Advent begins in a strange sort of way, a timey-wimey journey towards Christmas that we start at the end. We anticipate the coming of the baby in the manager by flashing-forward to the fully grown Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey. I guess there’s a symbolic moment here; two moments of hope as the Saviour twice comes to town, once to the stable, once to the cross.
Hope’s important here. The Triumphal Entry riffs on a prophecy from Zechariah 9:9-10, a vision of the coming of the Messiah:
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
It’s promising an end to war. Of course, that’s an eschatological hope right there, as there’s no shortage of war at the moment. It’s standard operating practice for humanity – power is defined by how big your arsenal is, and so every problem begins to look like a target on some drone’s control screen.
But when Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem, this is the moment he’s embodying. He’s not coming as a conquerer, he’s not even coming to fight. His confrontation with the local superpower gets him crucified. The battle bows remain unbroken. Heck, two thousand years later they’re powered by uranium.
But we live on the other side of this, the other side of the empty tomb. And as naive and impractical as that feels sometimes, we have to respond like that means something.
That’s hard, because we live in a world where might makes right and where invasion plans don’t seem to stretch past bombing everyone and leaving it to God to sort them out.
And yet the whole point of Advent is taking time out to reflect on that hope, to figure what it means to live in the tension between God’s kingdom and the other empires that surround us. We need to hear Zechariah’s prophecy again, and look towards the moment of resurrection that makes it all possible.
So maybe, on this Advent Sunday, thre’s an oportuniy to pause and reflect – on what it means to follow the Prince of Peace in a world of way, on how we live in a resurrection kingdom that’s hidden amongst empires. And may we let this reflection transform us as we start down the road towards Bethlehem.