Lectionary Reading: Jer. 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; I Thess. 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36.
This passage is about hope. Jeremiah often referred to as the “weeping prophet” because grieved the actions of his people and the destruction they were to experience. The nation fell, the people were dispersed, the rulers and prominent people were exiled to Babylon. The people were in despair, disillusioned, disappointed, hopeless. It is to these people that Jeremiah has a message of hope from God. I wonder how many in our churches and especially the unchurched need to hear a message of hope from God, through us.
There are two lessons that Jeremiah is conveying that is applicable for us as we share the Gospel with others. First, God is faithful to keep God’s promises, in verse 14 we read, “The days are surely coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” (NRSV) In a world of broken promises, unfulfilled vows, untrustworthy words, God says “I will fulfill my ‘good word’ literally translated.” We have hope for a future where there will be no death, disease, violence, cancer, racism. We have God’s assurance that we can “fear not for I am with you.” Through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection we have redemption, forgiveness, life, and a mission to be about Jesus’ way and mission of healing and wholeness, reconciliation and service. God is trustworthy.
Second, Jesus is a different kind of King and His Kingdom is a different kind of kingdom than any here on earth. Jeremiah says, “I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” As one commentator has noted, “the Davidic monarchy has been blamed throughout the book of Jeremiah for exploitation and unfaithfulness.” Jesus and the Kingdom of God is about righteousness and justice. That has implications for those who are the people of God. I agree with one commentator (Bauer-Levesque) who wrote, “a radical new reality is here proclaimed: the city and its people will live faithfully within the Sinai covenant by embodying its fundamental principles, justice and righteousness.” When it comes to Evangelism or sharing the Good News with others, it’s not about arguments or truth claims, it’s not about classical apologetics, but rather about an “embodied apologetic.” As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith and social action must go hand in hand, if the church doesn’t remember and reconnect with its roots and its call to justice and to serve others, it will be dismissed as an irrelevant social club.” Jesus and the Kingdom are about righteousness and justice. We make evangelism so difficult, with so many programs and strategies and studies and on and on. But Evangelism is about proclaiming the King, Jesus, and joining in the King’s work in our world. I agree with Alan Hirsch when he says the following, “The prevailing approach to evangelism and Christian mission is for churches to develop programs, services and events for the purpose of attracting unbelievers. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be attractive, and we certainly wouldn’t want our churches to be unattractive. The problem is that we rely on the gathered services to do the mission and evangelism-as well as the discipleship, education and worship! To exacerbate the problem, outreach and in-drag has become the dominant approach to evangelizing our culture. The New Testament church was definitely attractive to its communities, but not from this perspective. Their attractiveness was in their living…in what we call “witness “. The love and presence of Jesus flowed through them into the various societies and communities they lived in. The secret of their success as a transformational movement is that it wasn’t a secret, but a life evident to all.”
Heidi Neumark a pastor in the Bronx reminds us why Advent is so meaningful:
Probably the reason I love Advent is that it is a reflection of how I feel most of the time…during Advent I am in sync with the season. Advent unfailingly embraces and comprehends my reality. And what is that? I think of the Spanish word anhel, or longing. Advent is when the church can no longer contain its unfulfilled desire and the cry of anhelo bursts forth: Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus! O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
This is Jeremiah’s cry, amidst the destruction, disillusionment, and despair, the cry go out, Come O King, Come O Lord, Come Lord Jesus, Come. This is the message of hope we can bring to people that want, no need a message of hope. The message is that in a humble place in a little Middle Eastern town the King of Righteousness and Justice, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords has come and the world will never be the same.
Additional Worship Resources (Sourcebook of Worship Resources):
Call to Worship
Leader: Come, open our hearts.
People: Light the candles,
Leader: Sing the carols,
People: Rest in the prayers.
Leader: Come, open our lives
People: To the Light of the World,
Leader: To the songs of blessing,
People: To the prayers of healing.
Leader: Watch, listen, feel.
People: Christ is coming, God is here, rejoice!
Invocation or Illumination(unison)
Loving God, once again we remember the unique gifts of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. As we worship you in spirit and in truth, prevent us from missing your Word for us, that we may understand your revelation and respond according to your will. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
God of angel songs and hidden miracles, wing your way into our world, for we are in need of your presence. We have been caught up in busyness, frantic with lists too long and pocketbooks too empty. Wing your way into our hearts. Let us know peace that calms our unrealistic expectations. Let us see what is truly important. Let us experience an overwhelming sense of amazing grace. God of heavenly choruses and humble beginnings, when all the presents are opened what we need most is to wing your way into our lives and fill us with the joy and wonder of Christmas. We ask this in the name of the Child of Bethlehem and the risen savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Spirit of God is upon you and is sending you to bring good news to our world. In all you say and do, prepare the way of the Lord!
Sourcebook of Worship Resources. Communications Resources, Inc. Canton, OH. (Pp. 39, 43,68,196)