14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
15 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.
16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves,
26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,
5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Who was and is and is to come…
Let me remind you of elementary school grammar- this is called tense. Not like when I mentioned elementary school and you got tense. I mean tense in the sense of when something happened. Was and is and is to come. This is past, present, and future.
The Bible is full of this understanding of past present and future. In the Old Testament, very often it reminds Israel about its past—God reminds them again and again that he is their God that brought them out of the land of Egypt. The Old Testament is also filled with the present tense- do this, don’t do that… Sometimes the books praise God for His presence, other times the books question where God is in the moment.
Our text from Jeremiah is an example of the Old Testament looking to the future. Jeremiah is prophesying just as the Assyrian Empire, which has dominated Israel, is losing strength and the Babylonian kingdom is gaining strength. The people are worried- might God rescue them or will the Babylonians come in and be even crueler? Jeremiah’s message is not what they want to hear. God will allow the Babylonians to control Israel. But Jeremiah also promises that God will be with them.
God remembers His promises in the past- “I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”- PAST.
Prophecy about Jesus” 15 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. This is good news right, except for one problem- it is future tense. Israel has hope, but they will have to wait for it.
Jesus and the New Testament have similar range of tenses. He talks about the law and what happened with God and Israel in the past. Jesus also talks a lot about the present— that he is fulfilling the law, that He is the way, the Truth, and the Life.
But like this text in Luke, Jesus also looks to the future… Signs that the world is coming to an end. Jesus coming in the cloud with power. At this time, Jesus says that redemption is coming. In other words, all things will be made right. But again- it is future tense. We are to look forward to it, but we have to wait.
So we see this idea of was and is and is to come, or past and present and future, at work throughout the Bible. Fast forward to today. I think that we talk about Jesus in the past tense a lot more that we talk about Jesus in the present or future tenses. This seems especially true at Christmas, when we focus on Jesus as a baby. But Jesus did not stay a baby. He grew up and did some important stuff. He is alive today. He is coming back and will make things right. But primarily we talk about Jesus in the past.
I think the early church understood this tendency that we have. To help with this, the early church developed a season of the year called Advent. It is actually the start of the Christian year. So… Happy New Year. Earliest mention of Advent is 490 in Gaul-modern day france. So it is not as old as Easter, but still a long tradition.
The word Advent comes from the Latin meaning to come. It actually refers to Jesus coming in 3 senses, or for our purposes, 3 tenses. Jesus came in the past as a baby born and laid in a manger. He lived a human life and died a cruel death on a cross. He rose again on the third day. This is Advent in the past.
Jesus also comes in the present to each and every one of us. He calls us, woos us, and speaks to us. He is up to something today as His Holy Spirit works in this world and in our lives. This is Advent in the present.
Jesus also will come again someday. He will return to this world and make all things right. What is paid for will finally be redeemed as the entire world is brought under the rule of Jesus. This is Advent in the future.
In the meantime, we, like Israel in the days of the prophets, wait with expectation for Jesus’ return. Advent is a time of reflection on this waiting. It is a build up toward Christmas. It is a season of expectation.
We sing hymns calling for Jesus to come that are often in a minor key and sometimes a little long. Did you know that traditionally the church did not sing Christmas songs until after Christmas? We do not do this anymore because of the commercialization of Christmas. By the time Christmas comes around people are tired of Christmas songs. But traditionally Advent was a season of expectation for Christmas and so Christmas songs were held until after Christmas.
Many churches light a candle of the Advent wreath every week so that there is a visual reminder of the coming of Christmas. It is a weekly sign that we are getting there but going slowly. Some churches also have a banner for each week of Advent for the same purpose.
Advent was often a time of preparation for baptisms that would be held on Christmas day. People would take time for study and reflection as they prepared to join the church and make a public profession of faith.
I think today that we need this season of Advent more than ever. Our only hope in this world is not a Jesus stuck in the past. Our only hope is a Jesus that is alive and active today and someday coming to make all things right. We need a Jesus who was, and is, and is to come.
I think we can all identify with this sense of waiting. Maybe instead of using the word Coming we could talk about Breakthrough. We need Jesus to break into this wold. Things are not as they should be. We want to believe the gift of Christmas is real, but can we in our beat down, messed up, and stressed out lives
Our problem with Christmas is that it is associated with so many stories- fat guys in red suits fitting down chimneys, elves, flying reindeer, talking snowmen… Can Jesus’ birth be real, or is it really like one of these other stories?
And how can we lean to wait on God? I do not know about you, but I do not like to wait. I do not shopping lines. I despise traffic. I do not like to wait. It makes me edgy, tense, and downright uncomfortable.
But wait we must. Believe we must. Hope we must. So I want to encourage you to take seriously an Advent spirituality this December. Pray, study, and meditate on Jesus who was and is and is to come. Pray that God would help you to understand the meaning of Christmas. Because the truth is that Christmas is not a break from real life. Christmas is a glimpse of real life. I pray God shows you this throughout Advent.