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!

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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!”