A new church year begins with the first Sunday in Advent this week – the day is dawning, the King is almost here. He does not come in majesty and splendor, but as a helpless baby in a stable. Even when he enters Jerusalem, it is on a donkey, not a fancy charger, and it is on his way to a cross, not a throne. But his name says it all – The Lord Our Righteous Savior (NIV), or if you prefer other translations, The Lord Our Righteousness (KJV), or even God Who Puts Everything Right (MSG). Advent is traditionally a penitential season, like Lent. Though we look forward to Christmas, it is a time to think about the reason Jesus had to come. We need a Savior because of sin and death; we need Righteousness because we are unrighteous, and God needs to put everything right, because we have done it all wrong.
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Jeremiah, chapter 23, verses 5-8:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”
The Epistle lesson is from Romans, chapter 13, verses 11-14:
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
The Gospel for the first Sunday in Advent is from Matthew, chapter 21, verses 1-9:
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”