Advent 1C November 28, 2021, St. John, New Orleans
Insurance companies often like to tout taglines
which leads you to believe
they are attentive to your needs,
available when you need them,
and responsive to your claims of damages.
They want you to feel as though they are standing by,
day or night, home or away,
in order to fulfill the promises they have made with you
when you contracted with them for insurance coverage.
But it's not just insurance companies.
When we go to work for someone, we trust their promise to pay us for the work we do for them.
When a man asks a woman for her hand in marriage, he promises to love, honor, and cherish her the rest of their days.
When mothers give birth, they promised to nourish and raise their child to adulthood.
Promises are made over and over in our lifetime. Yet, all too often, they are broken by one party or the other.
Of course, the first broken promise happened in the garden of Eden.
God promised to provide for all the needs of Adam and Eve so long as they stayed away from a single tree in the center of the garden.
Their failure to trust God led them to eat from that tree,
corrupting them, making them unrighteous.
But, despite their broken promise, God made a new promise
to defeat the devil who deceived them and tempted them to sin,
while at the same time, restoring them to righteousness.
And, of course, that savior is Jesus.
Today our gospel shows us shares with us the day, a week before his resurrection,
when Jesus was publicly, and popularly, described as the one who would restore righteousness to all.
As was predicted in our Old Testament lesson from Jeremiah.
“And he will be called, “the Lord is our righteousness.””
This is the difference maker for us; In Jesus, God himself came to save us.
And, being wholly righteous as God the son, he remained righteous as no mere mortal could.
And so, when we look forward to Immanuel: God with us, we are excited!
We are not afraid of the God who will judge heaven and earth, but, rather, we know him as bringing righteousness.
We know that a judge is righteous, for, how else could he judge?
But a Savior brings righteousness.
And that's what Jesus does for us.
Not only is he righteous,
but through his death on the cross and our baptisms into his blood shed for us there,
that righteousness is placed upon us as well.
It covers our unrighteousness and washes it away forever.
So that when God the father sees us at our judgment,
he will not see our corruption and unrighteousness.
Rather, he will see Jesus’ righteousness imputed upon us.
This, then, is the importance of advent:
that we would know that God, and his righteousness, coming to dwell among us.
But more importantly, to remain with us, including his righteousness.
Advent is not just a celebration of the nativity of Jesus. And it is not just about us looking forward to his second coming.
Advent is also the celebration of Jesus being with us now!
Beginning with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
and continuing with the sacrament of the altar to this day,
Jesus never left us.
His return at the last day is not for the purpose of dwelling here with us on this earth like he did before,
but rather, to rescue us from this earth
to take us to the perfect new heaven and new earth
as he destroys this corrupted one.
Aside from his lack of a visible presence as a corporal body,
Jesus is fully present, alive, and active among us, and leading his church,
just as he did on that first Palm Sunday,
which we hear about in the gospel today.
And just as his followers sang his praises and recognized him as king,
so to do we praise him as Lord and savior.
And we too are sure and certain of the promise he made to bring us to his side at the moment the father has determined for us.
Whether that will be at the end of our life,
or at the end of this world.
As the song goes, (Tom Petty) “the waiting is the hardest part.” and the devil knows that as well.
Even though we have a sure and certain and hope,
as we await the Day, Satan says, “Are you sure? I don't see him, do you?”
and the seeds of doubt are sown.
And doubt is the antithesis of trust. It is the opposite of trust.
He takes one as-yet unfulfilled promise
and gets us to extrapolate that into assuming that he has broken that promise
and all his other promises as well!
And so, in that regard it is important for us to observe advent to help us trust in his promise to return for us.
Equally important are his final words to us as he ascended into heaven when he said, “I am with you always to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20.
This advent we marked the fact that we are one year closer to that “end of the age” and Jesus is still Immanuel.
Jesus is still, “God with us.”
and Jesus is still keeping his promise to be our righteousness
and to bring that righteousness to us each week
through his body and blood at Holy Communion.
So, as you come before the altar,
I pray that you may feel his presence
and know that his righteousness is yours
so that his promise is fulfilled in you
to bring you forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation from hell.
This year I also hope that we can spend considerable time together celebrating that God is with us as Immanuel.
And I also pray that the Holy Spirit helps you make choices
that lead you to continue trusting in God's promises,
and that we would be protected from Satan’s liberal sowing of doubt, fear, and frustration.
Be sure to find time to attend our evening prayer services on Wednesday
as well as one of our two Christmas Eve services.
And, finally, as we wrap up the Christmas season with a wonderful Epiphany service of carols and readings on January 6th.
All these services are not just for the purpose of tradition or, “getting us in the Christmas spirit,”
rather, they help keep us focused on, “the reason for the season” in faith and hope,
so that we may Surely have his robe of righteousness cover us,
even as we extend his grace in mercy to those all around us this season.
May he accomplish it in each of us by his Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus. Amen.