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God's Word on Sunday: God will always accompany us

  • November 21, 2021

First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 28 (Year C) Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

“The days are surely coming” is a phrase often repeated in prophetic texts of the Old Testament. It is usually followed by a detailed description of what God is going to do for Israel — most often, it will be a glorious and prosperous future.

This portion of Jeremiah’s prophecy was given at the beginning of the exile in Babylon in the sixth century B.C. Those to whom it was addressed probably had no idea that their exile would last 50 years. They might have lost heart if they had known.

The prophecy seems a bit unrealistic and utopian, but it served its purpose — it assured them of God’s continual accompaniment and presence. As with many prophetic passages, it was less about predicting the future and more about declaring that this was not the end of the story. God had not given up on them.

A “righteous branch” would spring from one of David’s descendants and establish justice and righteousness in the land. This did not happen in quite those terms. Judah would never know the glory that it had enjoyed before the exile.

Over the next few centuries, they would be ruled by Persians, Greeks and Romans. But this prophecy and others like it are what kept the people of Israel together and moving forward. They provided inspiration, assurance and hope. The name of the restored Jerusalem would be “the Lord is our righteousness,” and that illuminates the conditions that would make the promises of this prophecy possible.

If the people had experienced a true metanoia during their exile — a change of mind and heart — all would be well. But if their collective attitudes and behaviour were just more of the same, then they should not expect all that much.

Today we are facing overwhelming challenges. Environmental disaster threatens our collective well-being. Our societies and institutions are polarized and torn apart by factionalism. The pandemic is still with us and economic hardship is an unpleasant reality.

Many of these problems are wholly or partly the result of human actions and policies. Even so, God offers us the same future God promised long ago to the exiles. It may not occur immediately or even soon, but a promise is a promise.

But much will depend on our willingness to have a collective change of mind and heart.
A major part of that change of mind and heart consists of a major increase in the love that we show for others.

In biblical terms, love is expressed in deeds — the ways in which we show concern for the happiness, well-being and flourishing of others. It is the quality that is most lacking in our world and the dismaying results are pressing in on us every day. We have the roadmap in Scripture and the prophets and can begin the journey home any time we choose.

The end times and the return of Christ are portrayed in Luke in terrifying but thrilling images. The Earth and the heavens will be shaken to their core and great terror will come upon the world. The glorious arrival of the Son of Man will be the cause of joy and hope for He brings redemption.

But what if the coming of the Lord is a low-key affair without all the flashy and frightening accompaniment? In fact, this is likely in view of the immense time span separating us from the time of the prophecy. If we are not paying attention, we could even miss it.

Luke alludes to this in his warning not to allow drunkenness, worries or distractions to cloud the mind and the senses. God usually works quietly and under the radar. One must always be spiritually alert, looking for the signs of divine presence. We will see, hear and sense things that others perhaps do not.

All the prophecies agree that the end will come suddenly, when it is least expected, and at that point sudden, self-serving conversions will not help us. We will have to stand before the Son of Man with the lives we have individually and collectively created.

We have no idea when the end will come, but each day is a gift and the opportunity to get it right by loving others in concrete ways. Rather than living in dread of the

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