Saturday, December 1, 2012

What No Other King Has or Could Do: Thoughts on Advent 1

As time marches coldly on to its inevitable end, we are left wondering where it went. We look at our family, our church, our nation and long for what once was. We see the highlights, the golden age that time has seemed to forgotten, and we want them back. If only, we think, someone could step up to restore us to what we once were, if we had a rulers to take us back to prosperity like the one who did it back then, a pastor who could fill the church the way it was when so-and-so was here. The season of our discontent grows.

And then we look at our family. Our parents, how they've grown old, even ill, that they aren't what they used to be, slower, weaker, or even no longer with us. We look at our spouses, that the bright future we once saw, the beauty of youth, the unstained and newness of a life begun in joy now faded a bit for the reality of marriage to fallen people in a fallen world; our brothers and sisters, how we used to play without cares or conflicts, now separated by hurtful words and deeds that make family gatherings uncomfortable and stressful; our children, and grandchildren–how they've grown up, no longer the sweet innocents they once were, but those have made decisions and mistakes that they blame you for, and that we blame ourselves for. We were told to cherish these times, to hold them near and dear to us because they always pass and we can never go back. But we try. We try to live in that past, that once perfect time when everything was well, when we were young and strong and everything was right. We remember those golden ages, those moments of time, as utopias in our own lives. And we yearn for that past to be our present and our future. We seek to recreate it. 

But our view of the past is always romantic. It's viewed through rose-colored lenses. It was never as perfect in reality as it is in our minds. We have forgotten most of the heartache and difficulty that was really there.

The people of Israel were no different. They longed for a time when they were no longer under foreign occupation. They yearned for a king like unto David who could conquer their enemies as of old, or Solomon whose reign was peaceful and prosperous. They waited for a time when another king would come to restore them to their former glory. They put their trust in princes, in son's of men, who died and returned to the dust, just as everyone since Adam had. They thought if only we could get the right man for the job, pick the right candidate, we could be what we once were. And the season of their discontent grows. 

But their memory, too, was romanticized. David, for all he did, was a man of war, a man of violence and had blood on his hands (1 Chron 28:3). He was kept from building a house for the Lord because of  it. Solomon, too, for everything he did, as great as it was, as peaceful and prosperous as His rule was, all of it was accomplished at the people's expense, by taxation of his own people and their enemies.

And so they waited for a king to come like that of David. And He came. He would be the Son of David and the Son of God. He was declared Son and King at His Baptism, when He was anointed by the Father with the Holy Spirit and the Words of Psalm 2, "You are my beloved Son". This is the Son whom God has set high on Zion, His holy hill. This is the Son whose rule, whose kingdom encompasses all the nations even unto the ends of the earth. This is the Son who will sit upon the throne forever, who will establish a house for God's Name, and who will establish His people in peace, granting them rest from their enemies (2 Sam 7:10-17).

This is the Son of David who rode into Jerusalem, but He would not be like those who preceded Him. For when He rode into Jerusalem, He did so not on a powerful war horse. No. He enters the holy city riding upon a donkey, a beast of burden. He comes, therefore, not to make war. Nor does He come to reign by taxing this people. He comes to bear their burdens. He comes to serve them. He comes to make a house for His Father's name not out of stone and gold, but out of His own flesh, in His own body. And He does this not at the people's expense but at His own. He conquers His enemies not by committing violence against them, but by suffering violence upon Himself. He establishes the reign of God by His cross, by the shedding of His own blood, by defeating death by His own death, which establishes peace on earth and goodwill toward men. His enemies are put under his feet when He is lifted up on His cross. And from there, He reigns. For The cross is His throne. The victim remains the victor. And thus does He reign forever: As the one who is crucified but risen. He has done what no other King has or could do. He has saved His people just as He promised. He also saves you.

Thus we are planted into the Lord's vineyard. We incorporated into His household, in the Father's house. Thus we are established in peace. Thus, we have rest from our enemies, from all that assails us--death, sickness, sin, and the attacks of the evil one. For the promised King, the Son of David, is come. He lives and reigns to all eternity.

This is not just another romantic look at our future. This is real history, in real time for all eternity. Jesus Christ, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, is the true Son of God and the true Son of David. He is the true heir to the throne established by the Father. So put not your trust in the princes of this world. Put not your hope in what will come from our president or our congress. Trust in the King who comes not to make demands upon you, not to make war and bloodshed, not to tax you and take from you, but the King who comes to serve you, to bear your burdens, to save you from the darkness that eclipses our lives and the discontent that grows with each new season.

And know this: your King still reigns and He still comes. He rides into your midst today, hidden and lowly upon lowly means. He comes in Word. He comes in bread and wine. And He comes to bring you peace, peace with God and with one another in the taking away of your sins. He comes to bring you eternal life and salvation. He comes to reign. And this is how He reigns. Not by demands. Not by violence. He reigns by giving of Himself to give you peace and rest. And so, be at peace and rest in Him and His promises. For He is coming again to take you at last from this valley of sorrows and give you rest in His Father's house and a peace that surpasses all understanding.  

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