Friday Scripture - Jeremiah 31:33
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
Charlie Brown brings the sad little tree to the theater for the community Christmas play is widely mocked and ridiculed. He cries out in despair having realized the futility of his actions and the hopelessness of his task. He cries out in failure as did Jeremiah in yesterday's devotional reading. And then something wondrous and unexpected happens. Linus begins to recite the story of Jesus's birth found in Luke. Out of failure and despair, something new begins.
Remember that for most of the book of Jeremiah the prophet has warned and shocked and cried and shouted for his people to heed God's warning. We still sometimes call an unpleasant and unwelcome public speech and Jeremiad. And yesterday, Jeremiah comes fully to the realization that all crying out accomplished little. As a matter of fact he now writes from a place of defeat. The forewarned approach of the Babylonians us upon Jeremiah and Judah. They will be besieged, there will be battle and death. The walls of the city breached, the temple destroyed, many killed and many taken away into exile. A dark day and many more dark days lay ahead. At which point Jeremiah's message changes. 'I will be their God, and they will be my people.' In the midst of fear and dismay, God promises a new day, a new beginning.
As difficult as the story of Jeremiah is, it is only when we enter into it fully and openly, not distancing ourselves from its pathos and pain, that we then can truly hear and appreciate the words we will read on Christmas Eve. We will hear Mary sing, upon learning that she will carry the Christ child;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Now we realize just what she means when she says that God, 'has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy.' This is the mercy which Jeremiah promised as the Babylonians crashed the gates. Now the words of Zechariah upon the birth of his son John (the baptist) make more sense;
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
The new covenant promised long ago to the people through Jeremiah, has now arrived. The unexpected, long-awaited promise of new beginnings has finally come to pass. And this story shapes us when it becomes our story. When through it we learn to create justice for the oppressed, risk repentance, listen carefully, be patient in defeat and remain ever hopeful and watching for God new beginning, the story of Jeremiah has shaped us and Jesus has made his home in our hearts.