Advent 1 C December 2, 2012.
â€œThe Resolve of Heaven and the Future of the Earthâ€i
Jeremiah 33, 1, 10-16
Â© Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones
Are you ready?
Are you one of those buoyant people who canâ€™t wait to hang the
the boughs and garlands?
Are you one of those Adventy people who have already spent
writing lists of gifts and cards and parties, and groceries,
and horror! actually bought done of those things?
Are you one of those people who knows fine well that
â€œSomebodyâ€™s Coming!â€ and youâ€™ve already made the bed and put on
More seriously, perhaps you are one of those blessed folk
for whom Advent and Decemberâ€™s decked malls
create the perfect marriage of
seasonal cultural and spiritual preparation,
anticipating a blessed celebration of birth, faith, and hope?
Well, then, this sermon isnâ€™t for you,
(so read the funky star on your bulletin cover,
sneak a peek at your lists in your purse or smart phone, and
join us later.)
This sermon is for people who arenâ€™t ready for Advent;
who donâ€™t dare to hope that â€œSomebodyâ€™s comingâ€
who will make a difference in this benighted,
apparently Godforsaken, storm-and war-ravaged world.
This sermon is for those for whom the word â€œDecemberâ€
conjures frantic desperation.
It is for for those who have given up believing
in stars and angels and shepherds,
and devoted virgin mothers.
This sermon is for those who are longing
and yearning for a different present and a different future,
but have no clue where to begin.
This sermon is for you.
This Jeremiah text is for you.
Jeremiah is our odd, but perfect companion
for the â€œunready or unwilling for Adventâ€ among us,
because if we think our world has gone to the dogs, look at
He was born in a time of war,
grew up amid the air-raid sirens, and bomb shelters,
while Assyrians smashed Israel to smithereens.
He bar-mitzvahed behind the sandbags protecting Jerusalem
from the predations of Egypt,
and heâ€™s now neck deep in a jail cell,
imprisoned as an agitator by his own king
for daring to warn Judah of the Babylonian wrath now sweeping
like a tsunami over the entire fertile crescent.
Written with pencil stubs on the walls of a jail cell,
script shaky and misshapen from manacled hands and a fervid
Jeremiahâ€™s is the text perfect for our shaky Advent.
What was it he said again, about his world?
â€œUtter wasteland, empty and desolate, ghost towns of Judah,
and ravaged streets of Jerusalem where not even the dogs roam.â€
Even though few in this room have experienced first-hand this
type of devastation,
we donâ€™t have to imagine it.
Real life images of war, disaster and systemic corruption
flash nightly into our homes from all corners of the globe.
We know that even the mighty Big Apple can be turned to
by the power of a storm surge.
We see towns, villages, nations terrorized by night-time drones
so much so that we have become a society that lives in
what one author has called a â€œstate of chronic emergency,â€
A state where hopes of â€œbetter, saner, safer, gentlerâ€
is seen as utopian, or opiate delusions,
Not surprising then that for some
Christmas jingle bells and Advent wreaths and calendars and
have been thrown out with other faux sateen mementos of
Jeremiah, welcome to our world.
Is this any way to start this â€œmost wonderful time of the
Itâ€™s the way the lectionary starts it, even if Walmart plays a
It begins Advent with a bald, bold look at reality, at the way
the world really turns.
But it doesnâ€™t stop there.
You heard what Jeremiah said.
â€œThe days are surely coming,
when those desolate streets (where not even the dogs roam)
will be filled with the voice of mirth, the song of gladness,
the festivities of birth and marriage,â€
of jubilant, abundant livingâ€¦.. and so he waxes on…
Now, letâ€™s be clear, from Jeremiahâ€™s lips, yes.
But whose words is he speaking?
For this is Jail-house Jeremiah,
not noted for his party instincts, Jeremiah,
Jeremiah the Grouch.
These are not words likely to come from him, his heart,
without an overwhelmingly good reason.
Remember, that despite what the checkout tabloids would have
Godâ€™s Prophets do not look into crystal balls, nor do they
nor does God move their hand to write words
like those robotic technologies that can perform surgeries in
controlled by the hand-eye movements of a surgeon in
Jeremiah is not saying these things because he has some magical
ability to predict a future,
nor because in the earthly scheme of things it is likely to
happen the day after tomorrow.
No, his overwhelmingly good reason is different than that,
and is the one reason we most need to be concerned with,
those of us who are not ready for Advent,
as well as those of us who canâ€™t wait.
His overwhelmingly good reason for decorating his jail cell
with the promises of God,
with sugar plums visions of a city on a hill, golden in the sun,
with tinsel word-garlands of sanity, and safety, justice and equity,
and with the crowning star called â€˜righteousnessâ€™ (now thereâ€™s a word)
atop his scrap-paper tree.
His good reason for such uncharacteristic optimism is God.
â€œDays are surely comingâ€ he saysâ€¦.
someone fit to rival Davidâ€ he singsâ€¦
â€œGod says so!â€ he shouts to all who will listen, and those who
â€œDespite all evidence to the contrary,
despite these chains on my ankles,
despite the city in ruins above me
despite the storm surge devastation,
despite the fallen house of cards of city-wide construction
collusion and corruption
despite the fiscal cliff,
despite the sabre-rattling on once holy, once promised land,
despite the militant posturing of our own dayâ€™s Babylons
despite the cancer diagnoses,
despite the arthritic hips,
despite the numeric decline of people coming to places like
despite theâ€¦.. well you fill in your own despiteâ€¦..
despite, or perhaps precisely because we are in a world
teetering between longing and despair..
â€œDays are comingâ€¦. surely coming,
when birth and blessing, and justice and equity,
and Godâ€™s star of righteousness (thereâ€™s that word again)
will hang from your mantelpiece, with your name on it.â€
Jeremiah says God says.
â€œDays are surely coming,
when in Godâ€™s future,
AIDS is consigned to the bloodied, bigoted pages of human
Days are surely coming, when in Godâ€™s future,
homophobia is an archaic, unneeded word,
Days are surely coming in Godâ€™s future
when our world is no longer diminished
by racism and sexism, and exploitation of children.
Jeremiah is our text for today because he, typically,
dares to rant from his cell, rattle his bars,
dares to be adamant about the things that we are only tentative
â€œThese days are surely coming,â€ he says
because it is â€˜the resolve of heaven for the future of the
The days are surely coming because this God who speaks
is a God of irrepressible dreams,
of covenant fidelity,
of persistent presence, not in the halls of plenty and power,
among the peddlers of self-righteous, self-aggrandizing
but God is persistently present precisely and particularly
under the rocks of all sorts of the worldâ€™s oppressions;
God is present, Somebodyâ€™s Coming,
in the Sally Ann shelters, the Food banks, the legal aid
the Refugee shelters,
the school halls housing the disastrously displaced,
in the prison canteens,
in the book projects and urban gardens
that feed the bellies and imaginations
of the worldâ€™s poorest kids.
The Days are surely coming,
to bless and birth, to feed and nourish souls and bodies,
to give work with meaning for a living wage,
to hold the hand of the sick and dying,
to nurture the young.
The days are surely coming,
and God says,
1Walter Brueggemann, To Build, To Plant: A Commentary on Jeremiah 26-52 (Eerdmans, 1991), 92. Cited in a recent post to WorkingPreacher.org. The phrase gave me the inspiration for the sermon.