Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Advent, Birth of John the Baptist, Patience
Volume 6 No. 387 December 2, 2016
Significance of the Advent Season

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

Orthodox Advent - Week 4 - Birth of John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Messiah
Setting the Stage for the Arrival of the Son of God

This is the fourth week of the Orthodox Advent Season. The word "advent" comes from the Latin "adventus" meaning "arrival" or "coming," particularly of something having great importance - something we anxiously look forward to. For Christians, advent is a period of spiritual preparation. We make ourselves ready for the coming, or birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. During our Great Lent, we prepare ourselves to participate in the passion and resurrection of Jesus, Jesus redeeming us with his precious blood and defeating Satan and Death. Similarly, celebrating Advent involves a season of prayer, fasting and repentance, followed by anticipation, hope and joy. We look forward to the incarnation -first step in the our redemption. The Yeldho lent began on December 1, for those observing 25 day lent and will begin on Dec 15 for Syriac Christians. This is the season for introspection. Jesus began his public ministry exhorting everyone to 'Repent, the Kingdom of God is at Hand." The same message was given by John the Baptist, the forerunner. So, while we are reflecting the incarnation of God, we should prepare for it. Prayer and fast are the way to prepare.

Alpha and Omega

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
- Revelation 1:8

In some church traditions, the Alpha and Omega are symbols of Advent.

If we look at the redemption plan of God to save mankind, it involved several steps:

1. Incarnation. This happened on Christmas Day.
2. Public Ministry of Jesus - Jesus teaching us about the Kingdom of God and about his passion and resurrection
3. Passion of Jesus Christ. Jesus paying for our sins with his life and precious blood.
4. Resurrection of Jesus on the third day as prophesied. Jesus defeated Satan and Death with his resurrection.
5. Establishing the church, ascension of Jesus to Heaven and arrival of Holy Spirit on Pentecost
6. Second Coming of Jesus

All these steps have been accomplished except for #6 - the second coming of Jesus. That is what we look forward to. We reflect on what has been done for us by God, at the same looking forward to the second coming of God. Many people lose sight of the fact that advent is also the season to reflect about the second coming of Christ. During the advent season, let us remember that Jesus has already come and paid the price for our redemption with his precious blood. He is present among us today through the Holy Spirit. So, advent is the time for preparation and anticipation of the final coming of Jesus, as promised, at the end of time.

The first coming of Jesus fulfilled the covenant God made with Abraham. The second coming fulfills the complete redemption plan of God. Simplistically we can think about the first step as "alpha" and the last step - the second coming of Jesus as the "omega". So, it is quite appropriate that advent is represented by Alpha and Omega. It gives the complete picture of our redemption.

[ Alpha - The Word Became Flesh ]

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
- John 1:1-2, 14 RSVCE

What God Did For Us

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
- John 3:16-17

What we Need to Do

15 ... whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."
-John 3:15, 18-21

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
Revelation 3:19-20 (NKJV)

And what happens on the second coming?

The Mother Church, Bride of Christ, is waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom as predicted in Revelation 21

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting, 'Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean was given her to wear.'
-Rev 21:2-3; 19:7-8

We wait for Christ to come back to claim His bride. We hear these words from Him, "Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one and come!" (Song of Songs 2:10). The bride's longing for her beloved cannot be quenched until He comes again in all His radiant beauty and majesty. So, the church longs, looks, and waits. That is what we do in Advent.

Who will be called to the marriage feast when Jesus returns? The Book of Revelation comes to our aid.

21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Revelation 3:21 (NKJV)

12 "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last."
Revelation 22:12-13 (NKJV)

That is the Plan for our Redemption in a nutshell. During the advent we reflect and meditate on all these things. Examining ourselves and asking repentance for our sins are the main things we can do. We do that as part of the Yeldo Lent.

We (Orthodox Christians) started the advent season with the Angel of God appearing to Zechariah and telling him about the arrival of John, the forerunner to the promised Messiah. After a long period of wait, now signs of the appearance of Messiah is in motion.

That was followed by the Annunciation to St. Mary and then the Visitation of Elizabeth by St. Mary. Now we know that Messiah is going to come.

When St. Mary was told about the coming of Jesus, Elizabeth was already 6 month pregnant. Mary immediately visited her and stayed there for 3 months according to the scripture. We can guess, but nowhere in the bible it says so, that St. Mary stayed with Elizabeth till her delivery and left Elizabeth after the birth of John the Baptist. Luke's Gospel talks about the circumcision of John on the 8th day after delivery. When the child was named John, as instructed by the angel earlier, Zachariah was able to talk. Filled with Holy Spirit, Zechariah delivers a message about John in a poem known as Benedictus. Please refer to MWJ archives mentioned in this edition to learn more about Benedictus.

In contrast, the western churches celebrate Advent on 4 Sundays prior to Christmas. This year, the advent began on Sunday, Nov 27. So, this Sunday, December 4, is the second Sunday of Advent.

Prayer: (Promeon - Syriac Orthodox Church - Nativity Service)

Glory to the Eternal Child Who, for our salvation, was incarnate of the Virgin full of grace; Whose coming was foretold by the prophets; Whose mysterious conception was announced by the angel Gabriel; Whose good tidings were proclaimed by the Apostles; for Whose worship the Magi came in haste; by Whose glory the shepherds were illumined; and by Whose manifestation the world has gained life; to Him be glory, honor and majesty at this time of the Nativity celebration, and at all festivals, times, hours, seasons and through all the days of our life.



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