Advent 1—Year C—December 2, 2012
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
Happy New Year!…a new church year that is.
With the beginning of Advent, we begin Year C, the year of the Gospel of Luke, and where better to begin than the beginning, right?…well we don’t, we begin at the end. We do not begin Advent by talking about the birth of Jesus, but instead we pick up the story right before Jesus’ crucifixion and death, with talk about the end of the world.
We are also in the midst of a lot of “end of the world” talk outside of church these days too though. With December 21, 2012 coming just around the corner, we are starting to hear more and more talk about the apocalypse, dooms day, Armageddon. In the last week, I cannot tell you how many shows I have seen advertised that have something to do with the end of the world. Just on the National Geographic Channel you have “Doomsday Preppers” and a new special airing tonight about the end of the world and how birds falling out of the sky and Hurricane Sandy are signs that the end is really coming.
Speculations about the end of the world are getting so much media attention, it is enough to make you laugh, but at the same time, it is enough to make you worry a little…maybe even a little bit scared.
But the apocalyptic talk in the Bible does not really have the same effect. Yeah, of course, when it is taken out of context, cherry-picked to make a point, the Bible seems to be the basis for a lot of what we are hearing. BUT, when it is kept in context, read a part of the story as whole, read in light of Jesus, his birth, his death, and his resurrection, you see that there is something more!
All that apocalyptic talk comes an amazing promise!
Jeremiah knows a thing or two about world destruction, but in the midst of that, his visions from God provide the ultimate of comfort in the form of amazing promises.
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 it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’”
But that promise applies to us today, as much as it did to Judah, Jerusalem, and Jeremiah back thousands of years ago. So I have taking the liberty of updating the promise, so that we might hear it a little more clearly as it apply to us just like it did to the Israelites so many centuries ago.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to you in your baptism.
It was in fact before your baptism; while you were yet in your mother’s womb that God began a relationship with you. It is there that God knit you together and claimed you as a child of God.
At your baptism, just like during Colin & Gabi’s baptism just a couple of months ago, you died to your sins, and God raised you to new life. Your sins were forgiven and God promised you eternal life. You have been written into the story, into the promise, Jesus’ death and resurrection is for you too. You, along with the rest of the body of Christ, are loved and have been promised justice and righteousness.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to you in your baptism. In these days and at this time God is causing a righteous Branch to spring up for humanity; and it/he/you shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
We commonly say that Jesus was the branch of David that God raised up to execute justice and righteousness in the world, but from the beginning Jesus made it clear that he was not a one man show.
The disciples were called to follow Jesus, to learn, and to themselves teach about the kingdom of God. The apostles were sent out to teach, to preach, to baptize, to heal, and to forgive sins.
So too, we are called, empowered, and sent out to bring God’s love throughout the world as it is being brought to us. Sometimes that looks like sewing quilts, or feeding the hungry, or clothing the poor, or reaching out to someone, well to their shoes, with a bag of cookies and an orange, to let them know that they too are loved and are thought about. It also looks like a New York cop spending his own time and money to buy a homeless, shoeless man a new pair of waterproof winter boots. But it also looks like contacting your elected representatives, encouraging them to stand up for human rights, for justice, not stopping foreign aid to the Palestinian people just because the vote did not go the way the US government wanted it to.
God brings justice and righteousness to you, but also calls you to spread it around the world. Jesus is no longer present on earth, as a baby or a man, so it is up to us to BE the body of Christ, his hands, and feet, and voices.
Because although, it is ultimately God’s work it is only through our God-inspired and God-gifted work that humanity can live in safety right now, today.
Apocalyptic literature in the Bible is a two edged sword. It can work to “alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins” which can “redeem us for God’s life of justice.” But it also work on us as pure promise, a reminder that God is in control, and no matter how chaotic and scary things get, God has got us.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to you in your baptism. In these days and at this time God is causing a righteous Branch to spring up for humanity; and it/he/you shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days humanity will be saved and the earth will live in safety. And this is the name by which the earth will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” Amen.