Monday, December 17, 2018

Advent III December 16

Named the weeping prophet, Jeremiah cries for Jerusalem. He delivers the same message over and over again, calling for Judah to repent and return to God. He rightly tells of the consequences of Judah's apostasy, but the people ignore him, preferring false prophets and comfortable news. With the exception of king Josiah, Jeremiah lived in a nation ruled by kings who practiced the worst evils, prayed to false gods and sought ease and comfort. The prophets of the time were little different and led the people in the direction of their kings, refusing to listen to Jeremiah’s warnings, closing their minds to righteousness or the love of a fully righteous God.

In the midst of Jeremiah's dire predictions, he twice, first in chapter twenty-three and again in thirty-three, tells of a Righteous Branch, and in so doing, he speaks of the coming Messiah -- the only one who can redeem, deliver and save. He speaks of the “Lord Our Righteousness”, springing up from David’s lineage. His message is urgent and reinforced by repetition. On more than one occasion, Jeremiah repeats an urgent assurance of salvation, telling his people to not be dismayed, that God will save them.

Our Advent devotional Scripture reading is from Jeremiah thirty-three which echoes Jeremiah twenty-three.
Jeremiah 33:14-16 
14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
15 “‘In those days and at that time
    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
    and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’

Through confusion, persecution and fear, love for and frustration with the people of Judah, Jeremiah stands in breathtaking faith. Jeremiah continues to deliver God's message, begging his people to turn again to the Lord. The monumental example of Jeremiah places his service to God in stark relief against the ease-seeking life of mindlessness and shallow peace. It is a message as relevant today as it was in Jeremiah’s time.

We will read today of the angel's message to Joseph and how Joseph like Jeremiah, chose to stand in faith even when confronted with the facts of Mary's pregnancy.

Thomas Merton describes what happens to us when we accept God's plans for us, when we surrender, as did Joseph and Jeremiah. In Bread in the Wilderness, he says: "We ourselves have become someone else. We remain ourselves, fully ourselves. yet we are aware of a new principle of activity. We are fulfilled by an Identity that does not annihilate our own, which is ours, yet is received. It is a Person other than ourselves who identifies Himself perfectly with ourselves. This Identity is Christ, God. We discover something of the theological reality that human nature has been, not absorbed, but assumed." Merton goes on to speak of our new life through Christ, "Life together in Christ," referencing Ephesians chapter 2. Merton echoes Paul, saying that we are with Christ as Christians we are righteous because of our faith not because of our credit.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, fill us. Take our sin, our desire for ease and comfort, and replace it with Your love and Your plan for us. Open our ears to hear Your Word as spoken by Jeremiah and Paul. Remind us that without You there is no life, there is no true peace. Melt our confusion and anxiety and remake us into Your people, we pray. Amen.

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