First Scripture Jeremiah 1:4-8
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.”
I remember vividly how overwhelmed and discouraged Charlie Brown feels as he unsuccessfully tries to organize the community Christmas Pageant in A Charlie Brown Christmas. The kids want to dance and sing while he tries to get them to explore a deeper meaning to the Christmas season. For much of the show, he feels ill-equipped to make his message heard and feels despondent. Which gives us a simple and accessible way to enter into the story of Jeremiah.
As we see from today's verses which record God's call of Jeremiah, the prophet feels ill-equipped and unprepared for the duty God calls him to. 'I am only a boy,' is Jeremiah's response. He does not have enough experience. He lacks the confidence, as a very young man to speak with authority and confidence to the priests, administrators, and rulers to whom God will send him. And his message, as we will see in the days ahead, is not well received. Much like Charlie Brown, Jeremiah will shout and plead to be heard. Jeremiah will work to speak and act in ways that will break through the clamor of satisfaction and celebration, to reveal a deeper message. Charlie Brown, to reveal that Christmas has become too consumeristic. Jeremiah that Israel has abandoned the covenant with God, which in practical terms means abandoned the poor and vulnerable. But no one wants to listen.
Perhaps this isn't the tone we want to set for the Christmas season. After all, on Halloween night the Hallmark Channel started broadcasting Christmas movies. It isn't yet Thanksgiving and the commercials are ubiquitous. There is no doubt that the Christmas holidays, with parties, family gatherings, movies, music, and the planning of giving and receiving presents is a welcome distraction from the stress and strain of everyday life. Here comes Jeremiah (and Charlie Brown) raining on our parade with warnings and criticism. Could it be that we might find a deeper and more lasting joy if we entertain their message, as discomforting as they might be? Might it be that the hope and dream of God's renewal is more promising than the distractions that grab our attention and monopolize our time?
As for me, I find comfort in the fact that Jeremiah feels ill-equipped for the task to which he is called. (And I find comfort in Charlie Brown being overwhelmed). We can be certain that if our faith offers only ease and comfort it is not a faith in God, but faith in a god of our own creating. In 2 Corinthians 12, we read Paul share a word of encouragement and empowerment that came to him while he felt ill-equipped and overwhelmed, '“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And is this not the story we tell this advent season. That God came to rescue a fallen humanity, liberate oppressed people and instill justice in our hearts, as a baby. If that is the story, then we can trust that when we face and embrace our weakness, it is in that moment, that place, that we are connected with the life-rescuing, world-changing, oppression and depression liberating power of God.
So allow this scripture to shape you by challenging you to think through how it is that you will prepare for Christmas. How much of what you will do will be the spiritual practice of embracing weakness, accepting a challenging call, imagining and then embodying God's new creation? How can you make these things a part of your Christmas preparation? Allow it to shape you by leading you to connect with the weak and the vulnerable, those who are meek and who mourn this holiday season. Let this season shape you by bringing joy and hope to those who need it most.