The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and 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. –Jeremiah 33
Advent can seem cruel. We’re invited to delay the full-on embrace of Christmas proper to tarry in this land of Wait. It’s hard terrain. Ask children anticipating Christmas Day, or parents anticipating their children’s success, or the small businessperson totaling up the receipts from Black Friday. We ache with the characters of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia who discover a cursed land where it’s always winter and never Christmas.
As a companion in this place we have the prophet Jeremiah. Sometimes called the “weeping prophet” his working life took shape during one of Judah’s most significant periods of upheaval and transformation. Between 597 and 582 BCE the kingdom of Babylon mounted three invasions of Judah and its main city, Jerusalem. They eventually succeeded. The people’s lives were shattered and their world left in shambles.
Even so, the prophet dreams of those days, when things will be set right. Don’t we all! For Jeremiah that meant the restoration of God’s unfolding promise to mend the entire universe. Justice and righteousness blossoming in the ruins. The country saved and the city made safe.
Jesus’ mere presence on the earth embodied the same dream. He was born impoverished in a barn and attacked like a foreign body by the very community that produced him. Still he persisted through it, and rose above it to chart a new path to the dream’s fulfillment.
The waiting of Advent is a working waiting. Preparations are ongoing. There is work to do. We need to develop a capacity for the long view, and play our part while we’re here. Advent is a kind of training camp to strengthen our waiting muscles.
Each year at this time the dream is rekindled as we hang the lights and light the candles and recommit ourselves to live the dream now as we hope for those days. As did Jeremiah and Jesus and Mary and Elizabeth we have to gear up for the long haul. With Martin Luther King, Jr. we can say, “I may not get there with you…but I have a dream…”