First Sunday of Advent


If you play trivia with your friends or families this Christmas,

it may come in handy to know this:

The highest grossing movie of 1984 was “Ghostbusters”


the #1 song on the Billboards chart was“When Doves Cry,”

from Prince’s album, Purple Rain.

They were popular because they were common, and entertaining,

and easy for everybody to enjoy.

But the same cannot be said of what we sang together just now.

 Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland –

Come Now, Savior of the Heathens

It’s unique, sturdy, and triumphant: Like Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

It’s what beauty and brilliance sound like when they hit our ears.

It’s what genius and joy feel like, when they turn south and stir our hearts.

It is valiant and consoling, and resilient and true.

And yet, for all its strengths,

I don’t think this f hymn would have gone over very well in Jerusalem.

It’s not a matter of taste, per se.

Music like this transcends time and space.

After all, we are still here listening 300 years

After this was sung for the first time in Leipzig.

No, it isn’t the music – it’s the offense.

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland –

Come Now, Savior of the Heathens

That’s the problem.

Jesus was supposed to be their King,

their Messiah,

and their Savior.

But, Savior of the heathens? Our Savior?

That is going too far.

God had already chosen Himself a people.

From Adam and Abraham

In David’s divine chords and psalms,

Through His holy prophets: Isaiah, Zechariah, and all the rest

All the way to John the Baptizer,

In those many and various ways,

God had called the Israelites His children, His covenant people,

His own sacred possession.

Which would seem to exclude pagans,

Barbarians, and imperialist thugs.

Of course the LORD does send kind tidings to His children –

to His Daughters, speaking ever so tenderly:

“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

So the Israelites really are His humble daughters,

Here welcoming their humble King, with humble cries.

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

He’s the Son of David – not Cesar, not Pilate, not Herod.

And He enters Jerusalem, coming for Zion’s Daughter–

God’s chosen people, Israel.

To deliver them from the empire, or so it was said

It was true that the Romans had the run of things for a time,

They had a powerful army and an outsized share the world’s wealth;

But they were heathens.

Worshiping whatever box-office deity Cesar told them to.

And they looked on Israel with equal disdain.

Surely, this Jesus, this Messiah was not for them.

“Savior of the Heathens, come?”

They would think not.  And at times – we think not.

Especially as we engage people so brutal, cruel and base.

Trampling old women at Wal-Mart on Black Friday,

Fist-fighting over parking spaces,

Or setting churches on fire.

But it’s true.

Before Bach, or Luther, or Ambrose,

Who all had a hand in the music we just enjoyed,

There was another song.

A song so magnificent and sage,

That it would render even that hymn

As pedestrian as 1984’s biggest hits.

There were even people around in that day who’d heard it live.

It wasn’t that long before, after all.

Actually, it was the same amount of time between tonight and…

Ghostbusters and purple rain.

It was the Angel’s concerto,

Sung for all God’s children,

For all of Zion’s daughters,

Not just the pious or the perfect, but the outcast – like shepherds –

For the broken and the lame, and even the heathen.

The message of the angels on that first Holy Night,

That holy night we joyously wait on even now,

Was good news of great joy for all people.

For born to them, and born to us, in the city of David:

the Savior,

Christ the Lord.

So it’s

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)


All the people.

All the nations.

All the daughters.

All the world’s heathens.

Even you.

Even me.

Yes, in the days beyond Palm Sunday,

They would parade Him through the streets,

As powerless as Rome’s idols

They would nail Him to a tree, between two criminals.

And the Christmas angels were brought to tears.

But the story cannot be told any other way.

From Mary’s womb to the manger to the cross –

For us, for our sin, for our cleansing, for our healing, for our redemption,

For our inclusion, for our eternity –

This was always where Jesus’ eyes were set.

Jesus came to save, and this is how.

Our comfort is in this:

On the cross, as God turns His face away from His Son;

His gaze falls on all of us, we heathens – with love.

It’s not an appealing term.

But that is who Jesus came for;

Not to save those who look most salvageable,

But those who are beyond repair.

That remains an accurate and uncomfortable description of you and me –

Because we still cannot repair or resurrect or save ourselves

But we can be repaired and we can be resurrected and we can be saved –

And this how:

Through this One born of Mary, serenaded by angels, who died and rose for you.

So this morning, what God wants most is that you not to turn away;

But rather let the songs of His messengers wash over you.

And as they do, He would have you behold His Son.

Knowing that, like the angels

He speaks peace to you, His children, His daughters,

In the manger,

On the cross,

And now at this very altar.


About Pastor Hopkins