Summit Presbyterian Church
December 2, 2012 (Advent I)
Jeremiah 33: 10-16; 21: 25-36
The Days Are Surely Coming
The days between Thanksgiving and New Year's are a time of high drama for many of us. There's the family drama. The fights at the Thanksgiving table. Children having temper tantrums, teenagers getting high and college students flunking out. There may be talk about breaking up or divorce -- that seems to happen more around Christmas. There's the drama of end-of-year exams, end-of-year accounting, end of year spending. There's drama at work, and the shock and pain when people are let go this time of year, which happens a lot. There's the drama inside ourselves, as feelings of joy and gratitude, but also of loss and grief or envy are heightened. There's also the drama of the Christmas pageant, and the joy that comes this time of year with new romances, family reunions, excited children. But good or bad, this time before Christmas is intense. It can be overwhelming. I have a wise friend, a pastor, who says she gets all her Christmas shopping and card writing done before Thanksgiving, and she clears her calendar in December as much as possible, because she knows pastoral stuff is going to happen.
In our scripture today, Jesus tells us that whatever our personal dramas, we're all part of an even bigger drama: the redemption of the world. This drama began when God first called a people, but a new Act opened with the birth of Jesus and the drama will end when Christ comes again in power and glory. The biblical witnesses describe that great day in different ways. Jeremiah speaks about the restoration of Israel, when in a place that is waste, without human beings or animals, there shall again be pasture for shepherds resting their flocks, flocks that will again pass under the hands of the one who counts them -- and a righteous branch will spring up, which Christians have understood to mean Jesus. (I must say this prophesy sounds like a a post-climate disaster restoration). Isaiah foretells the day when all creation will live together in peace, when lions will lie down with lambs, and when people will study war no more; we sang of that day in our hymn. John the Baptist quotes Isaiah when he says that every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill shall be made low, for the crooked shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. And in the final book of the Bible, Revelation, we have John's vision of the new Jerusalem, when death will be no more and mourning and crying and pain will be no more. We don't when that day will come, but Jesus assures his disciples it will come with cosmic signs and wonders. All our other dramas will be gathered up or overshadowed with the Advent of the Son of Man, when even the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
This is good news. It may not seem that way. First, it's just hard to believe. It seems like science fiction without the science, and if we do believe it we have to acknowledge it's a matter of faith. We can't predict the how or when. It also may not seem like good news for Jesus says this Advent will bring confusion, and judgement, -- people will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world. But we can trust that it's good news, because we worship a God of love. A love we see in the birth, life, death and the resurrection if Jesus Christ. The love of a God who came to earth as a vulnerable child when God could have stayed safely ensconced in the heavens. The love of a God who was tempted as we are, knowing joy and sorrow, even though God could have been content just to have made us. The love of a God who suffered under Pontius Pilate, even though, as the creator of the universe, God could have left all the suffering to his creatures. The love of a God who raised Jesus from the dead and did not let the sin of Pilate or of anyone else have the last word. And God will not let our sin be the last word about us. For Christ came to save the world, not to condemn it.
Which puts all our holiday drama in perspective. It's not that our struggles don't matter. It's not that our pain isn't real. It's not that all our problems will be solved. But the days are surely coming, when, in the words of Christian mystic Julian of Norwich all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well. That's our Advent hope. As we wait for those days we are to pray and keep alert so we can see the signs and wonders of God's love coming to us even now (the kingdom of God is here but not yet). We're to guard that our hearts don't get weighed down with the dissipation and drunkenness that inevitably comes with holiday drama. We're to guard that our hearts don't get weighed down with the worries of this life, even if we can't help but worry. Because our redemption, and the redemption of the world, is drawing near.