The Rev. Adam Hamilton
Well today, thanks to the gift of technology and the necessities of COVID, I’m having a chance to preach in two places at the same time. I’m thrilled to be joining the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. It’s a privilege to be preaching with you today. And I’m coming to you from the Church of the Resurrection sanctuary in Leawood, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City and sharing with our congregation as well. So simultaneously, preaching to two congregations. At Church of the Resurrection, like the National Cathedral, there’s no one in our building right now, just a handful of people helping with the recording of the service. It’s an honor to be sharing the word with you. I’m coming to you from Church of the Resurrection sanctuary. And like you, Bishop Budde, I’m speaking to an empty room. It’s part of how we do worship during the COVID days, but we’re coming to thousands and thousands of people online, and it’s a joy to have our two congregations worshiping together today.
Thank you for allowing me to be with you. I’m excited for us to share together in this service of worship on the very first weekend of advent. So as we do that, I want to just mention a couple of things. This sermon series at Resurrection, at Resurrection this month, we’re not using the lectionary. We’re focusing on the, on a theme called Incarnation, rediscovering the significance of Christmas. And each week we’re looking at the various titles that were given to Jesus by the gospel writers in the accounts of the nativity. So in Matthew’s and Luke’s account of the birth of Christ and the events surrounding it, and in John’s prologue to the gospel, in John 1:1-18, and we’re seeing what are these titles that were given to Jesus by the gospel writers or by the angels or by the people in the stories. What do those titles tell us about the one whose birth we’re celebrating and the one we anticipate returning once again? At the end of the age, what do they tell us about him? What do they tell us about ourselves? How did Jesus incarnate these ideas? How does he call us to incarnate these ideas in our own lives and in the world around us? So that’s where we’re heading this month. I’ll just mention to you just in case, you’re curious where we’re heading here at Resurrection the next few weeks. We’re going to talk about today Jesus as the Christ or the Messiah, next week as Jesus as the savior. The third week, Jesus as Emmanuel. On the fourth week, we’re going to talk about Jesus as the word made flesh. On Christmas Eve, we’ll talk about Jesus as the light of the world. And on the Sunday after Christmas, we’re going to talk about Jesus as Lord. All of these are titles you find in the gospel stories surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Today, we’re going to focus on this idea of Jesus as the Christ or the Messiah. And we’re going to unpack this. We’re going to try to understand, what does that title mean? It appears more than 500 times throughout the entire New Testament. So it’s pretty important to know. What did the early Christians believe when they called Jesus the Christ? No, Christ is not his last. It actually has a title and it has an interesting history and an interesting meaning. So I want to tell you a little bit about that. I’ll just remind you. Christ comes from the Greek Christos. In Hebrew, the same word in the Hebrew language is Mashiach or Messiah. So Christ and Messiah mean the same thing. These are titles for Jesus and they mean the anointed one, or actually one that has been anointed. It’s a noun. And it describes a person or an object that has been anointed. So when something was anointed, oil was smeared upon it, with a thumb or a finger. It was smeared upon the object or the person and oils were poured upon their head. And so this is an interesting title for Jesus. Jesus is the one who had oil smeared on him,
But there’s far more to it than that. Let’s just unpack a little bit of the history of this word. And then we’ll begin to understand what it might mean for us today. So in the book of Exodus, we read that God tells Moses to create an oil, an essential oil. And then he is to use it to anoint the objects that were used in worship, in the tabernacle, that the portable temple. He was then to use that same oil to anoint the people that would become priest, Aaron and his sons. And later on the same, the same kind of oil was going to be used to anoint people to be King over Israel. Now Moses wouldn’t do this, but Samuel would be the first to do this with Saul and then with David. But when somebody became King, they were anointed. Now here’s what the anointing oil meant. It meant that this was God’s way of saying this person, or this object belongs to me. This person or object is sacred to me. It’s set apart for my purposes. It is Holy unto me. It’s consecrated for my work. And so that can be true of objects. It could be true of people. I’m standing here above our baptismal font at Church of the Resurrection sanctuary. And I can still see the sign of the cross. You can barely make it out in oil, on the limestone when Bishop Ruben Signs anointed this font when he actually consecrated it three years ago, when our sanctuary was built. And he placed the oil there as a way of saying, “This font belongs to God.” It’s to be set aside for God’s purposes. He did the same thing, Bishop Signs did the same thing, on our altar behind me. When people are ordained, they have oil placed upon them, in most traditions, oil placed upon them and the Bishop lays their hands on them, and they are consecrated or ordained for God’s purposes.
When somebody is baptized, we put oil on their head and we invoke the Holy Spirit. And we say, “This child or this adult is set apart for God’s purpose, belongs to God is sacred to God.” And when we confirm, we do the same thing. When somebody is sick, we anoint with oil and that oil is both a sign of the balm of Gilead, the healing of God, the Holy Spirit’s presence, but also a reminder to the one who is sick. You belong to God. You are Holy to God. You are God’s, and may God, somehow, God didn’t cause the sickness, but may God use it somehow to accomplish God’s purposes. And then when somebody approaches death, and I’ve done this many times with people in our congregation who are dying, I take the oil, I make the sign of the cross upon their forehead, and I give them to Jesus. And once more, I remind them, you belong to him. You were sacred to him. You are his child, and he’s going to hold you from this life to the next. He’s got a hold of you, and won’t let you go. Annointing it’s a very powerful idea.
Now, as I mentioned, the Kings were anointed with oil. So as they were anointed with oil, this was very important. The King was meant to understand you rule at the pleasure of God. God is the King of the universe, our Jewish friends say. And so when we think about him as the King of the universe or the ruler of all creation, then when God allows somebody to rule as King, when he chooses them to be King, or when he allows someone to rule as president or whatever the position might be in our world today, God is saying, “I’m lending some of my authority to you. Now, now you belong to me. You’re meant to accomplish my purposes.” I mean, that was the idea behind anointing, somebody with oil. Over the centuries in Judaism, when the Jewish people would no longer be ruled by their own Kings, when there would be nations that would destroy them, or there would be foreign Kings ruling over them, or they’d be taken off into and exile, the prophets would speak and they would say, “But the day is going to come where God’s going to raise up another King.”
And they would paint a picture of this ideal King. He would rule with righteousness and with justice, and he would be a shepherd over God’s people. And as he shepherded them, he would bind up the wounded. He would searched for the strays and bring back the lost. This is what the ideal King would look like. And the people began to long for that. Sometimes they had their own Kings, but they didn’t measure up to this. And they kept praying and longing for a King that God would raise up. Who would, be like this ideal King the prophet spoke about? And that takes us to the time of Jesus. And in this time, of course, the Romans ruled over the holy land, the promised land. And their client King was Herod the Great. Herod the great was no Messiah. He was no anointed one.
He didn’t live up to the great ideals that the prophets had laid out. Neither did the emperor in Rome. And so the people were longing, waiting, hoping for the coming of this anointed one, this King. So when we talk about Jesus as the Christ, the term 500 times in the New Testament refers to the fact that he is the ruler who has promised all, he is the one who would rule and reign after God’s own heart. And when we look at him, we recognize that Christians don’t simply believe that Jesus was sent by God, like any other person to be a King, but that he actually incarnated God’s presence. He embodied God’s presence in our world with us. That’s a mystery. We can’t fully explain, but the fact that God came to us in Jesus, born in Bethlehem as a baby, grew up to be a man who suffered and died for us, and was raised to life in order to show us who God is, who we are called to be and what it means to be human and to redeem and save this broken world. That’s who Jesus is. That’s our King.
Well, at advent, of course, we’re preparing ourselves to rightly celebrate his birth and to remember something about his story and to remember the longing of the prophets and the words that they spoke about what this King would be like. And to remember once more why we need him. So this whole season, this whole month is about yearning and longing and remembering, so that we can rightly celebrate, and we can really fully remember, the significance of Christmas. But we’re also remembering that Jesus said he would come back one day. He would come back at the end of the age. And so we anticipate that. And if it’s not the end of the age, it certainly will be at the end of our lives. So Jesus said, “I will go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back for you.” I love that. He doesn’t say, “I’ll send the angels.” He says, “I will come back for you.” His second advent may very well be when he comes back for you. And when he comes back for me. And I want to be ready for that. And I want you to be ready for that moment, when he looks at you and he welcomes you into his eternal kingdom, he can say to you and say to me, “You know, I think you got it right. I’m really grateful for the ways that you sought to serve me well done. Good and faithful servant, enter into your rest.”
Now I want us to think carefully about what we find in the scriptures about Jesus as the Christ. So remember, of course that the first verse in Matthew’s gospel names, Jesus as the Christ. When we get to Luke’s gospel, we read on the night when the angel and the night Jesus was born, the angel shows up to the shepherds, keeping watch over their flock by night. And this is what he says, “Don’t be afraid. Look, I bring you good news. I bring good news to you. Wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ The Lord.”
When the angel Gabriel came to Mary six or nine months earlier, when he appeared to her at the annunciation, he told her that she was going to give birth to a child. And then this is what he says about that child. He says, “He will rule on the throne of his ancestor David.”
You remember when the Magi came after Jesus was born, they came from Persia and they brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They show up in Jerusalem trying to find this child. And you remember the question they asked, “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we have seen a star in the East and have come to pay him homage.”
Nathaniel, when Jesus began his public ministry, Jesus begins to speak to him when teaching Nathaniel, and Nathaniel says, “You are the King of Israel.”
You may remember,
Of course, when Jesus is in the midst of his ministry and he takes the disciples up to the North, and when he’s up in the Northern area at Cesarea or near Cesarea Philippi, that he turns the disciples. He says, “Who do you say that I am like. I know what the crowds say, but who do you say that I am?”
Do you remember? Only Peter had the courage to speak up. And he says, “You are the Christ, the son of the living, God. You’re the anointed one, the long awaited King, who was to come. That’s who we believe you are.”
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, you’ll remember he mounted a donkey and people recognize that as a sign from the prophet Zechariah, who said, “Behold, your King comes to you riding on a donkey.”
And so they began to throw their cloaks down before him, and they waved their palm branches or their leafy branches. And they began to shout out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, Jesus.”
That week, that the end of that week, on Maundy Thursday, he’s celebrating the last supper with his disciples, eating the Passover Seder with his disciples. And you remember what his disciples are arguing about, which one of us is going to sit next to him when he comes into his kingdom, right? And then Pontius Pilot, after he’s arrested, you remember the question he asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus’ response, it is, as you say, a kind of cryptic response, when Jesus crucified, you remember he’s already been anointed, not by the high priest, but by three different women in the gospels. One of whom was known as the sinful woman of the town. These are the people that anointed Jesus. When he’s coronated, you remember the Roman soldiers take a crown of thorns and they place it upon his brow. They install him on his throne by hanging him on a cross. And you remember the sign above his head, Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews, right?
That’s our King. When we look at this story, that is our King. You remember the New Testament, throughout the epistles, the name that’s most commonly used for Jesus by Paul is he’s the Christ, right? Our Lord is the other one Christ or Lord. And when you get to the very end of the New Testament, you get to the book of Revelation. And this final scene in Revelation sees Jesus. He’s got a crown upon his head. And it said that he had written on his thigh, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
That’s our King. Now it’s interesting as we’re in the season of advent, that we’re thinking about Jesus as King on this first weekend of advent against the backdrop of an election, right? A very divisive election, a polarizing election. That that’s the way they’ve been for years but even worse this year. And if you had the opportunity to go to someone’s house for Thanksgiving, you may have stayed away from conversations about politics, unless you agree. And actually, for many people, it was a blessing that they socially distanced at Thanksgiving, so they didn’t have to talk about politics. Because this has divided communities, it’s divided churches, faith, community, and Sunday school classes. People no longer will talk to each other because they held different views and supported different candidates for the office of president. Families are divided. I’ve talked to people who won’t even talk to their family members or whose family members won’t talk to them anymore because of who they supported in the election.
This passion and the division in our country was seen in the amazing response to the election, the number of people who came out to vote. So we set records, as you may know, 156 million Americans voted last time I checked. That was 65.4% of eligible voters. We haven’t seen that kind of election results, the number of people voting among the eligible, 65.4% since 1908. If people came out in mass numbers, voting for their candidate, and part of what we saw in those numbers, we saw president Trump had 10 million more votes than he had four years ago. 10 million more votes, and yet he still lost the election. There were people came out who didn’t come out before to support them. And then there were lots and lots of people who came out over 80 million, around 74 million for President Trump, just over 80 million for, for president-elect Biden who came out and they were determined to not have him as their president. Some came out determined to have him, some came out determined not to have him, but instead to have president-elect Biden, I mean, this is the kind of, you know, passion and anger and angst and frustration and fear that generates so many people coming out to vote in this election.
Even now, CNBC Change Research Poll found that 73% of President Trump’s voters believe he actually won the election. That’s really hard when a large number of people believe that the person who didn’t win did. 81% of President Trump’s supporters they surveyed said that they wouldn’t give president-elect Biden a chance.
And how do we move forward as a country like that? But before the Democrats start pointing fingers at Republicans, I’m pretty sure the numbers weren’t too different four years ago when President Trump was elected and Hillary Clinton was not elected. I’m pretty sure a lot of those Clinton voters said, “I’m never going to give this guy a chance,” and believe that he didn’t rightfully win the election. I mean, it was just interesting how divided we are as a country and in the end, the brokenness that brings, the pain that brings to families, communities, the inability to solve problems and the opportunity for pain and brokenness and evil to fester in our midst.
As I was reading the gospels during the selection, there were several things that stood out to me. It’s interesting when every single day, the top story in the news, or almost every day, the top story on the news is the elections. You start thinking about everything in these terms. So I was reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John this year. And as we’re reading the gospels, what struck me is that Jesus’ ministry looked very much like a campaign, right? He was coming and he knew that he was King. He saw himself as the Christ, I believe. And his disciples saw him that way. So his campaign finance team were a group of women who funded the campaign, right? Although the one man was the treasurer that was Judas Iscariot, who was stealing from the kitty. Then we have after that his campaign officers, and those were the 12 disciples. And you remember, they were jockeying for position wondering which one of them would get to serve on what part of his cabinet, once he became King, that’s what they were all anticipating.
So Jesus comes and he begins to speak. And he’s giving these campaign rallies with thousands of people who are showing up and as he’s preaching and teaching of these campaign rallies, what he’s laying out is this platform, his vision for what the kingdom, well, he called it the kingdom of God, what the world should look like. And that he said was the reign of God, the kingdom of God. And so he lays this out and he begins preaching and teaching this. If you want to know what his platform looked like, look at the Sermon on the Mount, where he lays this out. Clearly, you know, the first two portions of that are, we need to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And we need to love our neighbors. We need to love ourselves. And then that included even loving your enemies. And then again, in the Sermon on the Mount, we find things like the call, to be honest, and to be faithful, humble, and to be selfless and to forgive other people. I mean, all of these are sort of the principle virtues of the kingdom and they’re at the center of how he would run the country, right? How he would rule the world is in these ways with these values. Then he illustrates those values. He sort of makes, you know, puts flesh on them by telling stories. He tells parables. And so when he’s telling the parables, he tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. He says, listen, this is what my kingdom looks like. If it’s realized here, and he talks about a man who’s left for dead on the side of the road. And even though they’re there, they’re not blood brothers, one’s a Samaritan, one’s a Jew. He stops to help. And he takes off his cloak and he pays for his medical treatment and, and provides for him.
He says, “That’s what it’s supposed to look like.” And then he tells the parable of the sheep and the goats and, you know the story, he talks about it the last day, this is how judgment’s going to go down. And God’s going to bless those who fed the hungry, who gave drink to the thirsty, who clothed the naked, who welcomed the foreigner, those who visited the prisons and cared for the prisoners. And those who cared for the sick. These are core values of the kingdom. And Jesus saying, “This is what I’m expecting of you. This is what you’re going to be held accountable to at the last judgment.” So Jesus comes and he preaches this way. He teaches this way. He lives this way.
So what struck me was, you know, advent coming three to four weeks after the election, every presidential election, advent comes three or four weeks afterwards. And I wondered, is it possible that advent comes to this time? And that that is providential.
75% of Americans claim to be Christians, claim to be followers of the Christ, the anointed one. And as followers of Christ, what would happen if we actually look to Jesus and his values and virtues as the driving force in our lives? What if the 75% of us Republicans and Democrats and independents, green party and whatever else, what if we all said, you know what, we had different candidates for the presidency, but we have one King. And because you share the same King, as I share, we are brothers and sisters, and we’re going to try to live according to his values and figure out it within our own political ideologies. How do we live into these values? How do we become the people he wants us to be? Because that is our King.
The day after the inauguration, every four years, the National Cathedral hosts a service called the Inaugural Service or National Prayer Service. George Washington started this, not at the National Cathedral, it didn’t exist then, but George Washington instituted this on his first full day in office. He wanted the clergy to pray for him. He wanted the prayers of the nation. And then most of the presidents since then have done this. Since 1933, every president has participated in the National Inaugural Service. And most of those have done this at the National Cathedral. I had the privilege of preaching one of those services for President Obama in his second inauguration. The only time I preached from your pulpit at the National Cathedral. And here’s what I was thinking to myself. You know, all of these pastors and leaders have come here. There’s the president and the first lady and the vice-president and his wife, there are supreme court justices and Congress people, and all of these leaders of our country. And I’d spent hours rewriting the sermon over and over again. And all I could think of is, “God, what do you want to say to this man, as he steps into this role, once more, for four more years?” And inside what I longed for, and I think what we were praying for, you know, as people who were gathered there was that he might rule and that he might preside understanding that his authority ultimately came from God and from the people. But ultimately God has allowed him in this role and that he might seek to live the virtues and the values that Jesus, when he talked about the kingdom of God. And I think probably everyone who’s ever prayed for a president and given the message at one of those was a longing for hoping that that would happen. This is what I long for, for our next president that as goes to that service, at the National Cathedral, he will walk out saying, “I desperately want to live these values and virtues that have shaped my life.” And then they might set the pace for all the rest of us. The presidents are not perfect. They’re human beings, fallible, faulty human beings. They don’t have it all figured out. They don’t have it all right. They need our prayers. They need our help. Sometimes they need our encouragement. Sometimes they need our criticism. But their job is to preside, to rule, to lead on behalf of the King of Kings, the ruler of the universe. That’s how I see it.
So with that in mind, I want to wrap this up by saying on this first weekend of advent, that Jesus is meant to be our King, our ruler, our sovereign. And we’re preparing to celebrate his birth and we’re anticipating his coming again. And as I leave you, I want to leave you with the message, a sermon that was preached by my name SM Lockridge. SM Lockridge was a very famous preacher in the 20th century. He led an African-American congregation, was a missionary and evangelist. He loved leading people to follow Jesus Christ, but he was also a civil rights leader and was passionate about racial justice. And he preached a sermon in his life that was called Amen. It was an hour long sermon. It was preached across the country and his most famous sermon. And the last six minutes really redefined what that sermon was about. It was what people were longing to hear and gave it the popular name, That’s My King. We’ve taken a couple of minutes from that sermon and I’ll wait to hear it. And I want you to listen to his question, take a listen.
The Bible says my King is the King of the Jews. He’s the King of Israel. He’s the King of righteousness. He’s a King of the ages. He’s the King of heavens. He’s the King of glory. He’s the King of Kings. And he’s the Lord of Lords. That’s my King. I wonder, do you know it? My King is a sovereign King. No means of measure can define his limitless love. He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. Do you know him? He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and he saves. He strengthens and sustains. He’s God and he guides. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharges debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He recalls the age. He rewards the diligent and he beautifies the meager. I wonder if you know him. He’s the key to knowledge. He’s the wellspring of wisdom. He’s the doorway of deliverance. He’s the pathway of peace. He’s the roadway of righteousness. He’s the highway of holiness. He’s the gateway of glory. Do you know him? Well, his life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous and his yoke is easy and his burden is lighter. I wish I could describe him to you. He’s indescribable. He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible. He’s irresistible. You can’t get him out of your mind. You can’t get him off of your hand. You can’t outlive and you can’t live without him. The Pharisees couldn’t stand them, but they found out they couldn’t stop him. Pilot couldn’t find any fault in him. Herod couldn’t kill him. Death couldn’t have him and the grave couldn’t hold him. That’s my King.
That’s my King. And I wonder, do you know him? I wake up every morning. I get on my knees and I say, once more, Jesus, here I am. I’ve been doing this since I was 14 years old. Here I am. Jesus. I want to follow you today. I want to live for you I want to honor you. I want to be used by you. I belong to you. Help me to live up to that. And as we begin the season of advent, that’s my invitation for you today. For you to be able to say, that’s my King. And I want to live what he believed. I want to follow him. I want to be used by him. I belong to him. Jesus said this in his first sermon found in Mark’s gospel. He says, “Now is the time, here comes God’s kingdom. Change your hearts and lives. Let us repent and trust this good news.”
Listen, as we’re preparing our hearts for Christmas and for Christ’s second coming, we all have a lot to repent for. Republicans, Democrats, independents, green party, we’ve all blown it. We’ve made a mess of things. And it’s time for us to repent of the brokenness in our own lives. It’s time for us to remember the values of that kingdom and for us to live according to those and to say, “That’s my King.”
Would you bow in prayer with me? And while your heads are bowed, your eyes are closed wherever you are, I’d like to invite you just to whisper this prayer.”
Jesus, you are my King. Help me to follow. You. Use me to accomplish your purposes. Help me to do your will guide me and lead me. Forgive me and heal me. I am yours in your Holy name. Amen.