Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we approach Your birthday, all the preparations seem to crowd out our enjoyment of it. Likewise, world events also can avert our gaze from repentance and deliverance by focusing on man’s inhumanity to man. Lord, today refocus us! Cause us to see Christmas as a great spiritual truth and blessing that brings Godly peace to troubled souls, our souls. And when that occurs, these days preceding Your birthday will be filled with quiet blessing. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE COMING CHRISTMAS KING!
TEXT: Jeremiah 33: 14-16
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I can already visualize it. Brian Williams will be standing before a backdrop of Jerusalem on December 24th. His voice will take on a serious tone as he says: “Good evening. On the night that Christians around the world sing of peace, the Middle East is far from it. Iraq suffers from a civil war. Israel is still at war with the Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. And Jerusalem is under a curfew this night as soldiers patrol the deserted streets anticipating bombs going off. Where’s the prince of peace when you need him?”
In my 50 odd years on this earth I have heard similar thoughts expressed by countless people. And their denigration of the genuine meaning of Christ’s birth is always, always based on a faulty understanding of the Old Testament prophecies about it. Today I’m going to explain that faulty understanding so that your Christmas joy is not stolen by these modern-day grinches. I’m here to tell you this:
AVOID A DISAPPOINTING CHRISTMAS BY EMBRACING CHRIST!
As I looked over this lesson my mind drifted to King Herod. Why did Herod think he could kill God’s Son and save his crown? It’s just silly, isn’t it? But, of course, the reason why is that Herod possessed a faulty understanding of the many Old Testament Messianic passages. Likewise, the intelligentsia in Jerusalem who advised him also possessed that faulty understanding. They had embraced the view that Israel, or Judah, was a political/ethnic entity and not a spiritual one. Therefore, the King of Israel wasn’t a spiritual Ruler of souls, he would be a political leader to be judged and dealt with on a political basis.
Alfred Edersheim in his great book: “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” summarizes this politicizing of Messianic truth. This is what he says: “To them the coming of the Messiah undoubtedly implied the restoration of Israel’s kingdom, and, as a first part to it, the return of the ‘dispersed.’” Then he goes on to talk about this externalizing/politicizing of the Messianic reign among the later Jews. “It is worth while to trace, how universally and warmly both Eastern and Western Judaism cherished this hope of all Israel’s return to their own land…Israel’s persecutions had served to keep them from becoming mixed with the Gentiles. Heaven and earth might be destroyed, but not Israel; and their final deliverance would far outstrip in marvellousness that from Egypt.”
Although I cannot put my finger on the reference, I also recall reading about the many false political Messiahs who arose both before and after Christ’s time. They always preached the overthrow of Rome and political peace reigning in the city of Jerusalem. They always elicited a following. And they were always wiped out by Roman power in the end. This should tell us not only how unique Christ really was, but how deeply misunderstood the many Old Testament references to the Messiah were held.
“The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord our Righteousness.”
Remember when St. Paul says in Romans chapter 4 that what made the progeny of Abraham unique was their faith not their ethnicity? Also recall St. Peter’s words when he writes of Christians: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Such passages clearly shine the spotlight of Godly truth upon our understanding of Jeremiah’s words. The house of Israel and Judah are not some ethnic/political nation. They are references to God’s Church, to us. We’re His chosen people because we embrace Jesus as our Savior from sin. We’re His holy nation because He reigns through faith in our hearts. Jesus Himself states that: “My kingdom is not of this world.” So, trying to externalize this passage by saying He’s talking about a political Israel governed by political means is totally missing the point! Ah, but Brian Williams couldn’t say that because it wouldn’t help “sell” the news would it?
Jeremiah was in exile in Babylon. God’s believers were caught up in it along with the rest of the masses who longed for a political solution to their plight. They longed for a return to the great, golden age of King David. They longed to have their egos stroked by being the superpower and the socio-economic status that accompanied it. And that is why, my friends, they twisted Jeremiah’s spiritual truth about our relationship with God and turned it into a political tool to foster their ego-filled dreams.
The “righteous Branch” springing from David’s lineage is, of course, Jesus. And since He has already been born to save us, died to redeem our souls, and risen from the grave to give us lasting confidence of eternal peace with Him, we can celebrate His birth and make preparations for it with joy and gladness. War, hunger, disease, crime and violence?—Ah, those results of sin belong to this world. But we belong to Christ, the Prince of Peace. And since He reigns in our hearts through faith, none of man’s sinfulness can extinguish the flame of peace and love within us!
Although the NIV translation of the Bible that we use is pretty good, occasionally it limps a bit. The 2nd half of our lesson is one of those moments. A quick look at the original Hebrew text says this: “In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem dwell in safety; and this is what one shall call her: The Lord Our Righteousness.”
The Hebrew text makes it clear that Judah and Jerusalem are code words for the Holy Christian Church, the Bride of Christ. She shall live in safety, spiritual peace with her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. For Christ won peace for her, for us, on the cross.—Peace of conscience, peace of soul, peace which transcends all worldly governments. Or as Paul says: “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And what is the Church’s God-given name? “She will be called: the Lord our Righteousness.” That’s our motto, isn’t it? The Lord Jesus Christ is the One Who has made us right with God!
If you listen to television commentators this Advent season you’ll be sorely tempted to adopt their worldly view of the coming Christ and thus, be disappointed by all the bad news this world has to offer. Don’t do that! Avoid a Disappointing Christmas by embracing Christ! For in God’s world, forgiveness and inner peace trump politics and human mind games every time! Amen