in, it captures the way most people feel around the holidays.

Hey Frosty! The King is coming! How about a few Hosanna’s? But Frosty has allowed the world to dictate how he celebrates Christmas and he is worn to a frazzle....unplugged. And if he is plugged in, it’s not a real’s a painted on smile, covering up the way he really feels.

Merry Christmas! Bah Humbug! Are you ready for Christmas? Bad question! No I’m not! But I am ready for the Advent of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I’m ready for the second glorious coming of my King! I’m ready for the new heaven and the new earth. I’m ready for no more night!

Are you ready for the second coming of Jesus Christ? Just pause and consider how that might change your attitude about the Christmas season! Because everyone of us ought to have a joyful anticipation about our Lord’s return 24/7 365 days a year!

Oh, it’s great to commemorate our Lord’s first Advent, but what if we also purposely strove to celebrate His soon to come second Advent as well. I was reading the latest issue of the Ambassador and was struck by a phrase Pastor Mark Johnson used in his article entitle, “Give me Jesus.” He said, “ Is God calling us to reconsider how we celebrate Christmas?”

I think we spend a little bit too much time looking back and need to start looking forward! If we are looking forward, it will automatically reduce the materialistic side of Christmas...because guess what......all the material stuff will be burned when our Lord can’t take it with you! Suddenly shopping isn’t all that critical is it? What are we really buying? Dust and rust!

And as we look forward, it will automatically create joy in our hearts when we consider that there will be no more night, no more pain, no more tears, no more curse when our Lord comes again. What if we were to read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve and then follow it with Rev. 22:1-5?

 Re 22:1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.  4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.  5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.  

Joy to the Christian world, ....the Lord has come!

I’m even thinking of changing my outdoor decorating scheme to a “second coming theme.”

I might take the lights off my outside tree and just throw them on a pile on the ground and plug ‘em in. When people ask what kind of a decoration that is, I will simply tell them, that’s where all the stars will be when the Lord returns.....on the ground, (Mt 24:29) ....because they will become  undone in the presence of His holiness when He re-enters the heavens and the earth the second time.

Maybe I’ll hang an onion on my tree to remind me that there will be no more tears!

Or,   Instead of a creche, I’m going to set up a pile of rocks with some mannequins buried under them, because the unbelievers will be calling for the rocks to fall on them when the Lord returns.
Not a real joyous thought but some motivation for the Christian to be about the Father’s business.

My fellow “tweeners.” Are you ready for the second Advent, or are you going to be like one of those mannequins, begging for the rocks to fall on you to hide you from the holy gaze of Jesus?

Paul reminds us in the epistle lesson that our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. That’s the real joy of Christmas for us “tweeners” The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light!”

Think about that verse the next time you are hanging up Christmas lights! Lights are the symbol of what we ought to be! The armor of light is the daily putting on of Jesus that I have been encouraging you all to do as you daily revisit your baptism, recalling all that God did for you!

Let every light on every string be a reminder to you to daily come forth, putting off the old man and putting on Christ. Allow Jesus to live and love through you! Remembering that:

“Rom 13:10, “Love does no harm to a neighbor therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.”    

It’s amazing to me, Paul wrote this long before the advent of office Christmas parties, and long before the advent of Christmas shopping, but how prophetic he was as he contrasted what our behavior should be like during the holiday season, (and all year round for that matter) with that of the world.

 Ro 13:13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. (Revelry, drunkenness, lewdness, lust, strife, envy. Aren’t these all elements of the unregenerated Christmas celebrations?)  14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

This is the first Sunday of Advent, I encourage all of us to really celebrate this season in the true Christian spirit. Jesus is coming soon! Let us do all we can to walk in the light as He is in the light! By all means, let us remember His first Advent, because without the first Advent we’d have no second Advent.

Celebrate! He is coming again! He is coming to take all His believers home with Him! Be assured of your homecoming by daily revisiting what God did for you in your baptism. Daily repent of your sins and receive His cleansing. Thank Him for giving you the Holy Spirit and ask Him to increase in your life!

Thank Him for the gift of faith and ask Him to help you tend it, and thank Him for doing away with your old man and allowing you to put on Christ. If you do this. If you daily put on Christ and allow Him to live and love through you....I guarantee you that you will never view the Christmas song, “Deck the Halls” in the same way.

Because the “gay apparel that you and I don” isn’t the latest Christmas outfit or’s the robe of righteousness given to us by God’s grace at our baptism. As we remain in the faith , this apparel given to us by God is cause for great gaiety and joy!  Don we now our gay apparel.......May that gaiety and joy of Christ  be yours this Advent season.