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. 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. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” (NRSV)
Jeremiah wrote these words, we are told, when Jerusalem was under siege by the forces under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 588 B.C.E. Its promise of a future is diametrically opposed to the reality in which the people found themselves. Many will think he is talking about the current king, Zedekiah (whose name, by the way, means “the Lord is righteous”). But Zedekiah’s defiance of Babylon will end up leaving Judah conquered, the temple destroyed, and the leadership in exile in Babylon.
This promise Jeremiah makes on behalf of God will only be answered with the arrival of a new kind of king, who lives a new kind of righteousness, centered in the teachings of the prophets, but with a completely different approach to power. We call him Jesus.
This first day of Advent, the Sunday of Hope, we are all likely in a flurry of preparations and anticipatory anxiety. There is so much to be done in the next 24 days—cards to send, presents to buy and wrap and send, parties to prepare for, loneliness to keep at bay, year-end financials to consider…it’s all rather daunting. Can it all possibly be accomplished to create the perfect holiday season?
No. It can’t. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. Our call to preparation is not so much about preparing the perfect holiday letter to go with our cards…but preparing the space within ourselves for this perfect story to take hold of us yet again. The very source of the Universe is breaking into the world in the form of a refugee child in the occupied territories of a backwater kingdom, and he will change the world forever!
Heart of Hope, grant us a new confidence this Advent season, an expectation that is concerned less with what we can get accomplished and more about what you are accomplishing in the new world ushered in through the birth of the Christ child. Amen.
Pastor Michael Kirby