27 Nov 2021
The Gospel. St. Matthew xxi. 1.
When they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name 'of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
It seems strange to find the story of Palm Sunday as the Gospel for the first Sunday in Advent when we are thinking more of the Christmas story soon to come upon us. But the story of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week has been read annually on this Sunday from as long ago as the seventh century. This passage was chosen because it vividly describes the coming of the Lord as Messiah and King to his people and into His Holy Temple. And we are His people today and always. He does not enter in the image of a haughty king of war riding into the city and boasting of battles won and people conquered. He comes into the city “meek and sitting upon an ass.”
And yet, it was also at that time that Jesus cleansed the Temple of the money-changers. So, the Messiah’s coming is one of joy, but also one of judgment for those whose priorities are distorted—who find selfish, material things more important than spiritual. An important warning for today. We need to start now and look in our spiritual mirror. Are we obeying God’s laws? Are prayer and meditation an integral part of our life? Do we stop every day and give thanks to the Lord for all the benefits He has given on us? Importantly, do we offer sorrow for the wrongs we have committed either by what we have done or what we have left undone? Have we remembered the poor and needy—not just those in material need, but those who suffer from the sorrows of depression, loneliness, despair, and abuse? We have received much from the Lord; we therefore have much to give.
But, make no doubt about it, He is coming to us triumphantly this very year. He indeed comes as King. “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord;” The crowds cried out then, and we join them today. “Hosanna in the highest!”
Jesus is coming today to the Temple of our souls. This is where God dwells within us. As we shall see as we come closer to Christmas, the glorious Temple of our Lord’s coming will start with the lowly Manger He enters in Bethlehem. Advent is a time to remember that Christ’s coming into the world is a profound act of love by our God. He will fulfill His promise for those who follow the path God has chosen for us from the beginning of time. And we ARE the people of the promise.
Advent not only reminds us of His coming but increases our understanding of its meaning: Advent is our wake-up call. It’s time to get started.
Bishop Edwin Tompkins