The prophet Jeremiah was between that proverbial rock and hard place. He didn’t want to be God’s prophet to Judah, yet he saw with clarity the nation’s future. His warnings went unheeded. Nobody wanted to hear about the coming destruction of Jerusalem, its holy temple, and even the entirety of Judah’s land and people. Injustice and inequality–we don’t believe any of that! Returning to a right relationship with Judah’s God, Yahweh–what a pile of religious drivel! We’re God’s special people. Nothing can harm us.
Jeremiah is often referred to as the “weeping prophet.” And for good reason. His was not a happy life, nor a comfortable one. In the end he died a captive in Egypt. Yet the promises he proclaimed to his people–eventual return from exile and new life–came to pass.
As we once more begin the season of Advent, we, too, know what’s coming: celebration of the birth of baby Jesus in an out-of-the-way spot, on the fringes of proper society. He and his family would narrowly escape violence in their homeland, seeking asylum in a foreign land. Eventually this migrant family would return to the land of their forebears. But we also know how the son of Mary and Joseph would end up: executed on a cross out at the city dump, known as Golgotha. Yes, that’s a lot to digest and ponder as we enter in to what our culture often calls the “most wonderful time of the year.”
That may well be true, at least in the secular season of Christmastime. But like Jeremiah of old, we can see troubling events taking place in our midst. Scores of asylum-seeking Central Americans are camped at the southwestern border of the United States. They’re seeking new homes, far from the violence, oppression, and poverty of their homeland. Yet in doing so they are vilified by politicians, who heap more violence and oppression on top of what they already have experienced. Children and women are tear-gassed. Who does that?
These folks are “strangers in a foreign land,” not unlike Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. And we, collectively, turn them away because, well, because they’re just not like us. But is our future and their future so terribly different? Something to ponder as we journey to Bethlehem over the next four weeks.
Here’s a link to a previous ForeWords blog on this week’s scriptures: