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Days are Surely Coming….[1]

Advent 1, Common Lectionary Year C

Jeremiah 33: 1, 10-16

©2018 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

Audio file

Let me ask you a question:
How many of you have your lights up?
Your trees?
Done your Christmas cards or shopping?
Shortbread, Gingerbread, baking?
Who’s already listening to Christmas carols – by choice!?

Well, then, this sermon isn’t for you!
You may want to colour in the image on your bulletin cover,
and tune back in when we sing our next hymn.
This sermon is for people who aren’t ready for Advent;
it is for those for whom the word “December”
conjures frantic desperation,
what to get the kids?
what can we afford to get the kids?
how will I survive this Christmas without my loved one?
This sermon is for those who have given up believing in stars and angels and shepherds,
and devoted virgin mothers.
It is for those for whom the sermon title
(Days are surely coming….)
is not a promise but a threat,
of coming days of political, ecological,
economic, even spiritual doom.

This sermon is for those who are longing
and yearning for a different present
and a different future,
but who dare not believe, or hope,
or who have no clue whether their longing
will make an iota of difference.

This sermon is for you.
This Jeremiah text is for you.
Jeremiah is our odd, but perfect companion
for the “unready or unwilling for Advent” among us,
because if we think our world has gone to the dogs,
look at his.

Jeremiah was born in a world at war,
grew up amid the air-raid sirens
and bomb shelters of Judah,
while Assyria smashed Israel to smithereens.
He bar-mitzvahed behind the sandbags protecting
Jerusalem from the predations of Egypt,
and he’s now neck-deep in a jail cell,
imprisoned as an agitator
for daring to warn Judah of the Babylonian wrath
now sweeping like a tidal wave
over the entire fertile crescent.

Written with pencil stubs
on the walls of a jail cell,
his script shaky and misshapen
from manacled hands and a fervid faith,
Jeremiah’s is the text perfect
for our shaky Advent.

What was it he said again, about his world?
“Utter wasteland, empty and desolate, ghost towns,
and ravaged streets where not even the dogs roam.”

Even though few in this room have experienced
first-hand this type of devastation,
we don’t have to imagine it.
Real life images of war, disaster and systemic corruption,
of government sponsored violence
flash nightly into our homes
from all corners of the globe, and down the street.

So much so that we have become a society
that lives in what one author has called
a “state of chronic emergency,”
from which many of us tune out to save our sanity,
and others among us can’t bring ourselves to sign a card wishing peace or joy in a world short on both.

Jeremiah, journalist of tragedy,
welcome to our world.
Tell us something we don’t already know.

Tell us something we don’t already know.
Right on cue, he scribbles,
“The 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,
of jubilant, abundant living…..”

Now, let’s be clear, from Jeremiah’s pen, yes.
But whose words is he writing?
For this is Jail-house Jeremiah,
pot-shattering, party-pooper Jeremiah the Grouch.
These are not words likely to come from him,
his heart, without an overwhelmingly good reason.

Remember, that God’s Prophets
do not look into crystal balls,
they are not Time Lords,
nor Gandalf-ly wise wizards,
(though they do inhabit the Middle Earth
of encroaching evil and small hopes).
Prophets are seers. See-ers. Notice-ers,
Ils sonts attentifs.

So, what has Jeremiah seen
that causes this irruption of light
in his jailed darkness,
this explosion of words of hope
in his, and our worlds of despair?

He looks back into the long arc of
God’s history with earth,
and he looks around deeply
into the present desolation,
and he then looks ahead.
And then he speaks,

“Despite all evidence to the contrary,
despite these chains on my ankles,
despite the city in ruins above me,
despite the corruption of soul-selling alliances
with greed and graft,
despite the sabre-rattling and tariff trafficking of global superpowers,
despite the militant posturing of our own day’s Babylons,
despite the cancer diagnoses,
and the ageing bones….
despite the….. well you fill in your own despite…..
despite, or perhaps precisely
because we are in a such a desperate world
because we are personally or globally
teetering between longing and despair..

“Days are surely coming,” he whispers,
“when songs, not sirens, will fill the air,

“Days are surely coming…” he sings,
“when the cry of a baby is cause for joy,
not the signal of her suffering.”

“Days are surely coming….” he dances,
“when love is crowned with bliss,
and the minefields of war,
and the greedy rape of earth
is healed for the pasturing of sheep and ripening of grain…”

Caught up in a Dream not of his making,
he shouts to all who will listen,
and to those who won’t, can’t or daren’t,
“What was, will be, for with God,
the Dream for God’s beloved Creation,
does not change.
“Days are surely coming…”
because it is “the resolve of heaven for the future of the earth” that it be restored to its original, stunning goodness.

Jeremiah is our prophetic seer for us and for today,
and for this world,
because he,
typically, dares to rant from his cell,
rattle his bars,
dares to be adamant about the promises of God,
that we are only tentative about.

“Days are surely coming”
because this God,
is a God of irrepressible dreams,
of creative restoration,
of covenant fidelity,
and of persistent presence,
not in the halls of plenty and power,
not among the peddlers of self-aggrandizing entitlement,
not even in Jeremiah’s dreams of a restored Davidic king coming in peace and plenty,
but precisely and particularly at the margins,
under the yolks of all sorts of the world’s oppressions,
taking on human flesh, bone, heart and soul,
in a newborn swaddled in rags, lying in the feed trough of a stable among displaced people.
God is persistently, precisely present with the world,
in Food bank line up,
in the legal aid clinics,
in the Refugee shelters,
the school halls housing the disastrously displaced,
in the prison and detention centre phone booths,
at the borders, on both sides of the barbed wire fences,
in the urban gardens,
and the literacy projects,
and food security ministries,
in the hospital wards, the psychiatric units,
the unemployment lines,
the women’s shelters….

Days are surely coming,
because God is persistently present
incarnate in Christ,
and in all the daughters and sons of God,
who allow the God’s Dream to take up residence
in body and soul
to bless and birth hope, with gratitude and joy,
to heal the earth, and cherish its abundance,
and to execute justice and righteousness,

for as sure as God is God,
and all earth is waiting,
Surely, these are the Days
and we are God’s people!

 

[1] I preached a similar sermon on this text in 2012 at Cedar Park United, with the title ,“The Resolve of Heaven for the Future of Earth “ While the context and circumstances are different, the promise, and the resolve of God for the restoration of earth has not changed. 

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