Jeremiah 31:7-14 (NRSV)
Verse 7For thus says the Lord: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, "Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel." Verse 8See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. Verse 9With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Verse 10Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, "He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock." Verse 11For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. Verse 12They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. Verse 13Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. Verse 14I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the Lord.
These verses are part of a larger section of Jeremiah sometimes referred to as "The Book of Comfort." The prophet speaks God's promise of a return from exile when the scattered people of Israel will be gathered back together in their home of Zion. On that day, God promises what sounds like an awesome reunion party, with grain, wine, oil, dancing, rejoicing, and merriment — a real Judean jamboree! Their joy will be all the more intense after the pain and sorrow of the separation they have endured in exile.
My family of origin is more geographically scattered now than we have ever been, with my parents in Iowa, my brother in Seattle, and my sister and me in Minnesota. Though we all chose our current homes (as opposed to being forced into exile), the joy of reuniting to celebrate Christmas together is still powerful. Whatever our family realities this Christmas season, we can rejoice in the reunion God promises, which will close the distance between all things.
Reuniting God, you gather us together and make your home with us. Today, comfort us with the promise that no distance is great enough to separate us from you and your promises. Amen.