O Heavenly God, who knows when the last day will be, until then help us to make your difference in the world. While we rest in the necessary hours of sleep let us not rest from bearing your fruit as we walk this earth. Bringer of all righteousness and redemption, make your church a beacon and haymaker for those in need of your liberation. Thanks be to Christ. Amen.
Jeremiah 33:14-16 (NRSV)
The Righteous Branch and the Covenant with David
14 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. 15 In 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. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
“You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Restore us again, O God of our salvation and put away your indignation toward us!” (Psalm 85:2, 4).
Do you hear these words? If there were ever words that speak profoundly into the Advent hope – these words from Psalm 85 are the words. How, you might ask.
First, there is a given that we are aware of. Sin and death have had a profound impact on the human story. As I have mentioned before, we do not have to look very far to see this reality. We are inundated day in and day out with headlines from the news that speak only too well about this reality. I don’t imagine there is one person who is reading this who hasn’t been touched personally either by a death that was absolutely life shattering. If it wasn’t death, maybe it was a broken relationship, a terribly painful illness, being treated unfairly and unjustly. As much as we like to think that all people treat on another with dignity and respect, we know that this isn’t necessarily the reality of things. Some of us have walked through valleys that have been very dark and very painful. What are we to do??
You see, God heard the plight of his people. He heard the prayers of his people. From the dawning of time – God has heard. Psalm 85 is a simple prayer that illustrates this point. It was the prayer of a people who had known what it was like to be in captivity with Egypt. It was a prayer from the heart of one who knew what it was like to have one’s world turned upside down with persecution, war, and death. From the depths of the hearts of people came the prayer, “Restore us again, O God of our salvation and put away your indignation towards us.” Profound words in a prayer! Here is a lesson for us. One of the characters we meet on the road of Advent is John the Baptist who brings in the message of preparation: Repent. For some reason, many in the church have forgotten this concept or we simply don’t like to talk about it except for maybe a mention during the season of Lent. But Advent is also a season of preparation and in that preparation is the admonition to repent. Repentance is how we as the people of faith prepare our hearts for God. God has always been the God of salvation and as the God of salvation, when God’s creation repents and turns to him – salvation comes in full!
What is the proof of this? Jesus, whose birth we celebrate in just a few weeks. Jesus, whose coming again is embedded within our orthodoxy as Christian people. The God who comes is the God of salvation who hears the plight of his people and acts in a decisive way to bring about deliverance and thus sets the captives free! Where, O death is thy victory? Where, O death, is thy sting? Where sin, is your power? When that tiny baby drew his first breath in a humble manger – death and sin knew their power was defeated – and a little over thirty years later – the exclamation point was put on that when Jesus rose from the dead!
This is the Advent hope! The God of salvation has acted on behalf of his creation, his children. He has forgiven us our iniquity and through the blood of Christ on the cross – he has covered our iniquity! Now there is nothing that separates us from the love of God! Now there is nothing that has ultimate power and dominion over us. Now there is nothing that honestly can take away the hope that we have through Jesus. We have been restored, we have been healed…the deep heart healing that broken creation so longs for. God has promised that through Jesus, we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God.
What more hope do we need? We are forgiven. We are free. We are children. We have eternal life. As you enter into the season of Advent – embrace the Advent hope and live it!