“The Days are Surely Coming” – Dec. 2, 2018

“The Days are Surely Coming”

A Communion Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes

Jeremiah 33:14-16

December 2, 2018

Main Idea – God keeps promises.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, Our strength and our redeemer.  Amen

When I was living in Florida, at Christmas time we bought a real tree, which is not as common there as here, because the trees have to be shipped down from here, or Canada or some other northern places.   They are cut down weeks in advance and often they look pretty sad and dried out.  But one year something really wonderful happened with our tree.  After being in our home for a couple of weeks, our Christmas tree began to grow.  Now maybe this isn’t unusual but it seemed very unusual to us.  This tree that had been severed from its roots for at least a month began to send out new shoots, light green buds which became needles and new branches.   When we took our tree down we put the branches with the new growth into a big vase and they continued to grow.    Our dead Christmas tree had new life.   Today’s text from Jeremiah is about this kind of wonder and hope.  God promises that “The days are surely coming when I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (33:15).    In situations which seem lifeless and without hope, God promises a future of peace and safety.  And God keeps promises!

“The days are surely coming”.  For Jeremiah, life was pretty bleak.  The book of Jeremiah is filled with his prophecies against the kings of Judah.  At that time Judah was a small nation sandwiched between the empires of Egypt and Assyria.  The northern kingdom of Israel had already been swallowed up by Assyria and Jeremiah warned that Judah also would be overrun because the king and the people had turned away from God.   As you might expect, the king Zedekiah, was not very fond of Jeremiah.  In fact this chapter of Jeremiah (33) starts with Jeremiah imprisoned in the King’s courtyard.  But as Jeremiah predicted, Jerusalem was attacked by Babylon (which had defeated Assyria) and soon was destroyed, her people scattered to Babylon and to Egypt.    All appeared lost.   The people were devastated and without hope.

But  “the days are surely coming.”  Into this hopelessness Jeremiah proclaims a new prophecy.  Three chapters in the middle of the book of Jeremiah, chapters 30-33 are known as the Little Book of Consolation.  In them, God speaks of God’s love for the people.   God will restore them, there will be joy again, “the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness” (33:11) and life will be reborn.

So with Babylon literally at the city gates and while he was still imprisoned,  Jeremiah proclaims “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” (33:14).  In this time of great suffering and fear, God spoke to the people, reminding them of God’s promise and giving them hope for the present and for the future.

“In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (33:15).  The image of a righteous Branch had come from the prophet Isaiah who had lived 100 years before Jeremiah.  In Isaiah chapter 11 we read that “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Is 11:1).  This branch, this new leader, would restore the legacy of King David and would rule with justice and righteousness unlike the kings of Jeremiah’s day.  God promises to raise up such a leader for the people.

And therefore, God continues; “In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it, [the city], will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ (33:16).  “Instead of the name Jerusalem that appears to mean ‘establish peace (or unity),’ Jeremiah foresees a day when the holy city will instead be known as ‘[the LORD] is our righteousness.” (John Holbert, patheos.org) God’s promise to the people and to us is that God is working to bring about peace and justice for all of creation.  The days are surely coming.

These words from Jeremiah, proclaimed so long ago, still speak to us today.  We also live in a time of great turmoil, in fact, the city of Jerusalem still yearns for peace and safety.  So many places in the world have been devastated by war, hunger, and exploitation. So many people’s lives are burdened by hardship and grief. It is in these dire circumstances that God’s promises need to be proclaimed.  “Jeremiah… reminds us that even in the midst of life’s worst woes, even in a time of collapsing securities and the disorientation that always results, God has a word. God has a plan.  God has a gracious set of promises that God will fulfill.” (Scott Hoezee, cep.calvinseminary.edu).  God promises to be with us always, in all and every circumstance, no matter what. The days are surely coming.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.   Now Advent is not simply waiting for Christmas; the time when we accomplish all of our holiday tasks, opening little doors in an Advent calendar.  Advent invites us to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ into the world.  Advent is a time of hope, expectation, longing for the presence of God in our midst, Emmanuel, which means “God with us”.  Here in Burlington we are not about to be overrun by an invading army, although there are places in the world today who are dealing with just this horror.  But even here in this place there are people dealing with terrible circumstances; grief, illness, financial hardship, violence, and despair.   Hope is a pretty dim light for a lot of people.  But the scripture today tells us that God can enter even the most hopeless situations.  God keeps God’s promises to be with us always; to love us always.  The text says “The Lord is our righteousness”  Ours.  The days are surely coming.

This morning we have the blessing of sharing the Lord’s Supper together.  We will gather at the Table to share the bread and juice as Jesus taught us and we will pray for Christ’s presence to be among us.  We know the story of Jesus of Nazareth’s life, we celebrate Christmas and Easter each year.   But in this Advent season let us be open to the new birth among us.  May we contemplate and celebrate not only the birth of Jesus so long ago but the power and the movement of the Spirit among us; the voice of God proclaiming “The days are surely coming.”  They aren’t here yet but they surely will be here soon.  When we can let go of our fears and griefs, our resentments and insecurities and trust wholeheartedly in the promises of God.   The days are surely coming.

Let us pray,

God of our longing,  we wait with expectation for the coming of your child, our Christ.  We celebrate his birth so long ago in Bethlehem and today in our hearts.  Help us to prepare for his coming.  Open us to your transforming power.  Hold us in your loving arms.  Amen.