Sermon Text: Proper 9A – Christmas is coming!

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Sunday Online Church at Home Service: FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Proper 9A – Christmas is coming!

  1. To listen to our OT lesson you might think we were at the beginning of December or approaching Easter not July
    1. This reading is from Zechariah quoted by the Gospel writers when our Lord enters Jerusalem on a donkey
      1. Of course, that event happens at the beginning of Holy Week, but it’s also read on the first Sunday of Advent when we await arrival of our Savior and are excited because Christmas is coming!
      1. Zechariah writes, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! 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)
    1. This was Good News for a people wearied after the long Babylonian captivity, Zechariah was writing after Israel’s return
      1. The people needed some good news – not only after the long exile in Babylon but to provide hope after the return when nothing was like it used to be – the rebuilt temple was a shadow of its former self, the king was gone, the glory was gone, the hope was gone.
      1. Zechariah’s words were words of coming hope, good news for a weary people
      1. So, this reading is traditionally remembered at Easter and Christmas not in the middle of summer, but perhaps we need some Good News, too
      1. Maybe that’s why channels like Hallmark have Christmas in July – as a mid-year reminder of Christmas joy.
    1. Just as the Israelites needed to be picked up so do we. Especially, this July Christmas Joy seems a long way off!
      1. We’ve been cooped up for nearly four months, we’re still not back to “normal” and now we hear of increases in COVID all across the country
      1. What will Christmas look like this year? Who knows; who’s even thinking of Christmas at a time like this?
      1. So, hear the Good News in this Summer of Discontent – Christmas is coming!
  2. Put yourselves in the place of the Israelites in our OT lesson so long ago
    1. We’ve been quarantined for a couple of months; they were in exile in a foreign land for 70 years! A whole generation came and went
      1. And when they came back to Israel it was to a new reality, the stories they had been told about their nation’s greatness were long past
      1. What they had now looked bleak in comparison
    1. Kind of like us today; our country and even our area are not going to be what they were
      1. Many restaurants are gone, stores gone, family businesses gone, no Red Wings baseball, what about the NFL and so many other things
      1. What do you do when the “new reality” appears grim with no end in sight?
    1. Obviously, the magnitude of the change was much greater for post-exile Israel
      1. But what is similar is that what we’ve come to trust in – our society, our history, our prosperity – everything we thought was secure is not!
      1. We’re reading Ecclesiastes in our Sunday Bible Study and Solomon found that same truth too – everything we put stock in…everything we toil after…everything we think is secure is meaningless, a chasing after the wind
      1. He found no security in possessions, pleasure, or wisdom because it all ends with death, but we live with the illusion of permanence until something or someone wakes us up
      1. That could be death of a loved one, bankruptcy, ill health, or a natural disaster like a pandemic – this is our wakeup!
  3. Some will wake to the new reality in despair, but our Lord’s Words are Christmas in July…Christmas after COVID and social unrest…Christmas in the New Reality
    1. Our Lord’s words bring a promise of consolation, a promise of rest.
      1. The promise of a New Reality that’s better than the old reality because it’s the promise of something that cannot perish, spoil or fade!
      1. In the midst of Israel’s bleak new reality in our OT lesson, the Lord directed His peoples’ attention to the coming Messiah.
      1. They were still the Covenant people…there was still hope, hope beyond the present circumstances
    1. In our Gospel lesson we hear the invitation to find meaning, consolation, and rest in Christ
      1. You can’t find that in wisdom, money or pleasure as Solomon discovered.
      1. It’s not found in an advanced society as we’ve discovered.
      1. These are all a chasing after the wind to use Solomon’s phrase
      1. And chasing after the wind…trying to find permanence apart from God is exhausting (also Solomon’s conclusion) …it’s wearying
    1. And that’s where our Lord’s promise in the Gospel lesson is for us, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)
      1. It is an invitation to stop the rat race of life, to find meaning, consolation, and rest from the endless pursuits that all people of all cultures have always done
      1. The pursuit something that will last be it an inheritance, monuments, endowments, an intellectual legacy is all in vain
      1. Whatever “new reality” human history enters – Renaissance, Industrial Revolution, Sexual Revolution, post-COVID world will become the old reality replaced by another in an endless stream until our Lord returns
    1. But in Christ that hamster wheel stops – because through faith we recognize that the horizon to which we look isn’t measured in years or decades or centuries but eternity.
      1. Because Christ has paid the price for your sin, my sin, the whole world’s sin we receive the free gift of salvation when we turn in faith to Him
      1. Now you don’t have to search for “meaning” here…for permanence or security here because this life (while difficult for everyone) is not the end…
    1. Our eternal reality is that we are sons and daughters of the King who will inherit a kingdom where the vicissitudes of this life (the endless changes, the ups and downs) will stop and we will dwell in peace and security in the house of God forever!
      1. That is the message Zechariah was proclaiming to post-exile Israel, “Lift up your drooping heads your salvation comes…rejoice do not weep!
      1. That is the message the angels proclaimed over Bethlehem that first Christmas, “Your salvation has arrived…this is the Good News of Great Joy that will be for all people…”
      1. That is the invitation our Lord offers in our Gospel, Come unto me you weary and I will give you rest.
      1. That is the message proclaimed to you today as COVID, social chaos and economic uncertainty rage around us Christmas is coming, Lift up your heads…your salvation has come find rest for your troubled soul in Christ alone…you are a child of the King – it is not just Christmas in July but Christmas forever, amen!