FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
SCRIPTURE: JEREMIAH 33: 14-16
The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise
I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
In those days, in that time,
I will raise up for David a just shoot ;
he shall do what is right and just in the land.
In those days Judah shall be safe
and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
this is what they shall call her:
“The LORD our justice.”
You are not finished; you are not stuck in the lifeless grind of busyness that overwhelms, paralyzes and takes away self-awareness; you are not defined by the worst of your actions or doomed by broken relationships; you will not be reduced to an object or defined by any institution that uses you. Your world is not one headed for disaster and decay. This is a time of renewal and rebirth. You are created for greatness and joy; your very existence gives glory and praise to your Creator who is with you right now! And if these words are difficult to believe there is a shoot- a branch that is growing in the unlikeliest of places that will bring you new life, justice and help you to see your true self- a valued child of God.
Those words were not easy to write. It isn’t that I don’t believe them- I do! However, it is my personality to focus on the negative, so I can fix it. Isn’t that ridiculous? At times this mindset blinds me to the ADVENT- new life- incarnation that has been occurring before my eyes. My divorce was 12 years ago October 2006. It was destructive, devastating and hurtful. It ripped apart two families in a way that did not seem reparable. The scars and scabs of those wounds still exist and can be easily opened. There are three people though, whose relationship represents the healing that has also occurred. My son, step-granddaughter and step-grandson have a beautiful and adorable relationship. He is 18 and a freshman in college. They are 7 and 5. When they are all together there is chaos in the house. Chaos every house should have. Laughter, running, shouting, playing, joy, hugs and lots of love. They admire him and soak up his attention. He feeds off their innocence and unconditional love. These three are the ‘just shoot.’ They are justice; they are hope; they are forgiveness and healing; they are a new moment; they are Advent; they are the incarnation. When I am not vigilant; when I am drowsy from the anxiety of guilt, when I am too busy, I miss it. I miss the forgiveness. I miss this incarnational moment.
The scriptures tell us that a sign of the incarnation (God in human form) is the presence of justice. A common definition of biblical justice is “being in right relationship.” Our relationships need balance. There should be a balance between ourselves and others, ourselves and God and within our own self. For this to become a reality it is imperative that first we know who we are. We are not God. We are a creation of God. We belong to God. Our essence – the most important element of what defines humans- is that we are a child of God. This truth should make us humble. It also means that every other person also belongs to God. Therefore racism, greed, poverty, discrimination, betrayal are examples of injustice. It is not what God wants. When one person does not have their needs met and another person is pursuing materials items for as a hobby our human relationships are not right. The relationship is out of whack and it is a betrayal of ourselves and to God. Injustice breeds hurt, anger and hopelessness. The incarnation brings healing, peace and hope.
Sometimes our family seems to be a puzzle whose pieces do not fit. Yet there are unexpected, bonding moments, like summer pool parties, Sunday brunches, Halloween bonfires and Christmas gatherings, (even when Maribeth is in the hospital) that are like the, “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” Those three kids, laughing and giggling freely is a sign of that promise of redemption. Their relationship is healing for me. It promises forgiveness and offers a glimpse into a world where all the pieces of the puzzle fit. Even if it is only a sign; it is a promise that someday, I will be able to let go of the all the guilt and experience redemption. Even if it does not happen at one moment advent is a promise that what seems impossible is possible.
Advent is not about a baby. Jesus has already been born. The incarnation we are awaiting is within our own life. There is a parable about a monastery that had lost its way. The monks were gossiping, jealous, stuck in their routine. They had lost God. The abbot was beside himself, so he went to his spiritual director asking for advice. His spiritual director paused and told the abbot these words and then fell silent. “The Messiah is among you.” The abbot returned to the monastery and shared this with his fellow monks. As they looked at each other they wondered, who could it be? Who was the Messiah? Soon they started treating each other differently. They were kind, stopped gossiping and less judgmental. Forgiveness was offered freely. There was a desire to live in the moment, treat each other kindly and be present to whoever was the Messiah. A calm and peace came over the monastery. Hope was renewed. They were awake. Their mission was renewed.
The messiah is among you. The messiah is with you. Your redemption is at hand!
What prevents you from recognizing the “shoot “of God’s presence in your life?
What relationships in your life are not in balance? What might you be able to do to restore this relationship?
The messiah is among you. Where do you see the Messiah? How can you be the incarnation?
Joe Nettesheim is the founder and Director of 12plus1. He has been involved in Church ministry since 1991. He and his wife Maribeth have a blended family of 5 children, 3 son-in-laws, 6 grandchildren and one crazy large Golden Doodle named Eliot.