Advent reflection: “the Little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes”?

nativity

Advent reflection: “the Little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes”?

I am pretty sure you must have already heard this beautiful Christmas carol a thousand times this Christmas season, yet, here it is one more time for your ready reference and listening pleasure.

No doubt this lovely carol is one of the most popular Christmas songs around the world. It was first published in the late 19th century. Some attribute it to Martin Luther as his “cradle song” for his children, but there’s no evidence to believe it. This carol doesn’t appear anywhere in Martin Luther’s writings. It is, in fact, difficult to trace the precise composer of this song. However, my purpose is not to find the original author, but the point is to show something more important: the message it conveys. When it has been sung and heard a zillion times, it creates a picture of Jesus Christ in our minds that’s far from reality.

First of all, it is probably not true that “the little Lord Jesus [was] asleep on the hay.” While it’s true that it was difficult for Mary and Joseph to find a place to rest in Bethlehem because there were so many people in a small town due to the census decreed by the King Herod. Nevertheless, the couple must have found a place in the house of a relative rather than in an “inn” or motel as is often believed. There were hardly any hotels or inns in that little town of Bethlehem about 2000 years ago. The Greek word “kataluma” which has often been translated “inn” could also simply mean a “guest room” or “guest chamber,” which was part of most houses in the first century Bethlehem. It’s quite possible that Jesus and May stayed in a private house of a relative but due to lack of enough space, they were placed outside near the animals. The animal quarters were part of the private houses in the first century and it does not suggest a barn or animal shelter away from the living quarters like in our day.

Secondly, it’s not true that “the little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes” when he’s troubled by the lowing of the cattle around him. This might suggest Docetism or the belief that Jesus only seemed to have a human body and he was somehow not fully human because he was supernatural and divine. This is far from the truth in the New Testament. According to Apostle John (I John 4: 1-5) Jesus had a real body and soul. While on earth, Jesus was subject to everything that you and I feel and go through as human beings including temptations to sin. The only difference being that Jesus overcame those temptations rather than succumbing to them and thus remained sinless.

From his birth onward, Jesus did cry, was scared alone, and longed for his mother’s nourishment as well as being playful as an ordinary child. As he grew up, Jesus suffered in his ministry and felt rejection, disappointment with his relatives, and disciples. He was physically subject to all kinds of pain and suffering for the redemption of mankind. Unless Jesus Christ in human form knew our sorrows and completely related to our fallen humanity, he could not be the only savior who carried our suffering on the cross and completed redemption. Jesus Christ is the only savior because he’s the only one who knows what it means to be fully human and fully divine all in one body. He’s the only one who has suffered for our salvation. He’s the only one who has carried our sufferings and pains in his body. He’s the only one who has not only permitted the evil to come near him, faced it squarely, and defeated it through his death and resurrection by coming out alive from the grave. Therefore, this Christmas, let’s see Jesus Christ not just as a beautiful, lowly, helpless infant Jesus, but as the Savior of the world who has overcome suffering, pain, death, and evil in his life and death. I close here with the words of N. T. Wright, a great biblical scholar, who put it succinctly:

“Jesus doesn’t explain why there is suffering, illness, and death in the world. He brings healing and hope. He doesn’t allow the problem of evil to be the subject of a seminar. He allows evil to do its worst to him. He exhausts it, drains its power, and emerges with new life.” ~ N. T. Wright, from Simply Good News.

Advent reflection: Prayers and worship to Mary?

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Advent reflection: Prayers and worship to Mary?

Please read: Luke 1: 39-56

Mary, an ordinary teenage girl of Nazareth in Galilee, was betrothed to Joseph and God chose her to be conceived by the Holy Spirit to give birth to Jesus Christ, has been venerated and prayed to for centuries. However, today, I would like you to consider if Mary is worthy of our worship, veneration, and prayers. I think this is needed because there are millions of sincere followers of Christ who have fallen prey to the unbiblical practice devised and propagated by the Roman Catholic Church from its inception. Just because it’s believed and practiced by millions of people for thousands of years doesn’t make it right or scriptural.

There is very little that we know about Mary from the Bible. We don’t even know who her parents were even though the Roman Catholic tradition has come up even with the names of her parents and venerates them as saints. Whoever her parents were, this is certain that they were a godly couple. They raised Mary with a virtuous character and taught her to fear God and to walk humbly before him. They taught her to obey God and to submit her life for his perfect will. That’s why when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the baffling good news of her conception through the Holy Spirit, she calmly accepted and said yes to God. In doing so, Mary also said yes to the consequences of saying yes to God in one’s life. We all know what it meant for an engaged teenage girl to get pregnant before the consummation of her marriage in the Jewish society in the first century. Therefore, Mary deserves our honor and respect. She serves as the best model for teenagers, women, and mothers in today’s society. Mary certainly needs to be followed as an example in her virtuous and righteousness by every follower of Jesus Christ. However, despite all the above and contrary to what the Roman Catholic Church’s highly developed cult around the “Blessed Mary”, the “Virgin Mary”, or the “Mother of God”, there is no theological or scriptural basis for us to worship Mary in any way. Mary was not divine and neither was she a perpetual virgin. She continued an ordinary life as Joseph’s wife after the birth of Jesus Christ. Mary undeniably needs be honored above all saints and holy fathers, but she’s not worthy of our worship.

Worship and adoration is due only to the living, eternal, and triune God. Any kind of worship to any person or thing other than the triune God, revealed to us in the scriptures, is an unacceptable idolization. It’s impossible to worship God and anyone else at the same time. Jesus Christ said, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him’” (Luke 4: 8 NRSV). Further, Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him” (John 4: 23 NRSV).

Since Mary is neither divine nor worthy of our worship, she’s also not the one we should pray to. Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus teach us to petition her for anything or to direct our prayers to his mother. In fact, Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50 NRSV). Just like our worship, our prayers and petitions must be directed to God the Father alone in the name of Jesus Christ, his son (see, Matthew 6: 6-7; 6: 9-13; Luke 11:2-12; Philippians 4: 6-7).

We thank God for Mary, but we bow down before God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

Advent: Women in the genealogy of Jesus Christ

Mary

Advent: Women in the genealogy of Jesus Christ

Please read: Matthew 1: 1-17

In my earlier post, I pointed out the vital significance of the genealogy of Jesus and that it is so inviting and empowering for ordinary people like you and me. In continuing our reflection on the genealogy, today, I want to bring your attention to the women mentioned in the genealogy by Saint Matthew.

You see, Jewish society was a patriarchal society. Women did not enjoy an equal status with men. Therefore, with rare exceptions, only male line used to be traced in the ancestry as only the father’s line was considered vital for the lineage. According to the Talmud, “A mother’s family is not to be called a family.” This explains why only the names of men appear in most genealogies. Whenever the names of women appear, they’re mentioned in passing. However, Matthew, even though he wrote for a Jewish audience, breaks with the Jewish tradition as he mentions four women beside Mary in his genealogy in chapter one. The mention of these four women is conspicuous: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. I think Matthew selected these four women to offer his readers four case studies of the grace of God in action. All four of these women experienced the grace of God in a special way and show us examples of the justification and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s economy of salvation.

  1. The first woman, Tamar, seduced her father-in-law for an incestuous offspring (Genesis 38).
  2. Rahab, a Canaanite woman, was a prostitute from the city of Jericho. Due to her act of helping Joshua and the people of Israel take over the city of Jericho (cf. Joshua 2 and 6), she’s not only mentioned in Jesus’ ancestry but also included in “the hall of faith” in Hebrews 11: 31.
  3. Ruth, a virtuous Moabite woman, followed her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, to Israel after the death her Jewish husband. She got married to Boaz whose father Salmon himself had married a Canaanite woman (Ruth 1-4).
  4. The fourth woman, Bathsheba, was the wife of Uriah, a soldier in the army of King David and with whom David later committed adultery (2 Samuel 11).

The reference to these women in the genealogy of Jesus is to show us that God’s grace is abundant and available for sinners and saints alike. No matter how wicked, sinful, and ignoble our past may be, God’s mercy can make us part of his Kingdom. God’s mighty work of grace can make life beautiful for us as well as for others. God’s forgiveness and abundant grace can save women like Rahab and use them for the sake of his Kingdom and make them part of his Son’s genealogy. This should encourage many of us today who might be in a similar situation or had a dishonorable past life. Trust in God’s forgiveness as you turn to him today in nothing but repentance and faith. Matthew insists that if prostitutes and children of adultery, harlots, and incest can be forgiven, justified, sanctified, and used by God for his purposes; then, certainly God can use you today for his glory if you are available for him. Glory to God!

Advent: Genealogy of Jesus Christ is inviting and empowering

family treeAdvent: Genealogy of Jesus Christ is inviting and empowering 

Please read Matthew 1: 1-17 and Luke 3: 23-38

Two Gospel writers, Matthew and Luke give us the genealogies of Jesus Christ. They have different approaches; therefore, their genealogies differ from each others. The Gospel of Matthew makes a great deal of the genealogy of Jesus Christ before describing his birth in Bethlehem. Matthew, in fact, is quite comprehensive in relating the lineage of Jesus Christ. If you are honest, you may confess that more often than not you have skipped the reading when it comes to the genealogies. Come on, who is interested in reading about begettings and who wants to know who was the father of whom? These genealogies are, however, very significant to the birth narrative of Jesus. The gospel writer wants to show us that in the birth of Jesus Christ, God is acting in accordance with his past actions in the history. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is consistent with God’s dealings with historical people such as Abraham, Jacob, Solomon, and David. The incarnation of God in Bethlehem in the form of a baby is not an abrupt action of God out of his desperation to save the world. Rather, this narrative of Jesus has a beginning even before his birth and has a sequence, too.

The beginning and the sequence of the story of Jesus are both very interesting and insightful. To relate just one example, the beginning of the story has all sorts of people who make the ancestry of Jesus—both saints as well as sinners. God has used in the past both scheming as well as noble people, the righteous and the not-so-righteous people, the blue-blooded Jews as well as the not-so-pure a bloodline. This is what makes these genealogies “good news” for the gospel writer and their immediate audience as well as for us today! This story of Jesus, which has a beginning, also has a sequence in the same way. God the Father has continued to work through the same mélange even after the birth of Jesus. This is clearly visible in the gospel narratives about disciples with whom Jesus worked and who carried out the mission of Christ to the ends of the world in those days. They were the same kind of people as we notice in the beginning of the ancestry of Jesus. They were real people with successes and failures…with great love and passion for the Lord as well at times when they botched up everything. You might also notice that toward the end of Matthew’s genealogy included are some people conspicuous by their insignificance and ignobility. This, in fact, is very encouraging to me in this Advent season. I believe, we should deliberately include a reading of the genealogies in our Scriptures readings in the church as well as in our personal devotions during the Advent. It is because of these genealogies that we have hope and assurance of our place and role in the salvation story of Jesus Christ. You and I, who may be unknown to the world and feel ourselves insignificant, are the very essential part of the sequence of the story of God. You may feel today that you are too insignificant and too riffraff to contribute anything to the continuing sequence of the ever-expanding story of Jesus Christ. But the past beginning of this wonderful story proves otherwise. The past beginning provides us hope, confidence, destiny and an opportunity to get involved in what God is doing in and for the world. It is an empowering and enabling genealogy and it invites you to come and get involved with God than watch and wait on the sidelines. May you heed to this invitation of the Holy Spirit in your life, today.

Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

Advent: God at the intersection of two worlds

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Advent: God at the intersection of two worlds

Please read: Luke 1: 26-38

In my last post we saw that we live in a very fearful world and God’s reminder for us all is: fear not! As I reflected further on this, I find that this vital message comes at the intersection of two worlds: The world as it is and what it might be. A world which you and I encounter each day in real life, and a world that we all wish it to be. A world we live in and a world that God has promised in the Scriptures—the Kingdom of God. The intersection between these two realities is a scary place. It’s the place of poverty, politics, power, and prestige. It’s the place of hunger and destitution as well as the experience of a few who are filthy rich. It’s a place where humanity declares that all this talk of the so-called human evolution is but nonsense as our human depravity reveals.

Nevertheless, what is encouraging for me and I hope it will be for you is that into that very scary space, at the intersection of these two worlds, God has intervened. It’s at this very intersection of hopelessness and hope, fear and assurance, anxiety and confidence, that God has decided to be Immanuel—God dwelling with us in our very sinfulness and our brokenness. And when God decided to incarnate, he wasn’t looking for a perfect world to dwell in. He knows there is none. He wasn’t looking for a perfect couple to take care of baby Jesus. He chose Mary and Joseph who were both scared for obvious reasons. God decided to deliver the message of “fear not” to these trembling teenagers. God wasn’t looking for perfect wealthy aristocrats of Jerusalem in those days to announce the birth of his son, Jesus Christ. Instead, he chose the poor shepherds out in the field guarding their flock at night to declare the good news of the birth of Christ. Therefore, today, as you stand at the threshold of two worlds, remember that God is looking for you and me to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth to a frightened world. He perfectly knows that you’re not good at it. He still depends on you. Remember with whom did Jesus actually entrust the responsibility of evangelizing the world? A group of twelve timid disciples who had not only failed but denied him when he needed them the most. A band of the twelve who were scared and hiding in Jerusalem were empowered by the Lord through the Holy Spirit to share the gospel of light and joy. And so are we supposed to be doing today.

Therefore, let’s shrug off everything that holds us back and let the Holy Spirit use us, even us, for proclaiming the gospel at the intersection of our broken world and the Kingdom of God.

Come. Lord. Jesus.

The Advent message is clear: Fear not!

fear

The Advent message is clear: Fear not!

Please Read: Luke 1: 26-38

The frightening events around the world today make us fearful. I submit that I am afraid of so many things. If you’re a news junkie like me, you may also be troubled. What kind of world are we living in today? What kind of world are we going to leave behind for our children? What kind of humans are we turning into? Has humanity always been so depraved since the Fall? If the current events are a commentary on who we are as human beings, then, I think instead of trying to be human, we better try to be just more humane! In this fearful context, we are in the midst of celebrating Advent—one of the most sacred seasons in the Christian calendar. We know that it’s a season of preparation for the coming of Christ. Yet, how do we prepare ourselves in this world that is marred by terror and distress?

I believe the sovereign God knows our predicament because fear is one of the first consequences of sin (Genesis 3: 8-10). He knows that we are scared and anxious and has a word of encouragement for us today. This comes from the mouth of angels who visited different people before the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Almost invariably, in all appearances of the angels to different people, they predicated their message with these words: “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid.” (Luke 1: 13, 30; 2: 10; Matthew 1: 20)   I am sure situation of the people living in the period before Jesus’ birth was like ours. They didn’t have any prophets for a long time. The word of God was rare. They were ruled by a brutal Roman Empire. Their hopes of the promised Messiah and the Redeemer were fast diminishing. They were a people afraid for the future of Israel and the future of their children. Therefore, the Lord had especially instructed the angels to address the anxieties and fears of his people before they share the message of Christmas to them. The Lord wanted to assure them that He knew they were scared. He wanted to reassure them that God understands our dreads and he wants to allay our fears and fill us instead with hope and joy of the coming of his son Jesus Christ. Yes, God wants us to celebrate in the midst of our fears because the good news is also a good new for our fears. In fact, this good news is much needed in the midst of our terrors and hopelessness. It is only the good news of the coming Messiah that helps us make sense of our world. Only through the good news of the God incarnate is there some hope for a fallen and depraved humanity. Only because of Jesus Christ, we can hope for a better world at the return for Christ to this earth.

So, let’s not lose hope. Let’s not be too fearful. Let’s heed the words of the angels for each one of us: “Fear not.” God wouldn’t scare us into faith, but he also doesn’t want us to continue to live in our fears. He did come down and dwelt among us, the depraved human beings, in order to relieve us from our anxieties and fears. That’s why his name is Immanuel, i.e., God with us! No matter what your fears may be today, he knows each on of you. So, let’s focus on the words of the angels and on this divine fact: “God is with us”. Whatever you may be going through, keep calm and whisper this truth to yourself: God is with me right now. He will be with me no matter what happens around me.

Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

Advent gives hope that mourning will turn in to joy!

Women mourning in Peshawar.

Women mourning in Peshawar.

Advent gives hope that mourning will turn in to joy!

Please read Matthew 2: 1-18

Like many of you, my day started today with a heartbreaking news of Taliban terrorists mercilessly shooting innocent little children inside a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. These children were their own people; Pakistanis and Muslims, and they had nothing to do with the Pakistani government or its policies toward Taliban. All day, I could not get this out of my mind as the gory pictures of children’s bodies and the heartrending images of their mourning mothers, fathers, and siblings kept flashing through my mind. I have so many unanswered questions for God…. Why would God let this happen? How depraved sinful human beings are! Once again, I am left without answers.

But then, as I reflected upon it, I was reminded that we are in the Advent season and just a few days before Christmas. I recalled from the Scriptures that, in fact, there was even a greater mourning and weeping after the first Christmas—the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord. After learning the birth of baby Jesus in Bethlehem, whom the visiting Magi from the East called the “king of the Jews” (Matthew 2: 2), the then king of Jerusalem, Herod, was so scared that he massacred all male children who were two years old or younger (Matthew 2: 16). Imagine the pain and mourning that ensued in Bethlehem in those terrible days for the people of God. Evangelist Matthew cites Prophet Jeremiah’s painful prophecy in describing the scene soon after the first Christmas:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,

weeping and great mourning,

Rachel weeping for her children

and refusing to be comforted,

because they are no more” (Matthew 2: 18 NIV).

So, Christmas, which is supposed to bring joy, happiness, laughter, and a good time with our loved ones, could also be very painful and mournful for many. It has been so from the first Christmas on. However, the Advent season retells us that as we wait for the return of Christ and establishing of the Kingdom of God in its fullness, we will be comforted by none other than God himself. God is going to make his incarnation a full reality by dwelling with his people. He is also going to turn our mourning into joy and wipe every tear off from our weeping eyes. Therefore, as the people of hope, who expect the return of Jesus Christ, let’s hope in the midst of our hopeless world that God is going to fulfill His promise. Apostle John provides us that wonderful promise in Revelation 21: 3-4 (ESV):

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Amen! Come Lord Jesus!

Advent: Going Beyond the Ordinary

Jordan river

Advent: Going Beyond the Ordinary

Please read: Mark 1: 1-8

Advent is a preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus. In the period before Jesus Christ, obviously, people had high expectations from the coming Messiah as they perceived him in a certain way. However, when the Messiah actually took birth through Virgin Mary, most Jews didn’t accept him as their Lord and Savior. Jesus lived for about thirty years before he started his earthly ministry. During this period, beyond the worship and adoration that the baby Jesus received at his birth, the Gospels don’t state any Jew accepting him as their God until John the Baptist comes on the scene. John tries his best to lead people to Jesus Christ. He did that in two ways.

First, John proclaimed the baptism of repentance and the need for the confession of sins for forgiveness (Mark 1: 1-8). This was a crucial step toward coming to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The nation of Israel had sinned before the Lord. They had forgotten about their maker and savior. The Jewish nation had gone astray from their God. As Apostle Paul bluntly put it:

“There is no one who is righteous, not even one;

there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God.

All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;

there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.

Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.

The venom of vipers is under their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.

Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have not known.

There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3: 10-18).

If Jesus Christ was to minister among his people, they needed to prepare their hearts by confession of sins and by baptism for the forgiveness of sins. This was an absolute necessity for anyone who wanted to follow Christ. The Gospels stress that when Jesus began his ministry he demanded repentance (Matthew 4: 17; 12: 41; Luke 5: 32). This was synonymous to Jesus’ command, “You must be born again” (John 3: 7 ESV). Moreover, Jesus proclaimed in no uncertain terms: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13: 5 ESV).

Secondly, John the Baptist tried his best to reinterpret Jesus for the Jews. He appealed to them to go beyond how they perceived Jesus—an ordinary young man, the son of a poor carpenter, who lived in a small village of Nazareth from where no Jew ever expected anything good. From this perception, John wanted to lead them to see Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah—God himself incarnated in flesh!

Friends, this Advent season, whatever your perception of and expectation from Jesus Christ may be, would you let the Holy Spirit to lead you to confess your sins? Would you also let the Holy Spirit to reveal afresh the divinity of Jesus Christ in your heart so you could try wrapping your mind around the full meaning of God’s manifestation in the flesh?

Come Lord Jesus!

Advent: Joseph’s Yes to God

Advent: Joseph’s Yes to God

Please read: Matthew 1.

There are several characters in the Christmas story that I would like to personally meet: Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, the innkeeper, the magi, King Herod, etc. Out of all these important persons, who are often talked about, Joseph is my favorite; but he remains mute in the story. Even in the Christian history, art and paintings, and in sermons, we do not often see or hear about Joseph—the foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even though we know very little about Joseph, but I believe he played the key role in the Christmas story.

Joseph, like Mary, was from a small village of Nazareth in Galilee. He was from a poor family and a carpenter by trade. The way Gospels portray him, Joseph was a godly man and who was willing to listen to God and obey him. Matthew 1:19 says Joseph was a “just” or “righteous” man. He was also a man of integrity and very considerate, as he didn’t want to disgrace Mary publicly.

Like Mary, Joseph, too, was a teenager and as such full of dreams and hopes for a married life… to start a new home with his beautiful fiancé. They were engaged for a few months and according to the Jewish custom, they could not meet often in private. There was hardly any question of premarital sex in the society they were part of. Imagine one day Joseph learning that his fiancé was pregnant and he had nothing to do with it! Imagine his place in the society…among his teenage friends, who often teased him about his forthcoming wedding. He lived in small village where everyone knew each other. There was no way to hide the pregnancy or to get rid of the baby. He could not face his friends in the village. He could not face his parents. Joseph was completely disappointed, in shock, and in disbelief. Therefore, the only option  that Joseph had was to quietly divorce Mary and walk away from this shameful situation. Matthew (1:19) clearly point out that Joseph was determined to exercise this option of divorce without disgracing Mary, who would have been stoned to death for bringing shame to the family by what everyone would think was a case of adultery.

However, God interrupted Joseph’s plans just as he did with Mary’s wedding plans. God asked him not to divorce her instead accept her as his wife. What is most amazing in this story is that Joseph said yes! He said yes to God! He said yes to the impossible! Joseph said yes to the complications and consequences of saying yes to God! Joseph accepted the interruptions in his life, in his plans and schedules, and allowed God to work out something beautiful from his life—even the birth of the savior of the world!

Imagine yourself in Joseph’s place and circumstances. Would you say yes to God? If you did say yes to him today, would you be also willing to live with the consequences of saying yes to God in your life? Would you be willing to let God interrupt your plans, hopes, dreams, and expectations from your life for a greater, divine purpose?

“May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven!”

Advent: Waiting for the Light to shine through

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Advent: Waiting for the Light to shine through

Please read: Psalm 130

Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting patiently. The anticipation and waiting in the original Advent was an exercise in the dark times in the history of Israel. Not only due to their political bondage to the Romans, but also due to spiritual darkness caused by the lack of proper guidance. For about four centuries preceding the birth of Jesus Christ, there were no prophets in Israel. The Word of God was rare among the people of God. People groped in the darkness desperately seeking the night to be over so that the light could shine through.

Today, we live in a world not very different from the first century Israelites. Of course, human beings have taken giant steps in terms of technology. We are certainly in a far better situation and live far better lives than the first century Middle Eastern people. However, nothing has changed at the level of our sinful humanity. I’m sure you are aware of the unfortunate events resulting in the death of unarmed Black men by the police in Ferguson and in New York, USA. You may have followed stories about the Ebola crisis in some parts of western Africa. What you may not have heard is that it is a pretty dark time for Christians in India under the new Hindu nationalistic party’s regime. Several cases of forced conversion and re-conversion to Hinduism are being reported from all across India. Recently, the Hindu fundamentalist parties and their local outfits announced the conversion of more than 15000 Christians and Muslims to Hinduism, in Aligarh, North India, on Christmas Day. This will be followed in other parts of India. What is even worse, these so-called “Ghar Vapasi” or re-conversion to Hindu fold events are not only led and attended by democratically elected Members of the Parliament of a nation whose Constitution declares it as a secular nation! Not only are these events widely publicized, but they are unabashedly asking for donations from people setting a price for each conversion! In such a world, I’m reminded of Psalm 130, where the psalmist, giving us a sense of the prevailing darkness, cries:

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.

Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

to the voice of my supplications!” (Psalm 130: 1-2).

Desperately waiting for the Messiah to come, the psalmist actually closes the song with an exhortation that’s relevant for us today:

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than those who watch for the morning,

more than those who watch for the morning” (Psalm 130: 5-6).

Yes, believers need to watch for the coming Messiah as those who watch for the morning to break through the clouds of darkness and see the bright and morning Star, even Jesus Christ our Lord!

May you find encouragement in your dark hour. May you find Jesus Christ, the hope of glory!