This is your word heavenly Father, Sanctify us in the truth; your word is truth. Amen.
Fellow redeemed: The Church Year rolls round again, the Story stretches out before us. A story long told, yet it is with the tingling sense of a reader touching for the first time, the first uncreased page of that book he’s longed to read forever we are graced to begin the telling. Much of this Story you’ve heard. But not quite all of it. The thing is, you see, this Story is real, and this telling itself is a part of it. This is the True Story, and you are in it. Your life is a precious part of it. And you are living this Story, though till now you may not have known. This Book is wondrous, and the Story told is ever new, for it is ongoing, and your best hopes and truest desires and noblest ambition for your life and your loved ones too, are all being played out in it.
With delicious anticipation, we turn the first page — the Story is already begun.
The days are coming, says the Lord, when He Himself should fulfill the good Word He Himself has spoken. The Word of the Lord has spoken all things into being from the beginning. The Word of the Lord promised an unexpected rescue to those who then had only turned away from Him, falling into disaster without relief. And it’s precisely into disaster without relief, the Word would bring relief. To those who had turned from the Word, the Word would turn, and return the very ones who had refused Him.
The good Word, you see, is the Word spoken to you, sitting here right now. Spoken to you in your falling, in your self-made disaster, in your willful refusing, in your well-deserved doom. The Word of the Lord speaks today— here and now!— as He spoke in times past to your fathers who themselves were also falling and refusing. He speaks to you. God is talking to you, and in the place of the words you know you’ve got coming, words which seal your fate of forever dying, and knowing no good thing any more forever, in place of such words of damnation, the Word of the Lord speaks peace to you, and restoration, and returning, speaks grace you, grace you do not deserve, grace you cannot earn, speaks life into your dead heart, light into your dying eyes, speaks His own Good to you. Says ‘you are forgiven’ and you are. Speaks ‘you are my own, my treasure, my beloved’ and so you are.
For the Word of the Lord through whom all things are made has become flesh to dwell among us. Sent in the fulness of time, God for your sake has become man. The Word, Jesus, has come to deliver to you His rescue.
Just when all was hopeless and everything lost. The promise of One to rest on King David’s throne surely lost forever with the rebellion of most of his kingdom, the promise to raise up an everlasting heir to David surely lost forever as the divided kingdom was beset, attacked, and enemies tore down Israel in the north, then south to Judah too, and David’s royal house was cut off. The Assyrians came dashing the infants of Israel against the houses no longer their home, and annihilating the North. The Babylonians came in their hoards, pillaging, and carrying off the treasures, and the sons of Judah next. And then life as a subject people continued under the Persians, the Macedonians, at last the Romans, who would grind the City into ruin till not one stone even of the great Temple would remain on another. Just when all was hopeless and everything was lost, the Lord God would fulfill the good word which He had spoken, though the tribes of man had done their worst, and centuries had worn them all down, nevertheless, the Word remained, and God Himself would do it, in a season and in a way which no man could ever claim credit for. He Himself would cause a Branch of David to spring forth; and He would Himself execute the righteous judgments once and for all, once and for YOU.
This is the story of your own woe, your sin, your hurt, your death, and this is the story of God’s love for you, and how He has overturned it all for you, and how He is rescuing you right now. For you see just when all was lost, and man in his sin languished, dying, the Good Word of the Lord by whom all things were made, became flesh, and was given for your sake, and for your salvation, a new branch, a new grown shoot out of the cut down ruined old family tree of Jesse’s son, David, royal king, man after God’s own heart, from that smashed down stump a new and everlasting sprout emerged. God calls Him “a righteous Branch of David.” Born to a daughter of David generations well beyond any royal pretense, born to a virgin betrothed to her carpenter husband, Jesus, Son of David was given. Jesus, fully the Son of David by His mother Mary, Jesus, the everlasting Word by whom all things are made, in whom all things are sustained, the First and the Last, very God, the Son of the Father Almighty, the icon and graven image of the Living God, God made flesh to dwell among us, and to take at last and forever the kingship of David and take it forevermore in life and joy, for this man is God, his line never to be cut off, for He is everlasting. Death is death in Jesus, for in the fulness of time He suffered Himself to take your death, and to die, and to conquer death’s dread power, and to fulfill all righteousness in your place, to bear the penalty of the Law for you, and rising, to give you forgiveness, life, and salvation too.
Jesus is the righteous Branch of David. He has executed justice and righteousness on the earth, perfectly obeying His Father’s will, and suffering your disobedience perfectly too. There is now no more penalty separating you from Holy God. The great chasm of your sin has been filled in by the righteousness of Jesus for you. He is the Branch of David which has bridged over that gap by which you once were separated from Life, and the Giver of Life.
Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. After all, this is only the first reading of the first day of the Church Year. The Story is wonderful. It is about how Jesus loves you. Fulfills the Law for you. Rescues you. Makes you His own. And there’s all the time in the world, and there’s all eternity too, to tell it.
But for now consider this. Jesus is called the ‘Branch of David’ here in the writing of the prophet Jeremiah. He’s called that too, in the writings of the prophet Isaiah. And Matthew records these prophecies fulfilled writing “And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.” Which may seem odd, for the prophets called Jesus the Branch of David, and in any case, Nazareth wasn’t there in the days of Jeremiah or Isaiah. It was only a little village founded a few years before Jesus’ birth in the Galilean highlands. Ah, but you see, in the language of the day, ‘nazer’ means ‘shoot, or branch’ and it was in that little sprout of a village where Jesus had His hometown with Mary and Joseph, and grew into manhood. So when He came into the time of His earthly ministry He was known you see, as Jesus of Nazareth— that is to say, ‘Jesus— of the Branch.’ The Nazarene is indeed the Branch of David, the Lord our Righteousness. And He is for you, and for your salvation.
The peace of God which passes all understanding guard over your heart and mind through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.