Advent MW 1 December 1, 2021 St. John, New Orleans
Everyone likes to make comparisons
We shop around trying to find the best gas price in our neighborhood.
We compare features on differing models before deciding on a new appliance
When moving to a new city you have to compare neighborhoods, schools, and distances to shopping and church
And, of course, sports is all about competing to see who is the best.
But, at times, we apply comparisons to various times of our lives
We reminisce about the days of our childhood
We remember fondly the fun we had in college
We cherish the memory of the day of each of our children’s birth.
And even try to compare today to what our life might be like in the future
Like when we will be going on an upcoming vacation or business trip
Or how life will be different when we retire
Or, during the season of Advent, that day when Jesus returns in Glory to take us home!
While nearly all of our liturgy tonight is pulled from scripture, there are two passages that allow us to juxtapose the coming of Jesus 2000 years ago, and his final return yet to come.
The reading from Jeremiah is clearly a prophesy of the coming Messiah,
Promised from the House of David,
Who will come to earth to restore God’s people, represented by Judah and Jerusalem.
And it speaks in a future tense,
which is why we identify it as a prophesy of Jesus.
The other text is Psalm 89 which we chanted earlier in the service.
It speaks in present and ongoing terms (not to be confused with future tense)
Even though it was written before the Messiah appeared on the scene
It declares his reign and covenant with his people
As well as his eternal relationship with those same persons
And this Psalm is, therefore, at bridge connecting the Old Testament with the New Testament, which continues today
Written centuries before Jesus’ birth, it speaks to his eternal nature
From the beginning of time
Until the Last Day when he returns in judgement
While at the same time affirming his active presence in every window of time
To the Old Testament, he was the envisioned promise to God’s people
IN the New Testament, he was the promise fulfilled
And since his resurrection, his promise is embodied through the work of his Church
As we look at these two passages, we may be tempted to say, “That was then, this is now.”
And when we use this adage, it usually implies that two different times cannot be the same
That one cannot expect today to look, act or feel like a certain day a long time ago.
Between yesterday and today much has changed; we have all changed, both literally and physically.
Moreover the world is different today than it was before.
Whether it’s technology, culture, politics or demographics,
a person transplanted from one time to another in the exact same place
will notice surprising differences
And, perhaps, may not be able to transfer the symbols, values, and morals between them
And, yet, as we compare across time, we always find threads of continuance from one time to another
Perhaps it’s a tradition, or a name, or a sound,
But, because it is passed from one generation to the next, some of its original meaning or value continues into the next generation
Even no-one can remember its origins.
So, as we look at these two readings, we can say, “That was then and this is now,”
And while the world would use that saying to discredit one or the other, based upon their differences,
These two readings actually complement one another.
While Jeremiah gave Old Testament Israel the hope of the promised messiah
The Psalm gives believers confidence of the Savior’s work to save sinners across time.
God chose to send the person of Jesus had experience death and resurrection on our behalf
But as part of the Trinity, that same Redeemer existed already when the Psalms were written
But had not yet been born on earth
And still exists today, even though he as ascended into heaven.
It’s a case of Both/And.
Jesus was the promised Messiah who lived on earth some 2000 years ago.
And the Redeemer who makes righteous before God those who believe in him throughout time.
As we gather in prayer this evening,
we contemplate his presence with us here, right now,
as well as his persistent and steadfast across the millennia.
Even as we seek our personal Lord and Savior from our very personal sins,
We also recognize the Son of God who died to take away the sins of the whole world.
It’s at once personal and at the same time, global.
And yet, his salvation is not universal because it can be refused.
That’s why we spend time during Advent focusing on his second coming
Because until he returns, there is still chance
For those who have here to fore declined his grace and mercy
To still embrace his love and forgiveness
And so, the message of Advent and Christmas certainly is love, as so many have said,
But its not a romantic love like we see on the Hallmark channel
Its not even a comfort love like we feel when grandma makes sugar cookies for us
It’s the love which is displayed by unconditional forgiveness
And its that forgiveness from Jesus which places his righteousness on us
So that when God sees us on our last day and judges us
He won’t see all the bad we’ve done and the unrighteous ways we have acted, spoken and believed
Rather, he will only see the perfect body and blood of his son, Jesus, draped over us as a robe of righteousness
And, as if they were the wedding garments prepared for us by the groom himself,
He will grant us admission in the marriage feast that is to come on the last day.
If we really want to get into the reason for the season, we would be wise to focus on this righteousness that comes from forgiveness
Not only the forgives that each of us has by way of our faith in Jesus, our Baptism and Holy Communion
But the forgiveness we share with one another, as we have been commanded by Jesus to extend
We can help others experience the true meaning of the season by allowing them to experience forgiveness.
This past Sunday in Bible study we talked about how we sometimes rob others of forgiveness by our dismissal of their repentance.
When someone apologies, we are quick to say, “Don’t worry about it! You’re fine.” Etc.
But when we do that, not only have we discounted their God-given conscience
Which has told them they have sinned
And, that conscience tells them they must seek atonement, if not forgiveness.
So, imagine how much better it would be to say instead, “Thanks for your apology. I forgive you because I too have been forgiven.”
It might really shock them,
but at the same time, give them a reason to pause a moment and reflect on the gift you’ve given them.
Moreover, it allows them to move past that particular offence
And gives them a positive example of how they might pass along that loving gesture to others.
At Advent we celebrate that Jesus’ covenant with the God the Father to forgive sinners is iron-clad
It was manifested in the infant born in Bethlehem. – That was then!
It was fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross and rose again on the third day – That was then.
And it continues as his Holy Spirit leads subsequent generations to faith in him, --This is now!
Just as the Holy Spirit did with the Old Testament believers
And as he will do with the believers who will come after us and after our time.
The same Jesus offers the same forgiveness NOW!
--Whenever now is—
because of the life he lived on earth then, even as he lives and reigns in heaven until he returns again
So may this season of Advent be a time
where we remember the Love he had for us then,
so that we will know and feel his love now,
looking forward to his eternal love on the last day.
In His Name I pray it. Amen.