The midweek services during Advent are intended to put us in the position of the Old Testament people looking to the coming of the Savior. Tonight we look forward to the coming of the Righteous Branch who gifts us with security and who is our Righteousness. Hear again our text:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 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. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’ (Jeremiah 33:14-16).
In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. But as God’s people looked around them, there was no security to be found. The nation of Babylon was breathing down their necks, literally. They looked out beyond the city walls and all the trees had all been cut down (Jeremiah 6:6). Cut down by the enemy to use in battle against them. With no trees, there were no birds chirping (Jeremiah 4:25) to break the silence. It was the calm before the storm. It would not be long and the enemy would lay its crushing blow against God’s people, and Jerusalem would be overrun, and her people would be forced into exile. God’s judgment for His people’s rebellion was about to take place.
Though Jeremiah had made it known that their lives of theft, murder, adultery, swearing falsely, and idolatry (Jeremiah 7:9) would not be tolerated, they still would not listen. Though they had been told that God would not stand for His people’s blatant disobedience, they still did not have ears to hear. So would they even hear the good news of our text for today even as the enemy was advancing?
Do we have ears to hear the good news? It is hard to fathom we can hear anything at all in the season of chaos that Advent has become. We are far too busy shopping in stores that blare countless secular holiday tunes to even pay attention to God’s good news. Instead we fill up on our holiday treats, buy and wrap our presents, and somewhere in the shuffle, we may be able to squeeze in a little time for a worship service or two.
Little do we know, the enemy is advancing from all angles. The devil is prowling around like roaring lion, seeking to devour us. And unlike the days of Jeremiah, he doesn’t have to chop down trees and use combat weaponry to take us down. Instead, he uses the tried and true tactic of busyness and consumption. If he can keep us busy enough and convince us that we don’t have enough, he can keep us from remembering the real reason for the season.
But, then again, that begs the question, what is the reason for this season? It would seem that Christmas has been stretched to absorb Advent so that no longer is Advent recognized at all. As soon as December hits (or perhaps before), we decorate, we shop till we drop, we have our parties, and then come December 26, Christmas is done. But that is not how the church year is laid out for us as Christians.
These weeks of Advent are meant for us to be regularly in worship, daily repenting, and filled with a hope-filled anticipation for the coming of the Christ-child who is our Righteousness. It is a time of preparation as we get ready for the celebration of God coming to earth as one of us in order to save us.
That is what Jeremiah’s message is all about. Though the enemy was advancing and Jerusalem would soon be overrun, there was hope that was yet to come. But that hope went far beyond the promise that the people would be allowed to return back to Jerusalem someday. Though that day would come, there would be a day coming that the fulfillment of a promise that had been set in motion shortly after creation would come to fruition.
In Genesis, chapter three, we are told that from Eve’s offspring, the head of the serpent would be crushed. That is the day that Jeremiah is pointing the people to. Though the trees around them had been cut down by the enemy, and stumps were all they could see, there would be a Righteous Branch that would spring up for David, and He would execute justice and righteousness in the land. His name is Jesus, Immanuel, God with Us, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.
But how are we to have ears to hear such wonderful news, if we are so caught up in the busyness and consumption all around us? How are we to reorient our focus to the real reason for the season, if we have allowed the secular world to dictate our calendars and credit cards?
Just as it was for the people in Jeremiah’s day, so it is for us. This is a time of repentance. The king is coming. He will soon be wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. Now is the time to prepare for His arrival. Not by consuming ourselves with more stuff and more treats, but rather by confessing our sins to the almighty God.
This is where the people in Jeremiah’s day and in our day find security. Not in packages, boxes, and bags, but in confession and absolution. We don’t need more stuff for storage containers as every commercial and advertisement declares. We are sinners. And sinners need forgiveness. Day in and day out, as baptized believers, we need to repent. And that’s not easy. It goes against the flow of what the culture says this season is all about.
Repentance is taking a hard look at oneself and admitting that we are in the wrong. It is admitting that God’s Word and His commandments are right and for our good, and what we do and fail to do are not for our good. It is a complete 180 degree turn away from focusing on ourselves to the only God who can save us.
It is exactly what the people of God in Jeremiah’s day ignored, and only to their detriment. In a matter of a year, Jerusalem was besieged and her people were in exile.
Therefore, let us not follow their lead and join together in going against the way of the world. Let us throw off the busyness and consumer driven consumption and whatever other sins that so easily entangle us. Let’s retake the real reason for the season of Advent.
What if we put aside several of those things that cause us chaos and stress and replaced them with worship, repentance, and prayer? What would that look like? What would it sound like? I am guessing, it would look and sound a lot like tonight. A moment of pause in the chaos of life to rightly order our day and our week so that we may be prepared by the almighty God for the sending of His Son.
That is exactly where Jeremiah was pointing the people nearly six hundred years before it all happened. Though their world was being rocked by the enemy all around them, there would be a day when justice and righteousness would prevail throughout the land.
Little did they know that such a promise would be fulfilled in the coming of one who had ten tiny little fingers and ten tiny little toes. Little did they know that their righteousness would be secured by a Savior who made a stable His home.
But here we are two thousand years later still making our way to that same stable to pay our respects and offer our praise and thanksgiving. And there before this child, we place before Him all that we have to give. We lay our sins before Him, every last one of them, because that is why He came.
He came not only to be the Righteous Branch, but to be placed upon the branches of a tree. Nailed there to bleed and die our death. And what we see is that for as much as Advent points us to the manger, it also points us to the cross. Because we can’t look at Jesus and not see all that He did to fulfill the promise He made to Israel, to Judah and to us.
The Lord is our Righteousness. This is the message of the season. It has nothing to do with busyness or buying more stuff. It has everything to do with our God who loved us so much that He came here to save us from the enemies of sin, death, and the devil.
Where the enemy once surrounded us on every side, he is now a defeated enemy. His head is crushed. The victory belongs to Jesus. He is the One who was promised ever since the fall from Eden, and now He has come. He has come and accomplished all that was needed so that we would be saved. We may now dwell securely as we look ahead in joy-filled anticipation to when He will come again to take us to be with Him forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.