Throughout the season of Advent we will focus our attention on the OT readings.  This is because there is, in my opinion, an extraordinary ignorance of the OT.  That ignorance is not just in Western Christianity, but also among us as a congregation.

In Jeremiah God promises action for Israel.  Israel is being bombarded by Babylon and in the middle of that God promises Israel that his Grace and Favor will outlast the current onslaught.  He will work in the future to end Babylon, but so much more.  He will finally work to bring about the Reign of God through David like he promised.  He will send out a Branch.  And that descendant of David will execute the Justice and Righteousness of God in Israel.  What a wonderful promise!  All of Israel’s waiting for a Messiah will end, and end soon.  This is a message of Grace but also one of condemnation.  The current King of Israel, and the current path he and the people are taking, is contrary to the Justice and Righteousness of God.  So God says through Jeremiah, “the day is coming when I will send my servant, a Branch from David, and He will execute Justice and Righteousness on my behalf.”

Move ahead a few hundred years and we reach that point.  The point of fulfillment, the point we are reminded of in this Season of Advent. Jesus was born.  He was born to an Israelite woman Mary, and to a Father (Jospeh) from the lineage of King David and also of Abraham.  But is Jesus the Messiah?  Is he the branch of David?  Is he the one who executes the Justice and Righteousness of God?  That is the tense question.  He is doing something and if it is the Justice and Righteousness of God, it is not the kind of Justice and Righteousness Israel is expecting apparently.  Who is it shouting the praises of Jesus?  Prostitutes, tax-collectors, swindlers, lepers, men like Zacchaeus and women like Mary Magdalene.  They are the dregs of society and it is they that Jesus forgives, and they that he heals, and they that he eats with.  But it is not they that the Pharisees praised.  It is not they that Israel strove to aide.  What do the Pharisee’s say to Jesus in the midst of all this?  “Tell these people to shut up.”  The Pharisees wanted nothing to do with Jesus or, as they saw them, the rabble praising him.  Finally, they would show how much they hated Jesus and his ideas of Justice and Righteousness.  They killed him.  They thought they had shut him and his disciples up for good.  But, it did not work.  This Jesus is raised from the dead by God the Father.  He is the finally authority on the Justice and Righteousness of God.  Skip ahead again.

Here we sit as 21st Century Christians living in America.  After Israel rejected Jesus and God raised him, God then sent out Apostles with the Gospel.  And as the story goes, and as time goes, now we according to our Baptisms are mixed up in this Kingdom of God that came through the Israelite man of Nazareth, Jesus.  It is like that parable.  Those originally invited rejected the invite (Israel), so they lost their place.  Then the king sends out messengers to all the lands, every corner, inviting anyone they could find…and here we are.  But this does not mean that the Justice and Righteousness of God just go away.  The Justice and Righteousness of God did not remain nailed to the Cross even when Jesus was taken down.  If Jesus still lives then his Justice and Righteousness still live.  And since you and I are the people of God, since you and I and in the Kingdom, the justice and righteousness of God fall on US!

Israel failed as the embodiment of the Justice and Righteousness of God.  We see that in the simple fact that they Killed Jesus!  But, what about us?  What about our ideas of Justice and Righteousness?  I think this is an area that we Christians today might find very confusing.  What does the Justice and Righteousness of God look like now?  To say the least, this is a hard image to find.  Sadly there are few examples I can bring into this sermon.  But, I do have one example to bring to you today and I think it is especially relevant given the time of year we find ourselves in.  What does it look like for us Christians living in America to execute the Justice and Righteousness of God for the life of the World? 

In May 2002 Philip Pan wrote an article in the Washington Post titled “Worked Till They Drop: Few Protections for China’s New Laborers.”  In this article he spotlights the death of a 19 year old women named Li-Chun-Mei.  She collapsed and died after working 16-19 hour shifts at a factory for 60 days straight!  What type of factory was it?  A factory turning out stuffed toys.  What time of the year?  October and November.

Now, few of us heard of Li-Chun-Mei, and I am sure few of us have heard about many, if any, of the deaths that have occurred in similar fashion over the last ten years.  But, I hope this serves to shed light on our habits in this Season of Christmas.  Do you think it is the best and clearest confession of the Justice and Righteousness of God that our demand for stuffed toys might lead to the death of a woman in China?  Now, this woman’s death was not because any one of us in this room is a particularly evil, blood-thirsty, or greedy man or woman.  But, I do believe it is because we simply have little contact with what is going on in the production of our stuff.  And as we buy and sell this holiday season, I hope Li-Chun-Mei’s death stands as a reminder to us all about our calling as Christians.  If Jesus came, and in the Righteousness and Justice of God served his neighbors, even those not of his race, aren’t we too to be mindful and caring of all our neighbors even if we do not see them?

Now, I must be clear about what I am saying and not saying, endorsing and not endorsing.  I am not endorsing an American Political party’s agenda here, nor am I saying buying goods from China is an evil act.  What I am doing is attacking the often mindless way we go about buying this time of year.  I am saying we need to do more work than pitching things into our baskets because of particularly low discounts.  If by our buying there is the possibility of doing harm to our neighbor we must not act until we are absolutely sure our neighbor’s life and property will be upheld and protected by our action rather than harmed.  And that takes work—the enactment of the Justice and Righteousness of God NOW kind of work.  That might look like holding off on Christmas shopping for a while, or buying stuff that you can see made, I am not sure exactly all the different ways it looks, but I know this…

My friends we are the Children of God Now!  We are the Church.  We are called to be the visible embodiment of the Justice and Righteousness of God for the World to see.  And as we are now on the tip of this Advent season heading toward Christmas let us refocus our attention and devotion on this man Jesus of Nazareth and the Justice and Righteousness he embodies still to this day.  Let us eat this body and drink this blood and remember it is because of the Justice and Righteousness of God that Jesus died, but was also raised, and that we non-Jews were gathered into his Kingdom.  And, as we head forward into the Justice and Righteousness of God, let us always remember to Love God with all our heart and soul, and our neighbors as ourselves.  Amen. 

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