Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the first Wednesday of Advent 12/2/2020. The service is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, use the order of Vespers found on LSB page 229 (with hymns 331 and 342 and Psalm 110), or use the downloadable bulletin: Vespers Advent1
The Book of Jeremiah is a major prophetic text that makes up a good chunk of the Old Testament. It is 52 chapters of frustration, desperation, destruction, and exile. It’s a call to repentance for the people of Judah. It isn’t what you’d call a Christmas story.
But you couldn’t tell that from our three short verses tonight. This bit of prophecy comes from a section of Jeremiah called the “Book of Comfort.” The Book of Comfort is just four small chapters of a sizeable text; a tiny light shining in a dark night.
The Book of Comfort speaks of the LORD’s Eternal Covenant with David. It prophecies the end of their bondage, the re-habitation of their cities, the return of their flocks, and the restoration of their lands.
The three short verses in front of us this evening summarize all of that. As a whole, Jeremiah is declaring that the monarchy and the priesthood interrupted by the Exile will be reinstated.
But when he says “the days are coming,” he isn’t uniquely referring to the time when God will bring His people out of Captivity. These promises only have a preliminary fulfillment in Zerubbabel and Sheshbazzar. Their highest fulfillment is found in Christ.
This is what God Himself says through the Psalm of David we prayed earlier, that Christ is the Great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, the Righteous King.
These are beautiful promises of God; and, like all of God’s promises, they find their fulfillment – both preliminary and ultimate, in God’s mighty deliverance; out of bondage in time and in eternity, for the sake of Christ. It is on account of this Christ, this Messiah, this Righteous Branch, that Judah and Jerusalem are saved and granted safety.
This is what it means when Jeremiah declares: “[T]his is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” The grammar is tricky, but the Messiah is in the details. Earlier, in Chapter 23, Jeremiah said of God that this is the name by which He will be called: The LORD is our righteousness. But now something else has happened. Now, says Jeremiah, this is the name by which Jerusalem is to be called.
That place that was a byword among the nations: a dump; a disgrace; and a disaster. Now, the name given to the Messiah is here given to Jerusalem.
This is what Christ, the Righteous Branch of David’s line, would accomplish for you. Thus, St. Paul writes to the Church in Corinth:
Because of [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
Paul looks back at what Christ has done on the cross, and sees the same thing as Jeremiah when He looked forward to the cross. The Lord, Jesus Christ, is our righteousness.
As Christ gave His name to Jerusalem, and invited them to be recipients of His grace, Jesus has given His Name to you.
Jesus has baptized you into His Name. He has made you part of His family. He has made His Father your Father.
He has returned you from exile that you would live as free people, people who reflect His grace and mercy to a world that insists on bondage.
The good thing about Advent here is that there’s a bit more darkness, kind of like the bulk of Jeremiah’s prophecy. For us that darkness is pierced by candlelight, which illumines the cross; and the Word of God, which breaks through silence and noise alike, delivering God’s own good promises again.
In all of this we are called to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ coming with all the eagerness of those who awaited their return from captivity, the repatriation of their true home, and peace with God for the sake of Christ.