“Dear Desire of Every Nation, Joy of Every longing Heart” Dec. 3,2023
:Dear Desire of Every Nation,
Joy of Every longing Heart”
Jeremiah 33:14-16/ Psalm 25:1-10
Luke 21:25-36/ Mark 13:24-37)
You know, Jesus didn’t preach or prophecy an apocalyptic message very often.
His emphasis has always been upon love and compassion and basically, how we treat each other. I will refer you to the book by a guy named Rob Bell titled “If God is love, Then Don’t Be a Jerk.” It’s common knowledge that Jesus spent the majority of his ministry trying to keep us from being such tremendous jerks and it was only through the lasting influence of his ministry as well as the testimony of the apostles that the world has come to accept his message of love and compassion and forgiveness. Now, keep in mind that just because the world has come to accept the teachings of Christ, that doesn’t mean that we are ready to practice them yet.
That’s why Mark’s Account of this particular speech of Jesus all about gloom and doom tends to make some of us a bit nervous. We can’t help but wonder if Jesus is simply trying to catch us off guard here, and if somehow we get caught napping we might get put into some sort of extended time out, or something like that.
I mean, this sort of thing can be unnerving. It’s easy to hear tales of devastation and ruination from the prophets and pass it off as nothing more than great literature or historical fiction. But when Jesus talks of the stars falling from the sky and “the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and .” – when Jesus says these things, we tend to give his words a little more weight; a little more credibility. It was only last week that we all were made a tad bit uncomfortable by the prophecies of Christ promising to separate us all into the sheep and goat categories. The bottom line is that when Jesus says it; when Jesus preaches it, we all tend to pay closer attention.
So, what do we do with the apocalyptic writings of the Bible? I mean, really- what do we do? We all know folks who seem to hang on to every word in scripture that describes how this world is going to end. They can quote you verse and chapter from Revelations And Isaiah and Daniel alike. They are fascinated with the prophecies of earthquakes and great fires and stars falling from the sky. But at the same time- and I admit to making a judgment call here- at the same time, if they firmly believe the prophets’ words of havoc and destruction, then it seems to me that they are bound to be genuinely frightened. Mark’s account that we read today it’s just one of many times that the return of Christ has been told with the background of fire and calamity.
But here’s the thing: doesn’t it make at least a little sense that what Mark’s Jesus is trying to do here is not to frighten, but to encourage? The master here is quite efficient and effective in giving each of the servants an assignment before he leaves on his journey.
Just take care of business as the master has requested, and you’re gonna be fine! If you’re on the morning shift, you won’t be troubled if he comes back shortly after sunrise; same with the late shift. The midnight hour holds no terror for you. This IS a call to accountability; it is NOT a gotcha’ moment on behalf of Jesus.
I suppose another way of saying it is if Jesus were to return tomorrow, we can only hope that our first initial reaction might be, “Boy, are we glad to see you.” When Christ comes there is no cause for fear, only joy. Only joy, and that to me is the Advent message that never ends.
The Old Testament text for today comes from the prophet Jeremiah and it’s good to remember that at the time Jesus was being born, this particular prophecy was very well known. This passage describes the coming of the Messiah, and for a people who have been oppressed for decades, The idea of a Messiah who would come and save them from this mess was sounding better all the time.
Jeremiah 33:14-16 The Righteous Branch and the Covenant with David
14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil 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 live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ Jeremiah tells us. The good news translation reads a little different saying: The city will be called ‘The Lord Our Salvation.’ while another describes the coming of Christ as, “The Lord our righteous savior.” I believe you get the idea here: the prophets weren’t simply singing the praises of Christ here.
They weren’t glad handing or looking to make some sort of impression. No, they were only trying to tell us in Christ there is righteousness; in Christ there is salvation; in Christ there is peace.
You know, I will admit but sometimes there is nothing more annoying then a hypothetical question, but today I’m going to go out on a limb and ask this one thing, and that is. “How would the world be different today if Jesus had never been born?” Now, to answer this annoying hypothetical we have to accept the fact that the life and death of Jesus Christ did make a difference and still has an impact on our lives today some 2000 years later. It’s kind of fascinating if you think about it. When God came to earth in the flesh it changed everything. It changed the way that we worship our God and it most definitely changed the way that we are in relationship with our God and the spirit. In short, I have to believe that the birth of Jesus Christ paved the way to a grasping of wisdom and understanding that was unique. You could say that the life and teachings of Christ helped us to grow up and he still does. I can’t really answer this question I suppose. All I can think to say it’s thanks be to God that Jesus was born a savior to us all.
So in closing, I’d like to ask the question again: what do we do with apocalyptic, doom and . And the world’s gonna blow up any day now scripture? What do we do? Do we dismiss it all as being unprovable and therefore unreliable? Or do we find ourselves a street corner where we can wave a homemade sign while shouting at passersby that the world as we know it is coming to an end? Is this what we do? I didn’t think so, but there is one thing we can take home from the gospel of Mark today and that is the advice Jesus gave to the disciples is the same wisdom he imparts to us today and that is to watch.
And I’m not talking about a paranoid fearful kind of watching. No, I believe that Jesus is telling us To pay attention, to keep our eyes open, And to investigate what goes on around us. If it helps any, rest assured that Jesus will be watching with us. But what’s more, when we pay close attention. there’s no telling what we might discover.
Our opening hymn today is familiar to ,most of us. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus is the perfect hymn to ease us into the Advent and Christmas season. This time around, however, I let it get inside my head. There was one line in particular that I couldn’t put out of my mind, and that is the verse that reads. “Dear desire of every nation; joy of every longing heart.” It’s funny that I had never paid much attention before but it strikes me that this is Jesus we’re talking about. It is not untold wealth that is the dear desire of every nation and it’s surely not a brand new car that brings joy to every longing heart, although there are those who might disagree with me. It just strikes me that nations all through history have strived to make things better for their citizens. Some do good, others not so much. You might also notice that the nations who insist upon harmony and justice and fairness are the ones that tend to stick around. The principles and teachings of Christ can go a long way In building a nation.
As for the statement that Christ is the joy of every longing heart, I don’t imagine I might get much argument about that, but think about it for a moment.
Would it be safe to say that any heart that longs for the love of Christ shouldn’t be longing for very long.
So welcome to the season of Advent. Christmas is coming/ there’s no stopping that, but in the meantime Let’s hold this blessing close.
Let’s pay attention that the joy of the love of Christ might light up our longing hearts, and if that means getting choked up by your favorite Christmas music, then let it happen.
Christ has come. Our God has come in the flesh unto this earth and it changes everything. “Dearest desire of every nation; joy of every longing heart.” Let’s start watching a little better. Let’s pay attention and who knows; we might find the love and joy of Jesus working in all sorts of crazy places.
Dear desire of every nation. Joy of every longing heart. Christ has come. Rejoice and be glad.
Amen and Shalom