Not long ago the Bishop was here for a confirmation service. The Old Testament read that evening was from the book of Jeremiah, chapter 31. In verses 31 & 32, this is what was read aloud:
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
You might have recognized the word “covenant” was repeated. It appears four times, referring to the Covenant of Moses and the New Covenant of Jesus, so this reading is important. It states why newly confirmed Episcopalians must realize the meaning of this new covenant determines true Christians.
For today’s readings, and in order to fully grasp how the first covenant and the new covenant differ, you have to see how that ties in with the 2 Samuel reading, where it tells of the “ark of God.”
That means the Ark of the Covenant, where “the covenant” was the physical stone tablets brought down by Moses. An ark was built to hold that holy document. Still, instead of having an external covenant chiseled in stone by the finger of God, Jeremiah prophesied that Jesus would be coming to announce that he was fulfilling that prophecy, where God will “put [His] law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”
In 2 Samuel, prior to today’s reading, in chapters 5 and 6, David has been anointed King of Israel, he has captured Jerusalem, and he has defeated the Philistines. He then ordered the Ark of the Covenant to be moved from its place in Judah (Ba’alam) to Jerusalem. As it enters the city, David danced wildly before the ark barely dressed. All the people are given fruit cakes to commemorate the event.
It is then from understanding this state of joy and excitement in David, that we can best grasp why he talked to the prophet Nathan, telling him it is not right to have such a powerful relic inside a tent, while he has a fixed house of cedar to reside in.
Nathan told David, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.”
Then we read how God came to Nathan at night and wanted to know why David would think His presence in the Ark of the Covenant was not fine where it was … in a tent or tabernacle. When this conversation with Nathan was finished, God told Nathan to go tell David, “Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.”
Remember how Nathan said, “Do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you”? God had already put His law in David’s mind.
When God said, “I will make you a house,” he was not saying, “Tell David I’m sorry if all the hammering wakes him up, because I will be making him another cedar house.”
No, God meant David … himself … would be a home for God; where God would write His law on his heart.”
In the reading from Jeremiah, which was read the night of the confirmation, the word covenant was repeated four times because that external THING, where God resided to be with the people, was a law broken … over, and over, and over again.
The problem with external things is they are so easy to forget about. As holy as the covenant was, it was hidden away inside a tent, regardless of how portable tents can be.
As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Since you can’t see God (and be alive), then His law is not on your mind all those times you are caught up in thought over sins.
Now, in the Jeremiah reading we heard God say, “I was a husband to them.” I don’t know if anyone who was here when the Bishop visited caught that; but I will ask you now, “Do you understand what a husband is? What a husband does?”
It can be defined as a “married man, especially when considered in relation to his wife.” That is an important gender determination that is being made by God the Father.
When God is your Father, in a relationship of marriage, the Israelites were His brides. To put it bluntly, all of them held the status of wife to God, regardless of their human sex biology.
As such, the traditional role of a wife is to follow the lead of her husband. God leads. We follow. We follow God’s lead by knowing His law. Our minds are set on the husband’s lead.
Only problem with that model is nobody likes to be given orders. We get used to saying, “Yes sir. Whatever you say sir,” when the Father is looking at us. Wives, today especially, loathe the thought of playing second fiddle to a husband. Therefore, another saying is, “When the cat’s away the mice will play.”
Us human “wives” will do what we please, thank you very much. And, God gave us “wives” that freedom to will to obey or will to disobey.
Still, this husband relationship aspect is important to grasp when we see Mary having her conversation with Gabriel. While she was betrothed to Joseph, she was pregnant with the Son of God. God was her husband.
Jesus was the Son of God, born of a woman. Joseph was part of the Most High overshadowing a single girl having a baby out of wedlock.
While I have no doubts that everyone here today grasps that distinction of the Virgin Mother and Jesus as from Immaculate Conception during this Advent season, as we prepare for “The Coming” of the Christ child, we need to see how all of these readings today are pointing to you being Mary, to you being David, to you being the wife of God … males and females … and letting the angel Gabriel tell you that you are pregnant, with the Son of God in you.
You need to hear Nathan telling you, “The LORD said He will make you a house” where the love child of God wed to you can be born and raised.
It is too easy to stay a virgin and suggest, “Can’t you just keep your presence in the holy relic that we go to once a week, on Sunday, for about 2 hours?” After all, Mary “was much perplexed,” with Gabriel sensing her fear. She asked, “How can this be?”
It is a major step of maturity when a young couple decides to have a baby. They have to have all the answers: How can we afford it? How can we handle work and caring for a baby? How can we sacrifice being children and becoming adults?
Most don’t put that much thought into it. They just find out, “You’re pregnant,” and let faith in God do the rest.
Pregnancy will change your figure. A mother has to eat for two, but a wife eating makes the husband eat more too, so they both grow in preparation for the baby.
Pregnancy will make you stop doing some things that were harming you … vices … but when a baby is on the way you have to change and become responsible for your actions.
The first pregnancy will make you prepare for the Advent of a new you … from child to adult, from girl to mother, from child to parent.
The first pregnancy as the wife of God will change your life, because that means, “The Holy Spirit is upon you, and the power of the Most High has overshadowed you.”
It makes you an Apostle waiting to be born. When that birth arrives, it becomes like Paul wrote to the Christians of Rome.
He said, “It is God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ.” That means that God has put the same mind in you that he put in David, and Jesus, and Paul. It is the mind of Christ, so you understand Paul’s gospel and his proclamation that his abilities mean Jesus Christ has been born in him.
Paul was the wife of God. He opened his heart and received the Holy Spirit. His mind was given all the knowledge of Christ.
Paul explained further, saying, “According to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but now is disclosed.” That means the mystery of God’s presence … that unseen presence that had for long ages been out of sight and out of mind … that was within him and felt strongly. It was revealing God, through the Holy Spirit, as the rebirth of the Son of God … regardless of what sex one is.
Paul then added, “Through the prophetic writings made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith.”
We understand how all the prophets foretold of Jesus Christ and it all took place exactly as written, but could not be understood without the missing link … the mind of God with you, with His law written on your hearts.
This brings out the need to understand the importance of order. God told Jeremiah, “1.) I will put my law in their minds; and, 2.) I will write my law on their hearts. One is as natural coming before the other as is pregnancy naturally coming before childbirth.
This order is why Jesus first broke the blessed bread and said, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”
Before you can understand anything, you have to consume the body of work that prophesied his coming. You have to read this. You have to study and ponder this. You have to discuss this. You have to share this with others. You have to feed your mind with the law of God before you can understand the first covenant, and how Jesus became the new covenant.
Then, once you have fed the Christ child within your mind, your eyes will begin to see the words growing in meaning, until the heart of the Holy Spirit begins to beat strongly. This is then the second stage. It is the new covenant, where the heart beats and the blood of Christ circulates through you. It spreads through you like new wine in the bloodstream. You remember Christ, because you have become Christ reborn.
Christmas is our day set aside to remember the birth of the baby Jesus, in a manger in Bethlehem, about two thousand fourteen years ago. But Jesus does not want us to see him like the Israelites of David’s day saw the Ark of the Covenant … as someone to place, on a stand in a temple or on the wall of a church, enclosed in a fixed location. Jesus does not want to be a mystery, unseen, in need of being called down from heaven to become one with wafers and wine. Jesus does not wish to be eaten physically, so his memory can go into our bellies.
God did not build a house for Jesus made out of cedar. He made the Church of Christ out of the flesh and blood of his faithful.
When you understand that, you can begin to see that we are here today … in this repeating of the Advent season … not because Jesus has been nailed to a tree and reproduced as an image of that scene, hung on a wall in a church.
Jesus has been reborn countless time over the past two millennia … or we would not be here today. That means we owe it to our predecessors and we owe it to our progeny to become pregnant with baby Jesus inside us. We owe it to God and Christ to be reborn as Jesus this Christmas.
Only then can the new covenant be in your mind all the day long, because it is written in your hearts forever.