Scripture Readings:Jeremiah 33:14-16; Luke 21:25-36
By Nelson Okanya
Frazer Mennonite Church
December 2, 2012
This is the first day of Advent. Advent is a season where the church reflects back on the first coming of Christ which we have given a fancy theological term “the incarnation” the hope of the resurrection and looks forward to the final redemption when Christ comes a gain. As we reflect on these Christ events, the church calls the world to obedience and embodies God’s surprising hope for the world.
In our Old Testament text, Jeremiah spoke to his people at a very difficult time in their history. Babylon was quickly advancing and many of their people had been exiled. His own people did not agree with his messages and he was under confinement in the kings’ court (Jer. 33:1). The streets of Jerusalem was soon to be filled with dead bodies of her own citizens (Jer. 33:5). The worst was inevitable!
Jeremiah had been right all along and his prophetic message was being fulfilled before their very eyes. Yet, in the midst of this impending disaster, Jeremiah turned to God’s surprising hope and promise. He spoke not of just some immediate panacea but of the restoration of the Davidic line (2 Sam. 7). A righteous Branch will sprout from the line of David. God’s new life surprisingly springs up from what looked dead, a stump.
Jeremiah’s prophecy offered hope amidst devastation. Our neighbors in New Jersey and New York were recently devastated by Hurricane Sandy, what can we tell them and how can we embody God’s surprising hope in the midst of their suffering? All might seem lost, but God is faithful, this was Jeremiah’s message to his people. The house of David might have been cut down, but God is able to bring life out of death (resurrection).
May the message of God’s promise and hope invite us to be on the look out! On this the first day of advent may we cheer up and prepare the way for our redemption draws near because the Lord promised to come again to wipe away all our tears and to finally defeat death once for all (Rev. 21:4). This is not only for us but also for the whole world and you and I are the prophetic voice proclaiming and embodying hope for our community and the world. This is what missions is about.
For a moment try and imagine what it was like for those who were going through this devastating experience together with the loss of everything which had been promised by God. They lost the temple, the city of Jerusalem was in ruins and the last king had been taken into captivity in Babylon. Their God appeared less powerful than the other gods around them. There might have been feelings of despair, anger, hopelessness, guilt, shame or even a sense of rejection by their God. Here is where the difficult role of both calling all of us to repentance and holding God’s surprising hope for the world! This is what Advent is.
In Luke 21:25-36 Jesus offer hope amidst cosmic forces in the same way Jeremiah warned his people but Jesus invokes cosmic language as he also offers hope for believers. Jeremiah had issued warning to his people but was ignored and even arrested in the king’s court but he never stopped warning his people. Like Jeremiah, Jesus spoke about events that were to unfold in Jerusalem because she and her people did not choose the way of the Messiah and now devastating events perhaps what took place in 70 C.E. was at hand. According Luke, Jesus had wept over Jerusalem for refusing to embrace the Messiah the branch from the line of David their redeemer.
Knowing what was a head because Jerusalem did not accept the way of the Messiah, he issued a warning for those who were able to flee to do so because the destruction was imminent. Christians were not to go down with the ship under any pretense including nationalism; they needed to flee while they had time. The cosmic upheaval described in Luke does not affect the elect; on the contrary, it brings them liberation. In the last crisis of the world, Believers should ‘lift their heads’, be alert, because these signs points to the arrival of the kingdom. We may then look at the destruction and devastation in the world and see possibilities of kingdom embodiment and proclamation.
Like both Jeremiah and Jesus the church continues to be the prophetic voice issuing both warning to the world of the impending judgment for disobedience as well as proclaiming and embodying hope for the hopeless, doing deeds of justice, mercy, hope and freedom as signposts pointing back to the resurrection of Jesus which is the foundation of the Christian hope. This hope looks both to the past and points to the future; the final presence of Jesus and the fulfillment of hope in Christ’s return.
Therefore, the same proclamation and embodiment of hope we see in Jeremiah and even more importantly in Jesus who commissioned the church to go in the same way the Father had sent him (Jn 20:21), we must proclaim and embody God’s hope and promise to a world normally characterized by fear, anxiety, unpredictability and even hopelessness. The light shines in darkness and darkness did not over come it John tells us (Jn 1:5), God’s light continues to break in through the ministry of the church. The kingdom has not fully come yet but since the one who promised is faithful, Advent is a season to call for repentance and continue to proclaim and embody God’s kingdom hope. Come Lord Jesus!!!