Do you have any mistletoe hanging in your house? If you know the custom of hanging mistletoe in one of the doorways of your house at Christmas time, you may also know that, while some people do everything they can to stand near that mistletoe all night long, many other people do everything they can to avoid being anywhere near that mistletoe for even a moment, because if you get caught standing under the mistletoe, the custom is that anyone who meets you at that doorway can give you a Christmas kiss – a nice thought for some, but an event to be avoided at all costs by others.
I don’t know if Branches Band ever thought of having a connection to mistletoe, but mistletoe is a plant that grows on the branches of certain trees, and is then harvested to be sold to people who like to make use of it for the holidays. Tonight with Branches Band we are certainly thinking about us as God’s people being connected to the branch that came from the family line of David, a connection that truly means everything to us as we get ready for Christmas, because it’s a connection that assures us that there will never be a time when we can’t celebrate Christmas, because Christmas belongs to us. It’s part of our family tree – our family line – our family inheritance – all because of Jesus Christ, our Lord – the one who is the vine and we his branches.
It’s that’s message and that assurance which can help us think a little bit tonight about what we can call God’s Advent Mistletoe. Meeting and kissing spiritually under God’s Advent Mistletoe that grows on the branch of our Savior Jesus is what is beautifully pictured in the words or our lesson for tonight from Psalm 85: 1 You, Lord, showed favor to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 2 You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins.[ 3 You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger. 4 Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. 5 Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? 6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation. 8 I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants — but let them not turn to folly.9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. 10 Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. 11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. 12 The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. 13 Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.
That is quite a combination, isn’t it? Love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace. Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. It’s quite a combination because all those things have to do with what God has done for us and how God continues to treat us. They are his Christmas gifts to his family: love, faithfulness, righteousness and peace. Those things all meeting together as God’s great kiss of love to us is what we have been thinking about this entire Advent season as we have been preparing for the birth of our Savior.
It’s the opening verses of our Psalm – especially verses 2-3 – which tell us why God’s Advent Mistletoe means so much to us, because in those verses we join the Psalmwriter in stating the fact of what God has done for us and continues to do for us. God has forgiven our iniquity and covered all our sins, and he set us aside his wrath and turned from his fierce anger. Those are all powerful words describing what only a very loving and merciful God would do – forgiven, covered, set aside, turned from, especially when we note that the word “forgives” literally means that God has lifted up our iniquity – our guilt – our burdened conscience — that burdened conscience, which tells us, rightfully so, that there is no way we deserve to have a Merry Christmas, because even one look at the events of this day or any other day shows that we have not made God merry. If there is anyone who has a right to avoid meeting us under the mistletoe with a kiss of love, isn’t is Jesus? In fact, we have to confess that Jesus not only has every right not to meet us with a kiss of forgiving love, but he has every right instead to actually force a meeting with us at the doorway of judgment with words of anger and accusation and condemnation and removal from his presence. The only kiss we deserve is certainly not the tender kiss of God.
But that kind of truly deserved way of thinking about God’s Advent Mistletoe is what God has lifted up from our hearts because of his undeserved unfailing love – that unfailing love which sees to it that love and faithfulness and righteousness and peace all come together in a perfect way so we can have a wonderful Christmas – four special gifts from God which show how we can have a wonderful Christmas, four special gifts which all have some unique feature to them, four special gifts which we can open right now for just a moment, even though Christmas is still over a week away.
Open up the gift of God’s unfailing love. The unique feature of the gift of God’s unfailing love is that refers to God’s loyalty to his people. He has told us in his Word that we belong to him through the work of the one whose loyalty to his Father could never be questioned. There will never be a time when we cannot celebrate Christmas, because there will never be a time when we don’t belong to him. We have God’s loyal, unfailing love.
Open up the gift of God’s faithfulness. The unique feature of this gift is that it refers to God’s reliability. When he says something, we can trust it, because he means it. And what he means to do he always does, a reliable promise that was kept by his totally faithful, completely reliable Son. Because of Jesus, God’s promises are trustworthy and true – they are reliable — no matter how unreliable we show ourselves to be.
And when those Christmas gifts of love and faithfulness meet together, then righteousness and peace kiss.
Open up the gift of God’s righteousness. The unique feature of this gift is that it refers to everything being just the way it is supposed to be – totally right and correct. The miracle of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness is all the more astounding when we think about the simple truth that you and I are anything but righteous – anything but the way we are supposed to be – anything but totally right and completely correct in all we do. Yet, because the holy Jesus was totally right and completely correct in never failing his heavenly Father, his heavenly Father says that that righteousness is ours, too.
And that’s why peace and righteousness kiss, because the unique feature of God’s gift of peace is that it refers to that feeling of contentment that “all is well” which results in our hearts and in our lives when we know that we are righteous in God’s sight. When bad things happen, it is not because we are not righteous in God’s sight, no matter how hard the devil may try to get us to think otherwise. Christmas will never stop being Christmas. Anything bad that happens in life that the devil wants to use to take away our peace is meant instead to help us realize all the more where we have true peace – in our heart which is right with God – and when we will have total peace – in heaven when all will truly be right with the world, when all will truly be well.
That’s why we never have to be afraid of standing right smack in the middle of the doorway under God’s Advent Mistletoe. We just need to remember that the devil wants to keep hanging round that same doorway as a very uninvited guest. But that’s not a problem when we remember that the devil wants nothing to do with everything we have as the people of God through faith in the Christ: God’s unfailing love and faithfulness and righteousness and peace. Keep preparing for Christmas in a way that lets those four gifts from God meet and kiss, and you will always be able to stay connected to the Branch that Branches Band is singing about to us tonight. Amen.