Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sermon for Midweek Advent 2 (December 9, 2009)

Wordle: Untitled

“Who is this King of Great and Glorious Fame?” (Psalm 24:8, 10)

Who is this King of great and glorious fame?
What is His name?
Lord God of Sabaoth,
Of Whom the prophets wrote,
Whose chosen, humble steed
Declares Him king indeed!
Hosanna, Lord! Messiah come and save
From sin and grave. (LSB 339.2)

Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! … The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! (Psalm 24:8, 10)

What makes someone famous? Well, for starters, you have to do something of note or have some kind of outstanding talent. Music stars, movie stars, sports stars, prominent politicians … all would be considered “famous.”

But fame is fleeting, too. Today's pop stars are often tomorrow's has-beens, some recovering from alcohol and drug addictions, trying to make a comeback. Today's top college draft picks often fizzle out tomorrow in the world of professional sports, not quite able to achieve their former status during their undergrad years, and they are soon forgotten. Other sports stars deal with injuries and arthritis and tendonitis tomorrow … rich, for sure, but wishing they could be back on the field or the court for one more moment of glory.

The eccentric artist Andy Warhol was right. Back in 1968, he said, “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” With the advent of television and the internet and the information superhighway, his statement has become so true. Faces of the rich and famous are splashed in front of us on a daily basis. And today, you don't even have to be particularly noteworthy or talented. All you need is your own reality show. Or maybe you can crash a party at the White House. That'll get you some instant fame. But only for a few moments. Soon, the public will be interested in someone else. You might get lucky with a brief mention in the end-of-the-year issue of People magazine.

Would you call Jesus “famous”? Sure. If you ask anyone on the street if they've heard of Jesus, they'd probably say, “Yes.” But what else would they know about him? How would they describe him? A good man. A wise teacher. A philosopher. A prophet. A martyr. Those descriptions are true, but they're not the whole story. Sadly, there are some people who wouldn't even be able to say that much about Jesus. I had a young man in my office one time at my former congregation. He was the fiancee of one of our church members. At one point in our pre-marital counseling sessions, I asked him about his church background. He said he had none. I asked him what he could tell me about who Jesus is. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. He honestly could not say a thing about Jesus. Thankfully, I was able to fill him in. He didn't become a Christian, as far as I know. But hopefully, the seed was planted and someone was able to water that seed elsewhere so that he came to faith at some point along the way.

Last week, we established the fact that Psalm 24 is about the entrance of the Messiah into the Holy City, Jerusalem. The Psalmist encourages the gates of the city to “Lift up your heads … that the King of glory may come in.” On Palm Sunday, only a few days before he was lifted up on a cross, the crowd acclaimed him as King, shouting, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Not only the people, but also the King's choice of transportation declared him king, as the hymnwriter says, “Whose chosen, humble steed declares Him king indeed!” A military ruler would ride on a horse. David's son Solomon rode on a mule when he was crowned king. (1 Kings 1:32-40) Here, the greater Son of David rides in on a donkey. Moreover, Jesus rode on a donkey and her colt to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah, “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech. 9:9)

But notice how the Psalm writer answers the question, “Who is this King of glory?” He is the LORD. He is Yahweh. Jehovah. God incarnate. Lord God of Sabaoth, the whole host of heavenly angelic armies. “Sabaoth,” the word the hymnwriter uses, is the word translated as “hosts” in the psalm, the multitude of angels who serve God in holiness and righteousness.

This LORD is also said to be “strong and mighty … mighty in battle.” Once again, the Jews were looking for a conquering king. They were disappointed when he turned out to be what they thought as a fraud. What kind of a conquering king ends up nailed to a cross?

But that is exactly where Jesus showed his strength and might. He humbly and willingly allowed himself to be crucified. His battle was with sin and Satan and death itself, which had entered the world because of sin and Satan. The sin of the world, yours and mine, were laid to his account as he suffered on the cross. Satan's tempting voice came through the voice of the taunting crowd, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” (Matt. 27:40) “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” (Mark 15:32) But the King of Glory, enthroned upon his cross, endured to the bitter end, and paid the price in full for your sins and mine. Three days later, he showed his strength and might once again … but this time, it was different. This time, it was not done in humility. It was done with all his divine power and strength, as the body that was laid in the tomb came forth, never to die again. The King of Glory conquered sin and death, and now shares his victory with us by baptism and by faith. “Hosanna, Lord! Messiah come and save from sin and grave.”

The King who once entered Jerusalem on the back of a humble steed first entered the world in a humble fashion. His mother and foster father were not famous by any means. He was born in a cattle stall in a tiny little village. We know little about his childhood. He was raised in obscurity in a backwater town. But his birth was probably the most famous birth there ever was. It's the greatest “rags to riches” story ever told … with a little twist to the story. His rags were for our riches. Jesus came in poverty so that you and I might gain the riches of heaven. His birth is why our homes and stores and streets get all dressed up this time of year. Oh, sure, many still try to obscure the real meaning of the holidays. But there's no getting around the fact that the name of the holiday still bears his name. Who is this King of great and glorious fame? What is His name?

He is Jesus, the Christ.

The holiday is called “Christmas” … “Christ's Mass.”


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