It hasn’t been the best year for my Lions. I thought there were no new lows to hit and that the 2008 0-16 season had to be rock bottom, but now a football season has seventeen games. Thank God the Steelers spared us 0-17. “There’s always next year, we say.” “The days are coming.”
The pandemic can’t last forever. I mean, COVID might be here to stay, but someday we’ll have things more under control, we can get back to normal. This can’t last forever, right? “The days are coming.”
The semester is almost over at the college where I teach. We’re almost there. Yes, there’s plenty of work to do, whether handing things in or grading them. But we can make it, can’t we? “The days are coming.”
Weary people hear something along these lines a lot, don’t they, that “the days are coming”? It’s maybe what they get told more than anything else. This can’t last forever. Things will look up eventually. Just hang in there. “The days are coming.”
Jeremiah had every right to be weary, as did those to whom he spoke and wrote. These were new lows for God’s chosen people. Judah had been laid waste. Its people had been exiled or killed. Temple services were no more. Many spoke for God, but not in truth. It seemed he had gone silent, except for his words through Jeremiah, and most of those had not been very positive or hopeful. The days had come. Judah was a memory. A united kingdom, one people dwelling together in the Promised Land, that was something of days now past, long past a pipe dream for the future. And yet, still, even in this moment, “The days were coming.”
Yes, God’s people were going to have to wait. Yes, they should make themselves comfortable in their new home for the time being. God said to them through Jeremiah:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:5-7).
Advent means “coming.” It is a season of preparation and expectation. Like God’s people in exile, we know this is not our forever home. And yet we rightly make ourselves comfortable, so to speak. We buy homes, find careers, start families, make plans. We pray for the well-being of our nation. And yet, this is but the now before a glorious then. With every joy and sorrow, success and failure, benchmark or setback, there is a big “and yet.”
“The days are coming.” God doesn’t break promises. He keeps them, even to the point of death, even death on a cross. Jeremiah here focuses on one promise in particular, the promise of Jesus, our Advent King. Jeremiah proclaims:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:14-16).
It is a common misunderstanding that Advent is a time to get ready for Christmas. Yes, Advent precedes Christmas in the church year, but it is primarily a time to prepare for the second coming of Christ. Christ has come to redeem us. He was born, crucified, and raised. Christ does come to forgive and preserve us. He is present in Word, water, bread, and wine. Christ will come to bring us home. He will not leave us as orphans. “The days are coming.”
It is a common misunderstanding that Advent is a time to get ready for Christmas.
It’s interesting to note that there are two liturgical colors for Advent. Some churches use purple. Purple is a color of repentance and preparation. We have not lived as we ought. Too often we have been driven by fear and not by hope. Too often we have cast off our wedding garments until a tomorrow that might never come. We’ve let our lamps run out of oil. We’ve delayed on our way to the feast.
Blue is also a color for Advent, the color of hope. In Advent, we repent and prepare, but we also confidently hope. We look to the skies for the One who has promised us a glad reunion and days like no other, without sorrow, sickness, or death, with nothing more to fear or suffer through.
Our first three children came late. There was lots of extra waiting for the days to come. Our fourth, as she is wont to do, decided to do her own thing. She didn’t come late. She came so quickly we almost didn’t make it into a hospital room. If she had come any sooner, I would have been delivering a baby in our car, and let me tell you, that would not have gone well, since I don’t really do blood. There would have been three of us taking an ambulance ride that day. Sometimes the days seem to never come. Sometimes the days catch us before we’re ready. Either way, “The days are coming.”
Peter wrote to Christians asking how much longer: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:9-10a). Give thanks that he is patient and merciful. He waited until you were born and made his own in baptism. Don’t take his patience for granted, though. A good thief doesn’t announce his arrival, and he will come like a thief in the night.
Make the most of this Advent season. Repent, but also hope. “The days are coming.” Remember who said it. Not some coach whose squad disappointed us yet another time, not some politician who already promised everything was under control for months and years without success, not even a professor or student trying to convince herself to trudge on for a few more weeks.
“The days are coming,” and God said it. God, who kept his promise that Christ would come at Christmas. God, who keeps his promise each time Christ comes with water, Word, and bread and wine. God, who will keep his promise that Christ will come again, as he came, and as he comes, for us and our salvation. “The days are coming,” and thank God for that! Amen.