One of Those Days
Text: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Advent 1, C
So it begins again; another church year, another Advent, another Christmas shopping season, another long winter … another time of waiting. Waiting through the dark days of early winter seems an ideal time to turn to the prophet Jeremiah for relevant words. The man knew something about waiting. Even the rare, hopeful moments of his written prophecy – like our very brief text for today – exude an aura of waiting. The good days are yet to come. The promise is unfulfilled. Jeremiah could only cling to the promise and wait and hope and wait some more. But still, he had the promise.
And that was all the more important when you remember that Jeremiah had the difficult task of bearing God's Word of judgment on Israel and Judah. While other false prophets predicted peace and prosperity Jeremiah told them the truth. The truth of the punishment that was due because of sin and rebellion against God. Jerusalem was about to fall. Babylon's forces are at her gates. There is no safety behind the walls made of stone and mortar. For this he was cruelly attacked, imprisoned, threatened with his very life. Talk about having one of those days … yes, Jeremiah knew how hard life could be, but he also knew the promise of God, and it sustained him through all those long dark days.
Advent brings hope and anticipation, but it does not ease the grim realities of life. In that way we can relate to poor Jeremiah. Sometimes the parallels are striking. The Truth we have to share with this world is no more popular now than it was in Jeremiah's day. All the works of man, all the wonders of our day and age, they have not solved a single one of man's problems. They have for the most part simply created more. But still our friends and neigbours and coworkers cling to the lie that everything is fine. Still the world joyfully proclaims that life is grander now than it ever was, people are smarter, better, more fulfilled than they ever were. God is a crutch no longer needed, now that we can walk on our own, and anyone who clings to such infancies are not just fools, but troublemakers who are merely dragging others down with them. Right and wrong, sin and grace, the Law and the Gospel … these are terms not often tolerated in our evolved society anymore. And neither are those who speak them.
Yet in our day and age, in our time of struggle and persecution, we have a promise – Christ will return and restore all things. But even so, our present is often less than pleasant. We may not taste the depths of sorrow and suffering endured by our ancient brother Jeremiah, but we know what it is to wait tirelessly for a promise given long ago. Like so many days before, today can be for us just another “one of those days” of the kind that Jeremiah knew so well.
Although we can relate to Jeremiah in his suffering and longing, perhaps we shouldn't. At least we shouldn't so easily or readily. We are, after all, living now in the days that Jeremiah longed to see – the days that were the object of his longing hope. This is the very message of Advent we have begun proclaiming once again. Jeremiah longed for the days when God's plan would move forward, the promise would be kept, and Judah would be saved. All of that has happened. 14“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”
This was the promise to Jeremiah and all our fore-bearers in the Faith. Not all is lost, not all is dead. The stump of Israel will grow a shoot of new life. The promise made long ago to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had not been forgotten. A Branch, a sprout from the stump of Jesse, was even then growing. The stump of Israel, although cut down to the ground was still very much alive, and through him alone many will be made righteous.
And so it was that the righteous branch of David sprang forth in the town of Bethlehem, just as had been foretold. A righteous branch made flesh and blood in the infant born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough. And this Saviour came among us to execute justice and righteousness on the earth. Jesus came in the flesh to win salvation for God's people. Following a plan that few could have imagined, the fulfillment came precisely when the world rejected and executed the very one who had come to do justice and righteousness.
That day long awaited by the prophets and people of old has already come. Justice and righteousness have already been accomplished. Paid in full, executed in plain sight, on the hill of Golgotha, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, under the watchful eye of Roman soldiers, weeping women, and jeering crowds. The plan is a done deal. “Those days” - the very thought of which so inspired and encouraged Jeremiah in the bleak days of his suffering and waiting – those days are now dear friends!
And so it is that today dear friends … today is one of those days … but not a day of weary waiting, or a day of dreary routine, nor a day of painful endurance. No, today is a day of living in the reality of the promise fulfilled. We are not waiting for God to do something. He's already done it in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. In fact, he's still doing it; today is truly “one of THOSE days.”
For today is a day of God's intervening and active grace. A day when He comes among us again, in His Holy House, in His Word of promise, in the remembrance of His grace and mercy, which are new every morning. He comes among us with forgiveness life and salvation. He comes among us as our very righteousness.
So, while we know what it is to wait through Advent and winter and life, and that waiting grows harder and darker every year. Let us also learn the habits and practices of living in the reality of God's promise accomplished. Let us live as those who bear now, by the waters of Holy Baptism, the name “the Lord is our righteousness.” For if we are only waiting for what's next, only waiting for God to do something else, only waiting for those better days, then we are failing to live faithfully and joyfully in the present reality of now – a reality that would have delighted a faithful, hopeful, and longing saint like Jeremiah.