Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The word “Hosanna” is generally accepted as an expression of praise or greeting similar to Hallelujah and Amen. Indeed, architect Frank Lloyd Wright famously used the word in his exclamation after securing a commission, breaking a particularly long, dry spell, “Hosanna! A client!” And composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice were able to play with its alliteration in their musical Jesus Christ Superstar, “Hosanna, Hey Sanna Sanna Sanna Hosanna Hey Sanna.” But the word Hosanna has a very specific meaning in the ancient Old Testament scriptures. The word comes from the Hebrew word Hoshia which means to “Save.” And Hoshia-na, “Save us, we pray.”
Interestingly, that root word to “save” or “Hoshia runs throughout St. Matthew’s gospel. From the very first chapter, the carpenter Joseph is told by the angel Gabriel that his betrothed wife Mary’s son is to be named “Hoshia” or Yeshua because he will “save” his people from their sins. The theme of “Hoshia” or salvation reaches it its tumultuous echo in the thundering crowds in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. “Hosanna,” they cried, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The irony in this passage, of course, is that very crowds who are shouting, “Hosanna,” God save us, are calling to Jesus, Jeshua, the one whose very name means to save. Unfortunately, the crowds are so swept away with the excitement of the day, that they unaware what Jesus truly can do. The same is true for you in the bustling Decembers of life.
Luther Seminary Professor Emeritus Wendell Frerichs captured the irony of the crowds crying out to Jesus and then later turning against him. In a small devotional book entitled “Jesus Saves,” Frerichs described a whimsical moment on a cross country journey along a road with steep cliffs. “We came around the corner in our camper bus and there it was. Quite a distance up the sheer rock cliff were the crudely painted words, ‘Jesus Saves.’ Though it was long ago that we saw the sign, I’ve thought about it often since that time. What was the fellow like who painted it? I guess I don’t know many people like him- someone who would risk his or her neck to tell motorists that Jesus saves. How many of us would do it?”
But then Professor Frerichs added. “I looked up at it a second time, scarcely able to believe my eyes. Apparently a second amateur painter had also scaled the cliff. Next to the words the first Christian brother had painted up there, were two more words put up by some kind of joker. It read, it really did, ‘Jesus saves green stamps.’” Unfortunately, for many Christians today – the true message of this December and the Advent season is just as jumbled. We know the message that Jesus Saves, but we trivialize it by adding- Green Stamps, Black Friday Savings, and calendars filled with countless commitments. Like the crowds, we cry out, “Lord save, us, please,” unaware, that Jesus truly can save.
My friends, on this First Sunday of Advent, Jesus is waiting again to enter into your life- if you will have him. And more importantly, he has come to save you so that you need not fear your past, your present, not your future. For Jesus saves.
I have experienced many December’s this year, but let me assure you, there is no other message sufficient for a world of despair and hate. There is no greater word of comfort to a family whose loved one lingers on their deathbed. It is a word of promise for the student that has failed and has been given a second chance. It is a word of strength for the child who is alone and afraid. It is the word of solidarity for a woman who is clinging to her convictions. It is the word that you and I long to hear on Sunday morning, time and again, and if we don’t hear it, we know we’ve been cheated. It is the word of hope for all who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Perhaps, it is the word that you are waiting for as well. Yes, Jesus has come to save and his grace, his presence, his love will be sufficient for your every need. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna.” Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.