In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Dear beloved in Christ:
"Opportunity knocks." That's the tag line on an annual car commercial on television. "It's opportunity knocking!"
The message? You only have a limited amount of time to take advantage of something really special. If you wait, it will be too late. Too late for the joy of knowing you seized the day and grabbed that one special thing before it walked on down the hall to knock on someone else's door.
And so we take that saying about opportunity knocking to heart and begin all our preparations for Christmas Day. Just try to list everything you are doing or have done or need to do so that December 25th will come in the way you want. Just think of all the things on your "to do" list.
If we're honest, it is a list that part of us believes will lead to a perfect Christmas.
But, when we sit down and think about it, it's a burdensome list and an unending list. The shopping for just the right things. The preparations around the house. The decorations. The special plates and silverware and scented candles and the train set. And the other decorations and the lights. And the invitations and the Christmas cards and letters and photographs. And the cleaning. And what ever happened to that little Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer sculpture that plays the Chipmunk's Christmas songs whenever it detects someone has come into the room? That needs to be found and put in its proper place as well.
"Opportunity is knocking," we tell ourselves as we begin the frenzied Christmas dance that will not end until we realize that it is Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and the door finally shuts and opportunity leaves for good — until it begins again next year.
Well, maybe this year you have everything under control. You've made you lists and checked them — not once or twice — but six times. You've had your Christmas letters ready to go since June. You know just the right gift for everyone — family and friends, and even the mailman and hairdresser — and you got them all at 30% off.
There's where the true joy of Christmas is to be found — isn't it? In seizing the day and accomplishing everything that we've decided needs to be done in order to make Christmas Day Christmas Day. The true joy of Christmas: knowing in your heart that you've made it the best Christmas ever.
But then there's that knock on the door. And it isn't Mr. Opportunity. It isn't anyone on your invitation list. It isn't anyone you expected or planned for.
It's some ordinary-looking Jewish guy with a donkey who you just know will come in and ruin everything.
The Holy Gospel According to Saint Matthew, the 21st chapter:
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! [Rejoice!], your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and 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!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” (Matthew 21:1-10 ESV)
The religious leaders in Jesus' day believed that the Passover holiday in Jerusalem was unfolding very nicely without Jesus showing up and spoiling everything. They had things quite under control. The ATM machines were all set up around the temple, the money-changers were ready to do their work. Thousands of holiday merry-makers were traveling to Jerusalem to do their holiday things and spend their holiday money. Despite the presence of the Roman soldiers, these religious leaders truly believed they had everything in hand. They had seized the day and all their preparations would now bear abundant fruit.
And then this guy from Nazareth with a donkey shows up. And they know now everything they had put their trust in is in danger of being eclipsed by the coming of this man who claims to be the Word of heaven itself. With the unexpected coming of this lowly servant king, all their planning and preparations could now very well go down the drain.
All that they had invested. All that they had done. All that they had accomplished. All they had sacrificed to make this the most special day of the entire year — and now this Jesus shows up believing he is the center and fulfillment of the day. Believing he is the source of true joy and peace for all who would celebrate that "day of arrival" just around the corner.
And so the religious leaders seized the day by grabbing a hold of Jesus. This was the opportunity they had really been looking for. With the dissatisfaction of Judas, they had found their one opportunity to silence this uninvited troublemaker and do away with him once and for all.
Jesus just shows up, seemingly unannounced. And he shows up in the most unspectacular way, among lambs and goats and cattle and donkeys and the rude furnishings of a cold and lowly manger.
So much for the world's excitement about the coming king. No media attention. No 30% off salvation, today only sale.
Jesus' gift in these days before Christmas? A season of simple promise — for every one of us. A word of promise that the world will never put its trust in. The promise announced by the prophets of old until Christ comes on that last day. A promise that says that trusting in Christ's Word, this life is a life of waiting, but waiting in expectant joy for our Lord to redeem the day.
The Savior will come and save us — from our weakness and sin and misplaced worry about attempting to make Christmas a big success.
The Savior will come and save us — from even our own inability to create true, lasting joy on our own.
In this peculiar season of Advent, rejoice! For the Savior comes to give the gifts of salvation: the gift of sins forgiven, the gift of contentment and peace — and even a little joy — as we wait — patiently, trustingly — for our coming king.
Joy for you and me and for all who are waiting to hear of a Christ and a Cross that gives true peace — that peace that surpasses all human understanding.
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!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-11 ESV)
In expectant joy, may we join the voice of all the faithful as we wait for the coming of our king, waiting to shout, "Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest."
God in his mercy and grace grant each of us a blessed — a joyful — advent of our king.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen