Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Are you patient? This past week I was at Walt’s buying some groceries in the late morning hours. I had a couple of bottles of Diet Coke and a frozen pizza that I was going to make for lunch before working on bulletins and sermons. There were two registers open, not bad I thought for the time of day. I picked the lane that had a disabled gentleman who had already unloaded his groceries at the checkout…so I thought. As I waited it seemed that he kept finding more groceries to put up on the checkout counter…more and more and more. I know that I was getting fidgety. Look at my phone for the time…look at the other checkout line… The gentleman also started a nice long conversation with the lady working the register. I just wanted to pay for my things and leave…I didn’t bargain on this. Then when I thought things were coming to an end…he looks up and declares…”I forgot my money in the car.” Ugh! I hopped out of line and quickly made my move to the other checkout line…leaving the lady in line behind me to wait. She made it through the line more quickly than I did in my new line. I silently protested, complained, and screamed inside. Patience I had not that day.
Our society is used to looking information up on our computers and phones and having that information instantaneously. We have TV’s where we can record the program and skip the commercials. Cell phones enable us to get a hold of one another in an instant…and expect the person we are calling to answer or reply that very moment. Online shopping allows us to skip going to the store and waiting in lines altogether. And if we go to the store…where is the self checkout line…surely I can do it faster on my own!
We live in an impatient world and our impatience leads us to other sins. When we are tired we get impatient. When we are working and just trying to get something done we get impatient. When you are in a hurry or a rush to get somewhere you are impatient. When you are grumpy and in a bad mood…or struggling with your life you become impatient. And our impatience usually leads us to get angry and take things out on others who don’t deserve it. It leads us to say things we shouldn’t to others…even to those we love. When we are impatient we make bad decisions. We fail. We sin.
Jeremiah was a prophet in Israel living from around 626 B.C. to just after 586 B.C. Jeremiah was placed into the middle of conflict; conflict caused by sin. Many other prophets had warned the Israelites to repent. Many warned that God would punish them at that the kingdom would be destroyed. Jeremiah warned them also. The people and the rulers did not like this talk. Jeremiah lived in virtual house arrest for most of his life even being exiled to Egypt. Near the end of his life, in 586 B.C. Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians and Babylonian captivity of Israel would last 70 years. The city destroyed. Solomon’s great temple; the very house of God destroyed. The confidence of the people destroyed. The few faithful that remained were waning.
In the very midst of warfare, conflict, bloodshed, rebellion from God, and kingdoms under siege Jeremiah prophesied a promise of restoration. He said:
70 years of Babylonian captivity…would you patiently keep the faith? 70 years of people living as captives in a foreign country after watching their city destroyed and having families ripped apart…would you patiently keep the faith? The Israelites were not known for their patience. They were impatient with God after being freed from slavery in Egypt. They were impatient with God in the wilderness. They were impatient with God once crossing into Canaan. And their impatience caused them to sin and turn to idols and false gods. They were called to repent of their sins. And now this people, God’s people, were punished and sent into captivity. Yes, Jeremiah promised restoration…but they were impatient sinful people.
The Day is coming…Jeremiah said. That Day didn’t happen when Babylonian captivity ended. That Day would take well over 500 years to take place. It is the day we look forward to celebrating soon. It is the day so important that Angels announced its arrival with songs of praise. That Day. The Day. Restoration for God’s people of all time would take place with the humble and lowly birth of a baby, in a stable who is Christ the Lord.
So is this special day; is Christmas something to celebrate again & again & again? Absolutely! If Jesus was not born a holy baby who could live the righteous life required for us to be invited into God’s glory – if Jesus did not become an innocent human being to free me from sin’s guilt by sacrificing his perfect life; overpowering death by rising from his grave – I could not be saved. But Jesus is graciously, miraculously born as a holy human being while still being our justifying Lord God whose holy life becomes our righteousness. In him we are restored as God’s beloved children.
Counting down the days until we celebrate our Savior’s first coming at Christmas, Jeremiah urges us godly people to also patiently wait a definite but unknown number of days, years or lifetimes – wait until Jesus returns for his final judgment. In that day all the faithful will be reunited. In that day Christ will remove us from this sin infested world and place us and all the saints in a “new heaven & earth, the very home of righteousness. The Day is coming when Christ will return and take us home with Him to paradise. Be patient. Repent. The Joy of Christmas is near. The Lord is nigh. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.