Advent Midweek 1 2015

Bible Text: Jeremiah 33:14-16

Twas the night before Tevet, and all through the hut

All the children were gathered to hear what was what

Their ears were wide open for dad’s dad to retell

That passage of hope that they’d come to know well.


They’d long been in exile, so far from their home,

And in this strange land, they did feel quite alone.

All this they had earned, as the prophet did say

But there were yet words of joy for all those gone astray


The LORD promised peace, and a land full of rest

To restore all their fortunes with the best of the best,

A great, Righteous Branch from their own tribe would spring.

A Man greater than David, their salvation would bring.


Even set to rhyme, the idea of children gathered around to hear the prophet Jeremiah seems like a strange one. If you’ve never read through it, you should know that it is 52 chapters of frustration, despair, the prophecy of the destruction, and exile in Babylon – all of it a call to repentance to the people of Judah. It’s not what anyone would call: “A Christmas Story.”

Except that there’s a portion near the middle called “The Book of Comfort.” It’s a small section: four small chapters, a tiny light shining in a dark night. In this portion of Jeremiah’s prophecy, he speaks of the LORD’s Eternal Covenant with David. And as it is with every prophecy of Scripture, it came true. God was true to His promises, and so He delivered His people from captivity. He restored them to the land He had given them.

It’s a beautiful passage of Scripture; perhaps even poetic. But it’s a bit difficult to connect to. Historically, it makes sense. Everyone knows that Judah was taken captive in Egypt, yet it’s tough to know what that must have been like. Their exile was divine punishment for sin. But since you and I don’t know punishment like theirs, it is often difficult to know hope like theirs.

We are a people secure in our sin. Even on the days when we can admit that we’re slaves to sin and condemned by the same divine Law as Judah, well, our exile seems more like the minimum security, luxury prisons of the rich and famous than slavery in Egypt. Yeah, it’s prison, but it’s not that bad. There’s even HBO.

What did Judah do to deserve this? They exchanged God’s Word for their Word. They abandoned the worship He desired for worship they desired. They trusted in things other than the LORD – idolatry, in a word. In their pride, Judah pursued their own righteousness.

We may silently jeer at others for throwing away God’s Word, but we’re quite happy to impose our own meanings on what that Word says. That’s how you get 50,000 denominations holding up the Bible claiming “Sola Scriptura” as their motto. We look down our nose at a world that attacks the Church, while we do nothing to defend Her or build her up and support Her mission. We scoff when we see people acting holier than thou, judging ourselves holy more holy somehow. That wasn’t supposed to rhyme. It just sort of happened.

Looking back to fallen Eden, and exiled Judah, and modern life, it seems a matter of course for us to try and find righteousness in ourselves. But we won’t find it there. We don’t have any.  That’s why the Promise of which Jeremiah speaks is a Righteousness that comes from outside us.

Judah could not deliver itself. Nor can we. But their Righteousness and ours has come.: Jesus the Christ – in the manger, on the cross, put to death for your sins and mine. Righteous not delivered to us in Water and Word and Bread and Wine.  Righteousness that we can see and taste and touch. Righteousness that is Divine and given to us as Gift.

Judah would have to wait, but there would be yet another stanza to their song.

Their Righteous Branch would start quite small

A stable would hold the Lord of all.

His Name would be called Immanuel.

And by His shed Blood, all shall be made well.

About Pastor Hopkins