We are now setting out on a special journey during a unique time of year with its own tempo, its own beat, its own music. I’m not talking about Christmas, though we see that everywhere we go now. I’m talking about Advent, a distinct time of year we set aside to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of our Savior. This season calls us with restrained joy to reflect on the coming of our Savior. We ought to focus on why He has come on Christmas Day, will come on the Last Day, and comes to us even now in Word and Sacrament. Thank God for Advent. We need Advent.
For we put so much effort and preparation into this time of year. Decorating, Christmas cards and letters, baking, cooking, party planning, eating, shopping, baking, cooking, gift buying, gift wrapping, decorating, family gatherings, eating, party participating, baking, cooking, eating. On and on it goes. There’s so much to be done for the Christmas season. And none of that really has anything to do with the Christ of Christmas.
You know, we can easily forget all about Christ’s mighty works during the busyness of the holiday season. We can become so wrapped up in wrapping and unwrapping gifts and decorations, that December may come and go and by the time it’s too late, the realization just might hit… amid all our busyness, preparation, and celebration we totally missed what it was all about. We might find that we ignored the reason for the season.
This can be true of life in general. We can be so wrapped up in the goings on of our everyday lives that it’s as if Jesus doesn’t exist. And when we act as though God doesn’t exist, we become functional atheists. We may believe in God, but we don’t live like it. That’s a very sad place to be.
I once knew somebody (not in this congregation or my previous congregation), this person didn’t attend church because they were too busy with day trading on the stock market. This person told me that one day when the money starts rolling in, he or she will use the money for the good of the Church. It was heartbreaking. Functionally, Jesus didn’t exist in that person’s life, but the god of money did.
The Pharisees told Jesus to silence His disciples from proclaiming all the mighty works that the Lord had done which show He’s the promised Messiah. Unfortunately, we don’t need anybody to tell us to be quiet, we can shut ourselves up as we get caught up in the things of this world to the neglect of our God and Savior.
If we don’t proclaim Christ’s mighty works, something else will. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” You see, God doesn’t *need* us to proclaim His mighty works. He can find other ways. In fact, the Psalms say, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” All of creation bears witness to the magnificent creativity and power of God.
Unfortunately, there was a time in Jesus’ life – just a few days after the Triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, when all of Jesus’ disciples – all of His friends – abandoned Him and remained silent. All the disciples ran away while the Lord was arrested, Peter denied Him at His trial, and John watched our Lord at the crucifixion without a word of the other disciples’ whereabouts. The disciples were silent – no longer proclaiming the mighty works of God. No longer praising Christ. No longer rejoicing in the Messiah.
However, in that dark, quiet moment, as one of the early church fathers reminded me this week, the stones weren’t silent. As Jesus breathed His last and gave up His spirit, the stones began to quake and split when at the same time the temple curtain ripped from top to bottom. The earthquake, splitting rocks, and temple curtain direct our gaze to the cross, where the Lamb of God – the Son of God – offered Himself in sacrifice for the sins of the world. Coupled with His resurrection, this would be the single greatest mighty work our Lord Jesus Christ has ever done, because this is the work that sets us free from slavery to sin, the sting of death, the power of the devil, and the pit of hell. And in that moment, though everything else was silent, the stones would not remain silent as the earth itself quaked upon the death of its Creator.
But we don’t have to be silent. Let us not remain silent. Don’t make the stones cry out, brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us proclaim the mighty works of God to one another, to our families, to our friends, to our neighbors, to the world. Let us proclaim Christ crucified and raised for the sins of the world. For we have received this glorious gift and now we can share it.
With joy, we praise God for the mighty works of our Lord. Listen again to the joy of the disciples as they sing God’s praise, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” They proclaim Jesus to be the King coming in God’s name with God’s blessing. This is a confession that they believe Him to be the promised Messiah.
Today, we heard God say through Jeremiah, “I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David.” Jesus is the righteous branch for David. David’s Son, yet David’s Lord. Jesus now humbly rides into Jerusalem to claim a people for Himself, a people who have sat in darkness, a people who have been under the tyranny of sin, death, and the devil. He comes to set the captive free and the disciples rejoice – singing His praise and spreading out a royal carpet.
That’s what we do when we gather together. We rejoice and sing the praises of our God, declaring what He has done. The beauty of our hymns is that they tell stories of God’s mercy and salvation, His power and might, His grace and forgiveness. And so when we sing them, we sing these stories to each other.
Then, having filled our minds and hearts with the mighty works of Christ, we go to our homes where we can joyfully praise the mighty works of God with our families and in our communities.
You probably see the news. Yesterday was pretty depressing to read about all the unrest going on in our land. Soaring crime and violence, panic over Covid, and more unrest concerning what schools are teaching children. Rudeness, unkindness, and impatience that leads to treating others as inconveniences continually increase. There’s so much unrest, division, and violence. The world needs peace. The world needs Jesus.
That Palm Sunday, the disciples proclaimed, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” On the night of Christ’s birth, an angel proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men.” The coming of the Savior is the highest glory as He binds heaven and earth in a peace that can’t be found anywhere in this world. Jesus is our peace. So we share the joy of God’s peace with those in the world, who like us may be hurting, dying, suffering, experiencing sorrow, distress, fear, and affliction; and receiving the forgiveness, life, and salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ, along with us they receive peace that passes understanding.
GOD’S PEOPLE SHOUT CHRIST’S MIGHTY WORKS TO THE WORLD SO THAT THE STONES DON’T HAVE TO!
This Advent season we have a lot of opportunities to proclaim the mighty works of Christ. The Lord grant it that all the other matters of our busy lives don’t distract us or mislead us from the one thing needful – our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.