Our first lesson of scripture is from the book of Malachi.
The name Malachi means “my messenger”; and God sent the prophet to bring a message to the people. The temple had just been rebuilt, and the people were trying to get back into a routine of pure and pleasing worship of God. But it wasn’t easy. Like today, there wasn’t much social and political stability. So much had been lost during the years away. There was quite a lot to do, and not much time left for things like prayer, worship and sacrifice. Priests had been offering blemished animals for sacrifice and the people had not been providing tithes enough for maintaining the building or the priests’ salaries.
The people in the times of Malachi and today have been asking questions about the nature of God. How could God be both omnipotent and benevolent when evil continues to thrive in the world? Where is the God of justice when the righteous people are treated unfairly and the wicked go unpunished? So, the prophet Malachi points to the future as the place when God’s justice will prevail, encouraging us to be steadfast in our faith until the day of Christ’s second coming so that we can stand when he appears.
In the gospel of St Luke, we find Zechariah’s song. God has raised up a horn of salvation for us. A horn (as in the horn of an animal) indicates strength. Jesus, the Messiah from the house of David has the power to save. He is the only one who liberates us from all oppression and bondage as well as deliverance from sin. Over the years we have watched disasters unfold on TV or read in news articles – such as planes going down, earthquakes, tsunamis, rape of women and children, terrorist attacks, xenophobic attacks, lack of access to food water and sanitation for humanity and so on. Blame it on the government, or even better blame it on the omnipresent and benevolent God!
And while it’s always tempting to look outside ourselves to look for a reason or for someone to blame when terrible things happen, we need to hear and heed the call to look inward just as much as we look outward especially during the Advent season. The Advent season is so much about looking inward and examining our own hearts as we prepare for Christ’s second coming. But it’s not easy to do an introspection. It’s so much easier to look for someone else to blame. It’s difficult to focus on straightening our own lives, working to change all the old bad habits into better ones and trying to become the kind, loving and generous hearted people that God calls us to be
John’s baptism represented a change of heart, which includes sorrow for sin and determination to lead a holy life. Christ would deliver the repentant person from sin’s penalty by dying on the cross. A voice of one calling in the desert “Prepare the way for the Lord”. Before a king made a journey to a distant country, the roads he would travel were improved. Similarly, preparation for the second coming of the Messiah is made in a moral and spiritual way by John’s ministry which focuses on repentance, forgiveness of sin and the need of a Saviour.
As I was preparing for this sermon, I came across the word ‘’joy’’ several times. It reminded me of the verse in the book of Nehemiah 8:10 which says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength’’. His joy is us. ‘’For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross’’ Hebrews 12:2. The only reason Jesus endured the cross is because of the joy of reconciliation with you and me. The joy of having once again an unbroken relationship with us. The joy of an unbroken fellowship with us. He has found his pearl of great price and our value in his eyes made him able to endure anything, even the cross to have us close to him.
His joy is the fruit of loving righteousness and hating wickedness. “You have loved righteousness and hated inequity, therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with oil of gladness above your fellows” Hebrews 1:9. His joy came from his desire to please the Father and from abiding in Him. His joy was the fruit of obedience and delight in God’s thoughts and ways of unbroken communion and intimacy with him through abiding in him.
His joy came from watching the Father at work; and how wise and amazing He was at what He did. ‘’As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
Indeed, the joy of the Lord is our strength. It is because of this joy that he is coming back for us……………He wants to spend eternity with us. How amazing, loving and awesome is our God! So, we need to prepare ourselves for his second coming and be able to say ‘’It is well with my soul” when he appears again.
Despite all the horrific things that are happening, God calls us to bring hope to His people. The season is still Advent, Christ is still coming. We are still waiting, and John is still calling us to prepare ourselves for the good news that Christ the Saviour to save the crooked and broken world.
My prayer is that we may cling to hope, love, joy and peace; and fight against the tides of human nature so that in the day of Christ we may stand pure, refined and blameless before him.