You’ve probably heard pastors preach sermons which lament that the quiet contemplation of Advent can be replaced with the frenzy of deadlines and commercialism. Instead of finding rest for our souls, Advent can be a time to overspend, overindulge and overextend.
Other than reading your Bible and worshipping when you have opportunity, some people do this to help keep their spiritual priorities in line. It isn’t new and it’s not expensive. You may want to pick up an Advent Calendar.
Set aside a few moments each day to open a new door. Talk about the spiritual significance of what you find inside. And as your Advent calendar counts down the days to Christmas, you will also have the opportunity to count your blessings.
Jeremiah never had the benefit of an Advent calendar. Jeremiah never heard of Advent. He lived hundreds of years before Mary wrapped baby Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. All he had was a promise. God had given his people a promise that a Savior would come, but Jeremiah had no idea when that promise would be fulfilled.
Jesus has given us a promise that he will come again, but only he knows when that day will be. And so we wait. We wait with eager expectation. We wait with Jeremiah, whose words tell us that we are not just counting down the days to Christmas, but we are also COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS TO CHRIST’S COMING. I. The day when a righteous Branch will sprout from David’s line. II. The day when God’s people will receive a new name.
1. “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah’”(14). “The days are coming” is a phrase that appears a dozen times in Jeremiah. This is not just some vague reference that something will happen someday. The date is set. The event is planned and the outcome has been determined.
The event: “The days are coming when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.” And what is the result of a promise of God? Did God keep his promise to Noah that he would never send another worldwide flood? Did God keep his promise to transform Abraham’s family into a great nation? Did God keep his promise to give his people the land of Canaan? So, what promise is God making and will now keep?
The promised he’d keep: “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is right and just in the land” (15). The Hebrews held up David as their nation’s greatest king. Under his rule, the nation was unified, the capital was established in Jerusalem. King David was fearless warrior and a revered leader. But as great as he was, nothing he could do could prevent his kingdom’s decline.
Judah had a few good leaders after David, but there were more bad ones than good ones. When Jeremiah appeared on the scene four hundred years after David, the nation was politically corrupt and morally bankrupt. And God had had enough. He vowed to punish the leaders for their wickedness. And he did. He warned the people that the coming wrath would be swift and severe. And it was.
But as dark as the situation appeared to be, the Lord provided a ray of hope. God promised to restore his people with a king like David, from David’s line, and a king who would do “what is right and just in the land.” Jeremiah knew him only as “a righteous Branch,” but we know him by the name his parents gave him.
Jesus did what was right. He didn’t usurp someone else’s throne. He was called by His Father into his position as Savior. He was anointed by the Holy Spirit to carry out his threefold office of Christ. Unlike most of Israel’s and Judah’s kings, he didn’t seek human wealth or riches, or alliances with godless kings. Unlike his father David, he never did anything wrong. Jesus was just. He didn’t favor the rich and powerful. He had compassion on the poor and needy. He loved the unlovable and gave hope to the hopeless. The only crown placed on his head in this life was a crown of thorns. Today he is crowned with splendor.
Jesus would do what is just and right. Who did he ever take advantage of? He told his followers it would be narrow path? He told his followers there would be persecution, and trouble in this world? But he also won full and free forgiveness.
And talk about just. He came to right all wrong. He came to pay for all the injustice. “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men." (Rom. 5:18) Through the work of the Son, the Father has declared a world to be just, innocent, without sin. David, in the Lord’s eyes is innocent, just. You and I are declared innocent, just and right, because of the world the promised Messiah won that declaration for us
How about the rule of this king? Telling Pilate, the man who condemned him to die, that he had no authority that hadn’t been given to him from above. Assuring the immoral woman at the Pharisees’ house that her sins were forgiven. Assuring a young man who couldn’t walk, before he could walk, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus was the greatest king this world has ever seen. And this world will see him again.
2. We count down the days to Christ’s coming, when we will see him in all his glory, when we will see him descending from the clouds of heaven. We look forward to that day when the righteous Branch takes his rightful place as the judge of all because that will be the time when God’s people will be given a new name.
“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 Righteousness” (16). Jesus and Jesus’ followers share the same name.
“The Lord Our Righteousness.” Jesus was righteousness personified. He not only did everything right. He has made everything right between a holy God and unholy people. He came the first time to save the world. He will come a second time to judge the world. He came once to take away our sins. He will come again to take us to heaven.
Because Jesus was perfectly righteous for us, we are perfectly righteous before God. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’ perfection is our perfection. Jesus’ righteousness is our righteousness. Jesus’ name is our name because we belong to him. His Church is righteous. It’s members are righteous.
What do you have in Jesus? His righteousness. He shares his righteousness with you. His name. He gives his name to you. When? In baptism we are baptized into the name of Jesus Christ. He gives us his name in Christian baptism. You, even you, are everything good and right and just in the eyes of God because the Lord Jesus’ righteousness is yours.
Jeremiah, nor his listeners, ever saw the beautiful promises fulfilled. There were probably days when they doubted that God’s promises would ever come true.
God promised them a just and righteous ruler. God’s people watched as their sad excuse for a king, Zedekiah, was led away in shackles. God promised them peace and security. Some of God’s people experienced nothing but death and destruction even though God promised to give them a new and holy name.
Can we relate? Two thousand years have gone by since the angels told the disciples that Jesus would return, and so far nothing has happened. Unbelievers are amused by people like us who insist that Jesus is coming back. They call us naïve or simple-minded, and based upon the evidence (or lack thereof) we might begin to ask ourselves if they are right.
The musings and insults of people who don’t believe, and even our own doubts, will never change what is true. Jesus Christ will return on the last day to judge the world and Jesus himself says, “Whoever believes will be saved. Whoever does not believe will be condemned (see Mark 16:16).
Jesus may come back tonight. It may not be his time tomorrow. But as you have read his Word, is there one promise he hasn’t kept? He has come once to brings salvation, and he promises to come again.
Most Advent calendars cover a time span of twenty-five days, from December 1st to December 25th. It really isn’t practical to create another calendar for Jesus’ second coming because we don’t know when that day will be. The Lord has chosen not reveal the date of his return, but don’t let that stop you from counting down the days to Christ’s coming. Remember that you trust and serve a righteous ruler. Our ruler is “The Lord our Righteousness.” Remember that your king has given you his own name. We, his people, are “The Lord our Righteousness.” In Jesus he shares all that is good, right and just. And rejoice that this is how God sees you: righteousness. And rejoice because each passing day brings you one day closer to the day when you will be with Jesus forever. Amen.
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