by Pastor Gavin
Scripture: Jeremiah 33:14-16
The holiday season is upon us. Actually, itís been upon us for a while now. Last weekend, when we were in California, Lisa and I went to look at some baby stores to try out more strollers and cribs and things. In the midst of this, we re-discovered the craziness of stores at Christmastime. At one point, needing to buy some batteries, I waited in line for twenty minutes just to ring up an order.
But I must say that all the hustle and bustle around the holiday season troubles me. It troubles me greatly. I think that as we run from store to store and shop to shop we miss the point of what Christmas is really about. Yes, itís neat to receive gifts from those you love. Itís even more special when you find the perfect thing for someone else who you love that shows them how you care. But the gift giving and the decorations are really secondary to what we are celebrating on Christmas. Christmas is a time to celebrate the truth of Jesusí birth. But that birth, for it to truly be the special thing that we long for it to be, needs to be seen in a bigger picture. You see, the people of Jesusí day had been waiting for a Messiah for centuries. They had been expecting, longing, trusting that God would send a savior. What Christmas really is is a celebration of the fact that God keeps his promises.
I. What we Await
As we begin this season of Advent, I want to talk a bit about what it means to trust someone. You see, Advent is all about trust. Not directly. As we look at each of the four advent candles we discover that they call attention to different things that we should feel as we await the celebration of Jesusí birth: faith, peace, love, joy, hope. For some reason, one I still donít fully understand, the third candle, the joy candle, is pink. But when you move past these individual candles you discover that the advent season is about waiting. It is about anticipation. It is about celebrating something that hasnít yet happened. Therefore, it is about trust. Trusting is believing in something though you donít have proof of it. Trusting is taking someone at their word. Trusting can be hard. It can be particularly hard when that person has failed the trust before. If someone lies to you it becomes much harder to trust them. You can easily forgive them for their lies, but you will be less trusting of their words in the future. Thankfully, we have a God who does not lie to us, who is faithful to keep his promises, who deserves our trust completely.
This advent season we are going to be looking specifically at some Old Testament promises that God made to his people, Israel. We are going to see what it is that they awaited in Jesus. This advent season we are going to look at the bigger picture of the world that Jesus came into. Jesus wasnít just another baby born to parents 2000 years ago. He was special, he was unique. Of course, you say, he was born of a virgin. But that isnít itself what makes him special. What makes Jesus special is that he was the answer to a promise. God promised to send a savior to his people and he did, he sent his own Son. Again and again, in Jesusí birth and throughout his life you will hear the words, ďthis happened to fulfill the prophecy.Ē Jesus was Godís fulfillment of a great promise. God made these promises to his people and he called for them to follow him and trust that he would keep his promises.
For the people of Israel, this life of trust was a long and difficult road. They went through much and waited and waited for a Messiah. In the scripture we read this morning we hear one of the promises that they are given in the midst of that long and difficult road.
ďIn those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from Davidís line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.Ē
No wonder the people of Israel were looking for a savior who would be a king and deliver them from their enemies. That seems to be what God is promising here. And yet, Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise. Jesus is the righteous Branch that sprouted out of Davidís line. He is the one who did justice and righteousness in the land. How did he do justice and righteousness? By sacrificing himself for each of us. He saved Judah, Jerusalem and all the world; just not in the way that the Israelites were expecting.
God made promises to the people of Israel and God answered those promises in Jesus. But many of Jesusí day did not accept Jesus as the answer to Godís promises because he was different than what they expected. I fear that we might have the same problem. We currently trust God and in doing so we have decided that we know how it is that Jesus is going to return. We take scripture and break it apart and come up with ideas about what it all means. But in the end, what we are called to do this advent season and throughout our lives is to trust that God will bring about his will in his time and his way.
II. Future Promises
We know that Jesus is going to return. In Revelation particularly, we have that return described to us. And, oh, it is described as a glorious return. He will return from the sky on horseback and the whole world will see him and he will bring his kingdom. He will create a new heaven and a new earth and we will live in his presence forever more. But sometimes we seem to think that we are just to wait until that kingdom comes. We pray in the Lordís Prayer, ďyour kingdom come on earth as it is in heavenĒ and we think that means that we are praying for the end of the world so that Jesus can return. But Jesusí kingdom is more than that which we have to look forward to. It is here and now and we are to be sharing it with those around us. But where is it? We still donít see it in the midst of the darkness that we find in this world. We still donít see it because we are too busy running around trying to get all our Christmas shopping done. The kingdom is found where we find justice and righteousness. These are the things that uphold Jesusí kingdom. These are the things that will show it so that we can see it. And it is also found in love.
So, lets not wait too long for Jesus to fulfill that promise. He has already begun to do so. And we are to be the fulfillment of that promise for each other and for the world, and even for the people of Israel. We are to live lives of justice and lives of righteousness. We are to live lives of love. This is how we will find ourselves as a part of Jesusí kingdom. This is how we will find ourselves as a part of the promise.
We believe that Jesus fulfilled the promises that God made in Jeremiah. We believe that he answered the needs of his people. But we also believe that he continues to fulfill that promise. We also believe that the promise is for us and we can wait on the Lord to bring his kingdom to this earth. When you pray the Lordís Prayer, asking Godís kingdom to come here on earth, know that you are a part of that kingdom. When you receive communion, Jesusí body and blood, know that you are receiving a piece of the promise that God has made to you.
This holiday season, this Advent, I encourage you to step back from the busyness that you see around you. I encourage you to step back from the consumerism that we find in the stores. A great way to do this is to take a special time through the Advent season to sit down and spend with God. This last Wednesday night we made advent wreaths at the church. Many of you went home with beautiful wreaths and devotional books to take you through advent. I encourage you to sit down starting today and throughout the season with your family and take the time to celebrate advent. Light the candles and read the devotionals and remember that God keeps his promises. He kept his promises to the people of Israel by sending them Jesus and he will keep his promises to each of us. If you werenít here on Wednesday night, I have more devotionals left, feel free to pick one up from me as you leave worship today. Let us spend this Advent season focused on Jesus and on God, the true promise keeper. Amen.
Advent Season by Pope Benedict XVI
In Advent, Christians relive a dual impulse of the spirit: on the one hand, they raise their eyes towards the final destination of their pilgrimage through history, which is the glorious return of the Lord Jesus; on the other, remembering with emotion his birth in Bethlehem, they kneel before the Crib.
Malankara World Christmas Supplement
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