The world is a bleak place without hope.
As evidence, I submit my journal entry from 12/14/88:
“I am looking forward to Christmas vacation. But also, no presents under our tree yet. Only my 7 year old brother and I have put presents under the tree!”*
For a kid at Christmas, the hope is that on Christmas morning Santa and/or our parents will come through for us. In 1988, chances are I was asking for Zelda II: The Legend of Link. The appearance of presents under our tree wouldn’t have been a guarantee that I’d get it. Wrapping paper can conceal a frilly dress just as well as a video game. But until the presents arrived I couldn’t shake and weigh and guess at their contents. Without the presents, I couldn’t hope.
And the world is a bleak place without hope.
Jeremiah was an Old Testament prophet in a time when things were very bleak. Thanks to generations of disobedience, God had stopped protecting Israel. The Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrian empire in 722 BC. Then, during Jeremiah’s ministry, the Southern kingdom – including Jerusalem and the Temple – fell to the Babylonians (587 BC). In order to prevent an uprising, many of the Israelites were relocated to other parts of these empires.
So in short: During Jeremiah’s ministry, the Israelites lost the Promised Land.
Their world was a bleak place.
Poor Jeremiah had to preach a lot of hard and unpopular messages, but the Scripture for today is one with some good news:
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to 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 live in safety (33:14-16).
Things are bleak, but there is hope.
Christ, the Messiah, was the hope for the Israelites. And Christ, the Messiah, is still the hope for us today.
We don’t have to lose a Promised Land to know that life can still get pretty bleak today. Thankfully, because of what God has done for us in Christ, there is always hope. Not even death can get the last word. Or, as Frederick Buechner better put it: “The Resurrection means the worst thing is never the last thing.”
Today we begin Advent by remembering Christ as our hope.
Christ was the hope for the Israelites.
Christ is our hope still today.
* Thank you, Mrs. Taylor, for making us journal for 15 minutes every day in 4th grade. You have helped me remember what it was like to be 9 years old – and provided my family with a great source of amusement.