In the Jeremiah account, these promises of redemption and restoration or renewal follow after a time of suffering and even calamity. It is in the context of the humiliating experience of the exile that the promise of redemption and restoration comes. Indeed, in the Gospel Reading Jesus said, “this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place” (Luke 21:32).
What things was he talking about? “…Signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring sea and the waves…fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world…” (Luke 21:25-26). Everybody will be experiencing some kind of tribulation, that is what the statement about this generation means.
Any beginning is a time of promise. There is no beginning that does not have a promise or some kind of expectation; something to be achieved or reached for. That is the essence of every beginning. The season of Advent marks the beginning of the church year, or the church calendar; and in everyday language, advent means the threshold of something – the threshold of the promise of redemption.
The First Reading for the First Sunday of Advent (Jeremiah 33:14-16) says the Lord “will fulfill the promise made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah…” This text is a variant version of Jeremiah 23:5-8 which promises not only restoration but also superseding the Exodus tradition which Israel violated, with one of redemption from the Lord.
This promise of redemption is punctuated in chapters 31 and 33 with two reassuring statements: “This is what the Lord says”, and “The days are coming” (or “In those days” or “at that time”). Thus, this is the season of advent or threshold of “that day”, or “those days”, or “the coming days” – a time of expectation; not of a probability but of assurance – “thus says the Lord”, as some translations have it – “the days are surely coming”.
I would like to look at this as transformation at its finest; like steel or the beautiful and well shaped glass vessel after the fire of the furnace.
Whether it is a natural disaster – like the recent Hurricane Sandy – or a battle with cancer, or loss of a job, divorce, or even death in the family, the advice and comfort, is to “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near…be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down…” (Luke 21:28,34).
Think of this non-biblical advice from Dr. Jennifer Howard, for perspective: “It is not that our life is supposed to go perfectly. It is what we do when life does what it does that matters. Blessings come in all shapes”.