Lamentations 3:19-22 Remember my affliction and my bitterness, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;
Lamentation has nothing to do with the trials and tribulations of Christmas shopping. In fact, with much of the things called Christmas, we are rather in danger of taking Godís name in vain. We do not go shopping for God, for church, for salvation, for peace, for forgivenessóall these things are already Godís gifts to us. And although we might find great satisfaction in giving presents, isnít Christ and his salvation the greatest thing that we have, which we can freely share, any time, and all the time?
So the real question is how can we do all the things which we imagine must be done in the time which we have Ė and not only do them, but do them to the glory of God? The answer is to begin with God, and ask his wisdom and grace to guide us, and then all the things that need to be done, will be done, and we wonít loose sight of what it is that we are preparing for, the birth of Christ.
Having said that, it may well happen that in the course of our activities, that things may not work according to our plan. It is not easy to cope with disappointment. It is possible that our feelings might get hurt. There may even be clouds, and in the midst of it all we may see no silver lining. I do not like to dwell on the negative, but our text is talking about not just bad stuff happening, but really bad stuff. Affliction is not just a headache, but it is this ache which goes on and on, with no relief, and as it seems to us, no cure and no hope. People who are afflicted may well feel bitter, and in the scripture the things which are most bitter are wormwood and gall. Not only are they afflicted and bitter, but they dwell on the affliction, it consumes all their energy. When things are bad, the one track mind, continually is thinking how bad things are, and this constant and persistent bad news not only affects our outlook, but our life, and the lives of those around us.
While I do not know of anyone here who is as afflicted and who has as much right to feel bitter as, for example, Job; it does try to creep into any and all lives. And the good news is that there is if not a cure, there is certainly an answer. The problem is that sometimes we cannot remember, or call it to mind. And this is another reason why God did not make the way of salvation an individual thing, just me and God; but rather God called us into families and communities, so that when we cannot remember, someone else can call it to our remembrance.
And this is particularly important at this time of year, because this is an easy time to forget about God, and about all that he has done for us in Jesus Christ. Never the less, there is still hope, and our hope is not that we are going to be perfect. And our hope is not that everything will be going our way. And our hope is not that hard work and determination will enable us to accomplish all we have planedÖ. But this is our hope: "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;"
Some may say, what are such a few words, against such a mountain of troubles? And that my friends is our cue. For beginning with Adam, all the way up till the present, The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; -- has been all that anyone has ever needed. Because in the Love of God, Jesus was sent to earth, born of Mary, suffered, died , and was buried, all to purchase and win for us peace with God, forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life. And not only was he dead and buried, but he rose from death victorious, and offers us a share in his victory.
Godís salvation is full and complete, but perhaps the best news is not the love which brings us salvation, but it is the mercy, which never ceases. This means that each time we sin, we can turn from sin, in sorrow and contrition, and that the forgiveness we need is already waiting for us. God never says, Thatís too much, I cannot forgive you any longer, but God has an infinite amount of patience and mercy. It may be that we could run out of time to receive and accept Godís forgiveness, for with death, comes the judgement Ė but the forgiveness was always there.
This is good because sometimes we might loose our temper. Sometimes we might not do what we ought. Sometimes we me be afflicted. Sometimes we may be disappointed. Sometimes we may even get angry with God as to the things which happen in life. But the things which helps us to wait is also the thing in which we hope Ė The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; -- Consider Mary, and the news she received from the angel, it was probably not something she had planed for, it certainly was not going to be easy, and yet she too I am certain found hope in these words: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; -- may we also find this hope and share it with others, for this puts Christ into Christmas.