First Sunday of Advent
Readings – Jeremiah 33: 14-16; Psalm 25: 1-9; I Thessalonians 3: 9-13; Luke 21: 25-36
This morning let’s begin with the context of the reading from Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet. Since ancient times we have had two arrangements of the proclamations and the laments of Jeremiah. One set was arranged by his disciples in Jerusalem, the other by his disciples who fled Jerusalem to Alexandria, Egypt. Today’s text is from the Jerusalem disciple’s arrangement, and is sometimes called, “the hope of Jeremiah”. It looks forward to a new day when a successor to King David, “a righteous branch” will spring up and “Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety”. The Jerusalem disciples experienced the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Most likely they were among those who walked into exile. It was while in exile in Babylon that synagogues were formed, meeting in people’s homes to remember, record, and study scripture, and to pray together. It was also during exile that families began to celebrate Passover in their homes. The “hope of Jeremiah”, among other passages, kept them together and faithful. They continued to wait in hope. It seems that the disciples of Alexandria who wrote in Greek, omitted today’s passage, perhaps thinking Jerusalem was forever destroyed, or perhaps, just forgot it in the depths of their despair.
Please listen again to this passage on the First Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of our new church year.
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 of 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.
We, too, are once again filled with expectation; we, too, are waiting with hope as we prepare to celebrate the long-ago birth of Jesus, the long-awaited one of Jeremiah.
Today we also heard a passage filled with great expectations written by St. Paul to the faithful of Thessalonica. Following the ministry, the crucifixion, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, they all anticipated the return of Jesus in glory to set all aright, and to reign from Jerusalem as king. They, like Jeremiah’s Jerusalem disciples, were waiting with hope.
And we too, join with the disciples of Jeremiah and the faithful of Thessalonica in waiting with hope. How do we wait with hope? How do we wait for “justice and righteousness in the land”? In the words of the Gospel according to St. Luke, we do not want to be caught “unexpectantly”. We want “to be alert at all times”. Think of waiting in a doctor’s office for a scheduled appointment. I have observed many just sitting quietly with their own thoughts, and there used to be plenty of magazines scattered about to look through. And then there were those who bring their knitting, their crossword puzzles, their book from home to read. These people anticipated the wait, and they were prepared.
I have three suggestions for us who faithfully wait with hope.
First, from the letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, give thanks, always give thanks. We have an opportunity each Sunday to give thanks out loud and silently for family, for friends, and for current events that touch our hearts, that show us the justice and righteousness of God, as well as joining in the Great Thanksgiving for all of God’s goodness. But not just Sundays, please! Each evening before drifting into sleep, review the day for glimmers of God’s love, for glimmers of God’s justice, for glimmers of God’s righteousness breaking through. Make thanksgiving your last thoughts of the day.
Second, St. Paul invited the Thessalonians to “increase and abound in love for one another”. Be of good cheer at Walmart and Weis’, at CVS and Kind Café, while pumping gas and driving, while shopping for Christmas gifts. Smile more, say “Thank you” more. We all need to share the goodness within us, to let it out, and to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
One, give thanks. Two, share the love; share the joy.
Third, this comes from the Gospel according to St. Luke, “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption [ your hope and your salvation] is drawing near”.
The Psalmist got it right—
Gracious and upright is the Lord…he teaches sinners [you and me] his way. He guides the humble in doing right…he teaches his way to the lowly. All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness….
The Lord God through the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, is always walking by our side; we never walk alone; we have nothing to fear, and we have everything to hope.
When we give thanks, when we “increase and abound in love for one another,” when we “stand up and raise our heads”, the grace of God surrounds us, above, beneath, right and left, front and back. We are one with the grace of God, and we are living the hope of God; we are in our flesh and blood the hope of God. The hope of Jeremiah is alive in us and through us.
We put up our Moravian Star last night; we put up our lighted garland; we light up the night right around our home. I hope you, too, light up the night around your home in this season of long darkness.
And I hope you light up your life this Advent.
Give Thanks. Share the joy; share the love. Stand up with your heads up high.
Make hope alive and real. Walk with the grace of God.