First Sunday of Advent – Mark 11:1-10 | The Triumphal Entry



You stand at the door of the city.

The streets are full of people,

Among them, those men who have been after you are hiding and waiting.

What will you do?

a) Enter the city.

b) Turn around, return at a better time.

c) Rouse your friends, and enter prepared to defend yourself.


Growing up, I used to love the choose-your-own-adventure stories.

If you’re not familiar with those books,

They were designed so that at the end of a chapter,

Instead of just going on to the next,

You would be presented with a series of options.


Each decision you made along the way would determine what page you turn to.

Do you enter the city?

Do you make your escape by boat or by rickshaw?

Do you trust this man or move on?


Naturally, each decision you made had consequences.

And the story took shape accordingly.


What’s strange is how cautions I was.

It was just a book.

At worst I’d mess up, make a bad decision, and have to start over.

But, I’d never make that decision again.

Why would I seek shelter from the storm in a cave where I knew a lion was waiting?


The books were so popular that if you and a friend were reading them,

A good friend would sometimes warn you in the hallway during passing period.


He’d say:

“Are you in the storm? Don’t walk into the cave. It doesn’t go well.”

Good friends do that kind of thing.


Looking back,

I’m still amazed at the amount of caution practiced by children reading a book.

Looking around,

I am amazed at the lack of caution practiced by those children all grown up.


Our carelessness is astonishing:

In real life, where stakes are so very high –

Where real people get really hurt;

Where real sins do real damage;

It is astounding how recklessly we carry on – in this very real world,

Where you can’t just mark the page with your thumb,

And turn back if things don’t work out.


Like the kid in the hallway, you’ve been warned.

Ever since the fall, since Eden was undone, you’ve been warned.

You know where your decisions lead.

You’ve seen the result.

Your sins are real; they will destroy you, and yet…


Over and over again, sin and death is the adventure you choose,

For yourself and others, this is the story you tell.


You can’t say you don’t know any better. You do.

That’s why you yell at the characters in movies who can’t hear you.

“Don’t get in the car!”

“Don’t go find out what the creepy noise was!”


You know the consequences of their actions.

You know the damage that will be done.

You do, in fact, know better.

But you are a helpless observer.


That’s part of what makes the Gospel for this

First Sunday of Advent so difficult to hear.


The story is being told, and inside it doesn’t really sit right.

And since we can’t yell at Jesus and tell Him to do something else,

We are tempted to look away.


Look at the Christmas tree!

Look at the flowers!

Listen to the radio!

Why rush so quickly to the end of a story we’re just beginning to hear?

Aren’t there plenty of other appropriately harmless stories?


Couldn’t we just spread out Luke 1 over these four Sundays of Advent?
There’s plenty there to meditate on as we journey to Bethlehem.


Perhaps we could.

And yet it does us good to be reminded;

Not only of where this story is headed,

But that Jesus knows where it is headed.

Jesus knows full well what He is getting Himself into.


You wouldn’t tell the story this way.

Neither would I.

And yet, this is the Advent He chooses.


You did help write the story, though.

For every time you chose your own adventure –


For every harsh word;

For every selfish gesture;

For every adulterous look;

For every tale of greed and murder;

For every last sin – the ones you know and the ones you don’t;

For every time you turned the page to a terrible and deadly ending,

Jesus has stepped into your story.


That kind of a plot twist changes everything.

As we journey to Bethlehem, and to the manger this Advent, we are reminded:

What we will find there, Who we will find there, is our story retold.


Advent and Christmas mean that Jesus turns back to page 1.

And as it was in the beginning, in the Genesis,

It begins with a single Word.


This Child, this Christ, this Savior,

Taking on your own flesh,

Being born, just like you,

Loving His mommy, just like you.

Learning and laughing, just like you.

Growing up, just like you.


And then after all the chapters that are just like yours,

He writes a chapter so very unlike yours.

Jesus does not tell the story you would tell it.


You stand at the door of the city.

The streets are full of people,

Among them, those men who have been after you are hiding and waiting.

a) Enter the city.

b) Turn around, return at a better time.

c) Rouse your friends, and enter prepared to defend yourself.


And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”


A Virgin Mother;

A hay-filled feeding trough;

A lowly donkey;

The welcoming shouts of fickle hypocrites;

A sham trial;

A cross between two criminals;

This is the Advent Jesus chooses.


All of that has the potential to get you down,

And we know that this time of year has the tendency to do that on its own.

But because you know there is not the end of Jesus’ story,

You are free to enjoy this Advent without fear.


The little Child, Whose coming you can hardly wait for,

This little Child, all grown up,

Crucified for you sins, and raised for your justification,


He’s brought you back to the beginning.

This First Sunday of Advent marks a brand new year in the Church,

And a new beginning for every last one of you.


It’s a wonderful story Jesus gives you here.


From font, pulpit, and altar –

Jesus makes His glorious story all yours:
Life and joy and mercy and resurrection,
If only you would have it.


And so, with a new year in front of you,

With Christ Himself showing you the way,

Knowing full well how the story ends,

It will be very interesting to see the pages we turn along the way.




About Pastor Hopkins