Rev. George Miller
Dec 3, 2023
Christmas is a special season; an emotional season; a season of joy; a season of sadness;
a season of anticipation; a season of stress;
a season of remembering times past; a season of making memories that are new.
Christmas is the time to share a tradition like watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, while it is also a reminder of who is not there to watch it with.
Christmas is a time to decorate the tree and recall the memory attached to each ornament while also adding new ornaments that will have new stories to tell.
Christmas is a time to be thankful for those who are in your life while mourning those who are gone, or slipping away.
Christmas is a combination of joy and grief, hope and hopelessness, fondness and unfairness.
Christmas is honoring the light in the darkness. It is a baby in a manger, it is shepherds in a field, it is you and I traveling once again to Bethlehem to see what God can do.
And part of what God is preparing to do is to bring Heaven right here on earth in the form of Jesus.
Which makes today’s reading so wonderful. All we have discussed since September and all we are preparing to do appears in this text.
Today is a reading written during a time of despair and uncertainty, a time when the nation is in chaos and the extended family of God is in mourning.
Jeremiah’s words are to the people of Jacob and Rachel, Ruth and Boaz.
Things have not been so good for their kin- the family chisme tells us there has been all this in-fighting, poor decisions, deceit.
Each generation of Jacob’s family has lost their focus, they have strayed from the teachings that King Josiah had rediscovered.
So the land is suffering, the economy has tanked, their family bonds have been decimated.
Jeremiah addresses this, but then he does something so beautiful- instead of saying “That’s it- the family is over”, he brings in a source of light and hope.
“Hold on,” he says. “The parade is about to begin! God is ready to do something new.”
“Soon there will be weddings again, soon their will be songs of joy, sounds of mirth, there will be singing and thanksgiving.”
To this broken extended faith family of God who haven’t had a reason to celebrate in years, Jeremiah says “A wedding is about to happen soon, and God has put your invitation in the mail.”
This will be a time of food, festivities and wine flowing, made from grapes that are so so good.
“Hold on,” is the message from God “Watch how heaven breaks in.”
…If you recall, back in September we did Stump The Pastor and someone suggested John 2- the Wedding at Cana.
I said how perfect it was after the Sabbatical because during the summer I had come to learn more about the Latin community and how instrumental the family is, and family gatherings are.
In John 2 we saw Jesus and Mary attend a wedding in which they ran out of wine, so Jesus turned water into something delicious- good wine, “the best wine.”
In the Old Testament, wine was used to represent the inbreaking of Heaven.
When writers and prophets wanted to express God’s Kingdom here on earth, they used wine to represent how wonderful God’s heaven is.
Wine, freely flowing, shared by all, overfilling our cups, was a way to symbolize the presence of God in the here and now.
So when Jeremiah offers this image of mirth and gladness of a bride and bridegroom, we can imagine the food and drink that is present, such as goblets of wine filled with sacred juice of the vine.
A few weeks ago we discussed Isaiah’s image of God being the wine maker, making the ground good for us to grow as grapes.
In other words, God tills the soil so we can become the products and participants of Heaven.
So in some ways we get to drink the wine of Heaven as well as become part of the wine.
Let’s take this image to the wedding of Canaan. We’ve heard this story so many times but now, let us hear it in a different way.
Jeremiah 33 points to a time when there will be a bridegroom and a bride and there will be songs and laughter, joy, and mirth.
John 2 presents to us a day when such a wedding occurs, when family and friends and the entire town come together.
What happens- Jesus turns water into wine, not just any old wine, but the best, the most choice.
But Jesus does not act alone. It involves his mother encouraging him as only a mom can. It involves a multitude of workers who carry the stone jars to and from the well, filling it with water.
It takes the steward to taste, the servants to serve, the participants to drink and the entire community to celebrate.
The Wedding at Cana is not just about a miracle, it’s an act of Heaven breaking into the world and everyone being recipients of it.
It's about the extended faith family coming together and being part of an ancient tradition that creates new memories.
It’s about Jesus finding a way to fulfill the words of Jeremiah, who said to the people that though they can’t see it now, the Kingdom of God is real, and the ways of Heaven will arrive.
This promise of Jeremiah that Jesus makes real does not dismiss the darkness, nor ignore the pain that life entails, but it points us to a promise and an image, and a sound of what joy can look like.
So as we embark on our journey to Bethlehem, as we prepare to see the face of the Christ Child again,
lets us be aware of the loss and stress and grief we have endured,
but also look beyond to the heavenly possibilities that await for us,
as individuals and as members of this amazing extended faith family known as Emmanuel.
Amen and amen.