1st Sunday in Advent
November 29, 2015
“One of Those Days”
God’s grace, mercy and peace be to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, our great Triune God. Today is the 1st Sunday in Advent and the beginning of a new church year. One of the major themes of Advent is waiting for the revelation of God’s promised Messiah – Jesus Christ. In the 4 weeks of Advent leading up to the birth of the Messiah, I would like to focus on some of those prophets who forth-told the Savior’s birth and the hope they bring. That being the case, the basis for the sermon is the First Lesson from Jeremiah 33.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
You ever have one of those days? I know I sure do. Nothing ever seems to work. Everything you pick up breaks. You cannot seem to get anything done. No one listens to you or seems to care. The overwhelming sense of futility, frustration, and annoyance are crippling. Well, if you think you have some bad days, get down on your knees and thank the Good Lord above you didn’t have to live when the prophet Jeremiah did or experience what Jeremiah experienced.
For someone like Jeremiah, EVERY DAY of his adult life was one of those days. Jeremiah was a prophet to Israel and Judah – the divided kingdom – from 628 – 580 BC. God had been sending prophet after prophet to His people calling them to repent of their wicked ways, but the pleas fell on deaf ears and hard hearts. So, God made good on His warning. First, He sent the Assyrians who routed the northern kingdom of Israel. Then, Assyria fell as a world power to the new dominant world player – the dreaded Babylonians. Babylon began their 2-year siege of Judah including Jerusalem – the capital of the southern kingdom and spiritual center for the people – in 589 BC. Jeremiah was in the Jerusalem when this was going on. Not good.
Jeremiah didn’t have all good news to tell folks: “For thus says the LORD…concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil” (Jeremiah 33:4-5 ESV). In other words, Jerusalem wasn’t getting reinforcements to fight Babylon. Instead they were getting bodies – corpses – that would fill the buildings. Talk about having one of those days!
But still Jeremiah had some hope…something to hold on to. “…I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 33:15-16 ESV).
This time of year we are prone to having lots of those days. The Christmas season – which by its very nature should be nothing but joyous – brings a certain amount of anxiety and despair to people like a siege ramp being built up that no one can resist. Additionally, you will be facing a month and a half worth of commitments shoved into about 2 ½ weeks. The pace this time of year is brutal! There is the tremendous potential to have lots of those days this time of year even if no one is laying siege to our land. However, Advent brings hope and anticipation even though it cannot erase the grim and troubling realities of a hectic life in a harsh season. And because we have hope – like Jeremiah did – we wait with hope and anticipation in Advent, and always really, because we have something Jeremiah didn’t have.
You see, we live on this side of the cross. We have seen the fulfillment of what Jeremiah forth told. Jeremiah knew that “a Righteous Branch (would) spring up for David, and He shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 33:15 ESV). Some 600 years later that forth telling was fulfilled. Jesus, the Righteous Branch, as promised has come and executed justice and righteousness on the earth. That doesn’t mean that Jesus eradicated evil. There is still sin and evil and strife in our world. Jesus’ justice is carried out in blood; His blood of righteousness seen in a flow of blood from His pierced side. In today’s Gospel Lesson Jesus rode into Jerusalem, but He did so knowing full well He had to die there for us. And that is exactly what happened. Good Friday was the definitive one of those days. Yes, our world executed Him, but in that execution at Calvary’s cross, God executed or fulfilled His plan of salvation for you. That plan is all-inclusive: a restored relationship with God through the forgiveness of sins, the salvation of your immortal soul, AND (not enough?) the promise of eternal life through faith in Christ.
Jesus, who is our righteousness, still comes to you today. Not just in Bethlehem, and not just in Jerusalem. Even on your worst days – the absolute nastiest of one of those days – He comes to you in His Word and Sacraments. His Word carries you when you’re down. His peace and grace lift you up when you’re broken and battered. He speaks “I love and forgive you” into your ears when no one else will tell you that. You live your life today in the reality that God has and is fulfilling His promise of restoration for you and that revolutionizes you.
Jeremiah didn’t see it because he lived on the back side of the cross; he only knew the promise to come. You, on the other hand, have seen and heard and experienced the fulfillment. Today – and every day for you really – is one of those days of God’s active grace and love. As we learn to wait through Advent and Christmas and life, we learn to proclaim and live God’s saving promise. If we are only waiting to see what’s next, only waiting for another of those days, then we are failing to live faithfully and joyfully in the present reality of the here and now of God’s saving promise.
So, rejoice with Jeremiah. Beyond the disappointment and challenges of the world and of those days that beset us, beyond the anxieties of today is a security that the Son of God, the Branch of David, brings and freely bestows upon you His redeemed child. Your today and your forever are different because of Jesus. As a result, slow down. Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay! Be at peace inside and as you meet the world on the outside, for you are always and forever secure in the promised, crucified, and risen Savior Jesus. Amen.