Mark 11:1-10 December 3rd, 2023   Don’t Keep Christ In Christmas

Today is going to shake you up a little. You will have to stay focused or you are going to walk out of here totally confused! Thanksgiving is over, and Advent is here. But our Gospel reading today presents us with Mark’s account of the Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. That’s Palm Sunday. That belongs with Easter. This is Advent. It’s December. “Advent,” leads you to Christmas. Christmas is coming.

If fact, Christmas has in many ways already arrived. Holiday items were stocked on store shelves even before Halloween, and the red kettle ringers have appeared at the store entrances this weekend. Christmas is coming.

So why the Palm Sunday reading? It seems like a misfit, we are in Advent, you know. So what is Advent? Advent means to arrive. During the season of Advent we prepare for and look for the arrival of Christ at Christmas, at His birth in Bethlehem.

This remembrance of our Savior’s birth is good and right. Christmas is coming, but Christmas seems to be filled with everything but the story of Christ. “Happy Holidays,” “Season’s Greetings”, but you dare not say, “Merry Christmas.” Just as Happy Thanksgiving has been replaced by Happy Turkey Day (lest anyone actually be reminded to stop and give thanks to the Lord), Christmas has been reduced to a Happy Ho-ho-ho to you !! Sometimes it seems as if the Grinch has actually stolen Christmas.

So I encourage you to send Christmas Cards with a Christian picture and message. Sing Christmas carols, not the holiday songs. And whatever you do, always say, “Merry Christmas,” never “Happy Holidays.” And doing this, we are told, will help to “Keep Christ in Christmas.”

But “Keeping Christ in Christmas” is not the point of Mark’s Gospel, or of our reading today. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: “Don’t Keep Christ in Christmas.”

What do we see in the Gospel? We see Jesus coming to Jerusalem. He is arriving at Jerusalem for the Passover. So this is His Advent, His arrival, into the city. People have lined up everywhere, all along the road. Some have put their coats on the road, and others have taken palm branches and are waving them, saying, ““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!” (verses 9-10).

The people knew that conquering kings returning from a triumphant battle would ride proudly into the capital city. And the people knew that it was a promised sign that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people are welcoming Jesus as King. The Pharisees and rulers knew the prophecy, too. They knew what the people were saying, but they did not believe.

What then, does this have to do with Advent and with Christmas? This text is an Advent text. We just mentioned how this parade was Jesus’ advent in Jerusalem. Jerusalem sits on the top of a mountain, Mt. Zion, which is why sometimes in the psalms Jerusalem is referred to as Mt. Zion. From this mountain top, we have the vantage point of looking back, and looking to the future.

From here we look back, and we see Christ coming in Bethlehem; His arrival, His Advent. It is this Advent, this First Advent, which we will remember again and celebrate at Christmas. It is the coming of a King, “Hark the Herald Angels sing, Glory to the newborn King.” The King, the baby Jesus, arrives with great glory as the angels fill the sky. In this Palm Sunday entry, Jesus arrives as King with great glory, as the crowds are cheering and shouting “Hosanna.”

No, We must not keep Christ in Christmas. For the birth of Christ is great news. Not because a baby was born, but that a Savior was born. But to be the Savior means leaving Christmas, it means moving from Bethlehem to Golgatha, from the cradle to the cross. As much as the world pushes against Christmas, it really has not objection to the babe in the manger, so long as He stays there, as long as we keep him in Christmas.

True, the “little baby Jesus” of Christmas, if He stays a little baby and stays in Christmas cannot save us. But we don’t want to be saved. To be saved means having to admit we have something to be saved from. That something is sin. But not just sin in the abstract, in the particular. Yes, we need to be rescued from the devil and the world, but were that all, we would be glad of it. The greatest enemy is us, our sinful, prideful, selves. We have seen the enemy, and it is us. So we want to “keep Christ in Christmas.” Where He’s safe. Where He can’t confront us. Where we need not confront ourselves.

Thank God, Christ did not stay in Christmas. Nor did He stay in Jerusalem, but moved from Mt. Zion to Mt. Calvary, and on that cross, that shameful cross, entered into glory everlasting. Opening the door for us, you and me and all believers.

What does our text say about the people on the road that Palm Sunday, who were praising Him? “Those who went before and those who followed were shouting, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.” (verse 9). Those who have gone before us, have shouted His praise, proclaimed the truth, and preached the Word. They have taught us the faith, that Jesus is the Christ.

Now we, too, who follow after, shout the same praise. Sunday after Sunday, we sing those very same words, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest,” when He comes to us in His body and blood. We are all part of the same choir, singing the same chorus, swelling the triumph of His train.

This is why, Church, “together with the whole Church, all Christians throughout the world, and those who have gone before us, we confess the one true faith.” They and us, praise our Christ Jesus. There is one Lord, and there is one Church. We mustn’t keep Christ in Christmas.

So Advent is not only preparing to remember the First advent, the birth of Christ. The season of Advent prepares us to meet Him, to welcome Him aright.

We look forward to Christ’s Second Advent, and to His coming in glory. When there will be a loud shout of a trumpet and the sky again is filled with angels, as Christ comes as King, to separate the sheep and the goats, and bring His people into His new creation.

Lo He comes with clouds descending, Once for every sinner slain; Thousand, thousand, saints attending

Swell the triumph of His train. Alleluia, alleluia. Christ the Lord returns to reign. Amen.