Zion Lutheran Church, Marengo, IL
December 16th, 2012
“A Very Jeremiah Advent”
“A Very Jeremiah Advent”
Perhaps you remember an annual television special that hopefully isn't on much anymore, “A Very Brady Christmas”. Well it wasn't my idea of an enduring Christmas tradition, as I don't really associate the Brady Bunch with the holidays. But whatever.
I suppose you might say something similar about the prophet Jeremiah and the season of Advent. Sure, John the Baptist – he prepared the way for Jesus. He's a sensible figure to appear in this season of preparation for Christmas. Shepherds, Angels, these are the sorts of characters we expect. But Jeremiah? The one called the “weeping prophet”? The one who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, the sacking and demolishing of the temple? Who saw the people of God carried off into exile by the waters of the Euphrates, presumably never to be seen in the promised land again? That Jeremiah?
But listen to his words. For after all the smoke and dust of the Babylonian conquest settles, and after all of the weeping tears have been cried out, Jeremiah offers precious promises, and a joyful hope that very much fits in with Advent, and finds ultimate fulfillment in Christ.
Have you ever had your world come crashing down? It's bound to happen sooner or later in this sinful world. Either by our own sins, ths sins of others, or the brokenness of creation itself – tragedies are bound to come. The new from Connecticut this week was a shock to all of us, and a stark reminder that our world, and the human heart, is darkened by sin. Sometimes, with or without warning, death breaks through our day to day existence, and your world comes crashing down.
That's what happened to the Jews about 587 years before Jesus' birth. They had survived the threat of the Assyrians some 150 years earlier, who had wiped out the northern 10 tribes of Israel. And as empires rise and fall, now the Babylonians were in power, and the Jewish leaders felt fairly safe. They rested on their laurels, and corruption and false worship began to creep in and eventually flourish. Even when the clouds of danger arose, and wiser men would have seen the impending doom, the Jews enjoyed a false sense of security. They reasoned, “No one can touch us, because we have the temple. God will protect us. We're safe and sound.”
Jeremiah warned them. Jeremiah chapter 13 is his great temple sermon, in which he warns them not to trust the popular slogan, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” It's a classic call to repentance.
Advent is a season of waiting and preparation, but it also has a penitential character. Some churches use the same purple paraments of Lent during Advent to highlight this. There is a sense of joy and eagerness of Christ's coming, but also a keen awareness that we don't deserve such gifts. We are unworthy sinners, who should shudder at the thought of God himself coming near us. If not for his grace and mercy in Christ, we would be ruined! We should never rest on a false sense of security in our own works of righteousness. We should never think that we are just fine or anywhere near ok without the constant grace of God. We should grieve our sins, each and every day, and pray that God would save us from the devil, this wicked world, and even our own sinful selves. That he would bring all enemies under his feet at last, as he promised us he will.
So turn from your sin, and look to Christ in faith. Be sorry for all the sins of this past year, and bring them not only to the manger, but the cross. Repent, believe and be saved. Trust in the one who died the most earthshaking death of all to save all of us from this world that is groaning, suffering, broken, and will pass away.
The Jews of Jeremiah's day would not repent, and the destruction did fall on them, temple and all. They were marched off to Babylon, and even the ark of the covenant was evidently captured and destroyed (sorry, Indiana Jones). But still, Jeremiah was not just a prophet of the law. He held out hope for a time to come, in which even though these people were unfaithful, God would be faithful and keep his covenant. He would remember his promise to David. To Abraham, and Adam and Eve, and for that matter, to you.
A leader was coming, he promised, would execute justice in the land. But not the way they thought. A leader was coming, to bring righteousness, but different than many expected. A branch, a descendant of David... a shoot from the stump of Jesse (David's father), a Davidic king would come and rule and reign and everything would be ok again.
Which happened. Sort of. And sort of not. There really was no descendant of David on a earthly throne in Jerusalem ever again. And while the people returned from exile and rebuilt the city and the temple, could you really say they dwelt securely? For Alexander the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes, and the Roman general Pompey all conquered Jerusalem in turn. Eventually, in 70 AD, Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem and its temple once and for all. And even now with the modern nation state of Israel, what security is there for the Jews? Certainly there is no Davidic king, and the temple is replaced by a Muslim shrine.
So did God break his eternal covenant? Where is this king? Where is this peace and security for his people? Where is God's righteousness to be found? I think you know... it is all fulfilled in Christ. For David, for the Jews who believe in him, and for you and me.
All of these prophecies, and all of this history... it all leads up to Jesus, which is why it matters for you and me.
Jesus is the Son of David, who came to his holy city riding on a donkey. But not a conquering king, instead a dying savior, a lamb of sacrifice for the sins of the world. “My kingdom is not of this world” he told Pilate, the nearest thing they had to an earthly king.
Jesus is the Son of Man, the stand in for all men, who took on flesh to redeem all flesh, shed his blood to cover your sins in it.
Jesus is the Son of God, the king of kings, who will come again to judge the living and the dead and put all his enemies under his feet, and bring you to reign with him forever.
Jeremiah is a very Advent kind of guy, as he tells of the coming salvation, the coming king, the coming righteousness – that is fulfilled not in earthly terms of thrones and power, but in the throne of the cross, and in the glory that is yet to be revealed. Jeremiah's king is Jesus, who fulfills God's promises of old, and God's promises to you.
As you observe this Advent, repent and rejoice, and trust in God's promises, which he always keeps. Look to David's Son and David's Lord for your salvation. Celebrate his first coming. Look forward to his second coming. And have a very Jeremiah Advent. In Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.