Malankara World Journal Theme: Advent III
Volume 3 No. 182 December 12, 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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To learn more about St. Joseph, please see Malankara World Journal Special on St. Joseph: Malankara World Journal Issue 113 - St. Joseph http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_113.htm
We are coming closer to the Christmas Day. For Syriac Christians the Yeldho Lent begins on Sunday, December 15.
In Syriac Lectionary, on Sunday, December 15, we recall the "Revelation to Joseph." Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Joseph, in the tradition of the Jews, was building a home for them to live together as husband and wife. He didn't know anything about the Annunciation to Mary, because Mary left immediately after the visit of the angel to the Hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She stayed there for 3 months prior to her return. By now Mary was "visibly pregnant."
Imagine the surprise of Joseph when he saw his pregnant fiancée? He could have had Mary stoned to death as per the Jewish custom. But he loved her and didn't want that to happen. He decided that he will take care of "this problem" somehow.
This is the backdrop of the visit of the angel to Joseph and his "revelation".
Please read the articles provided in this issue as well as those in the
Malankara World Journal Special on St. Joseph (Issue 113) you can read it here:
In Western Calendar, Sunday, December 15 is the Advent III Sunday. As you recall, during the first two Sundays of advent, we looked forward to the second coming of Jesus. Now on the third Sunday, we start looking back to the incarnation - the promise fulfilled. Traditionally, the third Sunday is marked by a pink candle. Read the articles to grasp the significance of these practices.
We are continuing our study of Old Testament Joseph, whose life mirrors the life of Jesus. Last week when we left off, Joseph was in prison when he refused to submit to Pontiper's wife. In practical terms, he had nothing to hope for other than dying in prison. Joseph trusted God. He knew God can do whatever he wants to do. This requires a belief in a "Big God" - a mighty, sovereign god who is bigger than anyone else, who can create the universe in a moment by His word. 'How big is your God' is the theme of this week's article. If we believe in a "Big God", we do not have to worry; we can trust and depend on him. Read the article and think about your faith and your concept of God. How big is your God?
The Christmas shopping season is well underway. Oftentimes we can let our hearts be crowded with things other than Jesus during the Christmas season. I read a sermon titled "Don't Miss Christmas" by Dr. Jerry Vines that encouraged us to keep the real spirit of Christmas. He stated and I paraphrase:
Jesus is the reason for Christmas. Christmas is all about Jesus and the eternal gift sent by God through the incarnation of His son. Please keep this mind as we go through the noise, busyness and glitter of the Christmas Season.
We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Dr. Jacob Mathew
This Sunday in Church
Revelation to St. Joseph
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
by Dr. Jerry Vines
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25
Does it seem possible to you that in just a little over a week we will have Christmas. Christmas has a way of slipping up on you. The air will be filled with the sights and the sounds and the songs and the stories of Christmas in just a little while. I want to try to get your mind (in this message) pointing in the direction of the birth of the Lord Jesus so that your celebration and enjoyment of the Christmas season will mean more to you this year than it has ever meant before.
We are going to gather these messages around the manger scene and look at some of the characters which emerge from the Bible around the birth of our Lord. One of the characters we are going to consider in this message is Joseph, who was the husband of Mary.
Joseph gets left out many times in our study of Christmas. It's as if he gets lost in the activity and in the shuffle of it. It's kind of like men at a wedding. Have you ever noticed how unnecessary men are at a wedding? The ladies have on their beautiful dresses and the flowers. The newspaper will tell you all about how the ladies are dressed. It never tells you how the man was dressed. It never makes a statement about what kind of flowers he had braided in his hair. Men could be barefooted at a wedding and it really wouldn't make any difference. So, Joseph is kind of like that-- just kind of falls through the cracks in our story. But Joseph is really a vital part of the Christmas message and the message of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Several years ago, as I was studying this book of Matthew, I was surprised to find that there is no recorded word of Joseph in all of the Bible. I'm sure that Joseph said something. I'm sure he did speak. But the Holy Spirit has chosen not to give us a single word that Joseph ever spoke. Words are not nearly as important as we think they are, are they? The famous Lincoln's Gettysburg Address had only 266 words. A government order concerning the purchase of cabbage had 26,911 words in it. So much for the government. Words are not all that important. When the only eye-witness account ever given of how the universe came into existence is recorded, there are only ten words given to us. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
Someone has said, "What you are, speaks so loudly I can't hear what you say."
Joseph seemed to have been one of those men of few words. He seems to have been one of those strong, silent kind of man. He was just the kind of man Mary would need for a husband. He was just the kind of man that the Lord Jesus would use to help Him as He came up through those growing years.
So, here is a beautiful story in the Bible-the story of this man Joseph. Joseph was a humble man; a poor man. He was a carpenter. Joseph represents all of those of you who make your living by your hands--a laborer.
by Pope Benedict XVI
"I ... encourage you to look to Saint Joseph. When Mary received the visit of the angel at the Annunciation, she was already betrothed to Joseph. In addressing Mary personally, the Lord already closely associates Joseph to the mystery of the Incarnation. Joseph agreed to be part of the great events which God was beginning to bring about in the womb of his spouse. He took Mary into his home. He welcomed the mystery that was in Mary and the mystery that was Mary herself. He loved her with great respect, which is the mark of all authentic love. Joseph teaches us that it is possible to love without possessing. In contemplating Joseph, all men and women can, by God's grace, come to experience healing from their emotional wounds, if only they embrace the plan that God has begun to bring about in those close to him, just as Joseph entered into the work of redemption through Mary and as a result of what God had already done in her...."
"Joseph was caught up at every moment by the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only physically, but in his heart as well, Joseph reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a "just man" (Mt 1:19) because his existence is "adjusted" to the word of God...."
"The life of Saint Joseph, lived in obedience to God's word, is an eloquent sign for all the disciples of Jesus who seek the unity of the Church. His example helps us to understand that it is only by complete submission to the will of God that we become effective workers in the service of his plan to gather together all mankind into one family, one assembly, one "ecclesia". Dear friends from other Christian confessions, this quest for unity among the disciples of Christ represents a great challenge for us. It leads us first of all to be converted to the Person of Christ, to let ourselves be drawn more and more to him. In him, we are called to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father. During this year dedicated to the Apostle Paul, the great herald of Jesus Christ and the Apostle of the Nations, let us all turn towards him so as to hear and learn "the faith and truth" which are the deepest reasons for the unity of Christ's disciples."
Source: From Benedict XVI’s remarks at Vespers in the Basilica of
by Joel Osteen
Have you ever felt overwhelmed or even afraid of what God has called you to do? Maybe you were pursuing a dream or goal and things didn't turn out the way you planned. Joseph had planned to take Mary as his wife, but when he found out she was pregnant, he didn't know what to think. He was afraid that he might be making a mistake because things didn't turn out the way he planned. But, God sent a messenger in a dream to reassure Joseph that he was on the right path.
Today let me reassure you that God knows right where you are, and He knows how to get you to where you need to be. Even when things don't go the way you planned, His hand is on you. Do not be afraid. Trust that God is working behind the scenes on your behalf, and that He will lead you into the life of blessing that He has prepared for you.
Let us pray:
Father in heaven, I choose to trust in You. Even when things don't go the way I planned, I know You are at work in my life. Thank You for Your perfect love which casts out all fear. I love You and surrender every area of my life to You in Jesus' name.
Source: Today's Word with Joel Osteen
To learn more about St. Joseph, please see Malankara World Journal Special on St. Joseph: Malankara World Journal Issue 113 - St. Joseph http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_113.htm
by Dr. Ray Pritchard
Scripture: Genesis 41
The email arrived from a student who had taken a course from me at Word of Life Bible Institute. She wrote a very brief note, thanking me for the class and then asking me this question: "What's your favorite attribute of God?"
That question stumped me for several reasons. On one hand, we know that since God is ultimate perfection, he has no "bad" attributes. He is perfect love, perfect justice, perfect wisdom, perfect holiness, and so on. How do you choose among the attributes of God? And the second thought comes, should we even be thinking of God's attributes in those terms?
It's not like asking . . .
What's your favorite color? (Green)
Now those are just personal preferences that could change over time. My food preferences depend on where I am, the time of day, and what I'm hungry for. This morning I ate a blueberry bagel with cream cheese and washed it down with a Diet Pepsi. That was better than fried okra to me. I like the color green but that really goes back to reading "The Wizard of Oz" in grade school. I don't really know if green is my absolute favorite color or not. I said The Dirty Dozen because it just flashed into my mind. I am, however, solid on the Ole Miss Rebels. That's a family thing. If you said, "Name your favorite NFL team" thirty-five years ago, I would have said the Dallas Cowboys, but now I would probably say the Chicago Bears or maybe give no answer at all. That's what I mean when I say that many of my favorite things tend to change over time.
I think you could easily apply that to the attributes of God. There are moments when you cling to God's mercy as a drowning man clings to a life preserver. At other times you are overwhelmed by a sense of God's majesty. Still other times God's holiness exposes your sin and leads you to repentance. Often you will swim in the ocean of God's love. When evildoers get away with murder, you will find solace in the truth that God is just.
All of this is a long response to a simple question, "What's your favorite attribute of God?" After going through all of that in my mind, I do at last have an answer for the question. If you push me to the end of my faith and ask me what keeps me strong when all else around me seems to fall apart, I will answer that my faith rests upon the rock-solid truth of the sovereignty of God.
The Undisputed Boss
That means that God is in charge of all things at all times and in every situation. To call God sovereign means that he is the undisputed Boss of the Universe. He knows what he is doing, and he is doing it.
If God is not sovereign, then he is not God.
In this series on the life of Joseph we are considering nine crucial questions. So far we have covered three of them:
Do you know why you were born?
Now we come to the fourth question:
How big is your God?
No Bible doctrine is more obvious than the sovereignty of God. You can find it on every page. Here are a few examples:
Two Long Years
When we come to Genesis 41, Joseph has been in jail for two years.
It appears that he has hit a dead end. He has been betrayed, sold as a slave (twice), falsely accused of rape, and thrown in prison where he was forgotten by a fellow inmate whom Joseph helped in a big way. When Joseph said, "Remember me when you get out," I'm sure the man solemnly promised he wouldn't forget him.
But he did.
If we ask what Joseph was doing during those two years, we could talk about how he prayed and served and tried to point others to God. No doubt that was true. But in one sense it doesn't matter what Joseph did because every day in prison takes on a dull, monotonous sameness.
So Joseph sits and waits and wonders if he will ever get out of jail. I'm sure he asked himself, "Why has all this happened to me?" It seems like his whole life is two steps forward and three steps back. Nothing made any sense.
We all come to moments like that sooner or later.
Looking Through the Keyhole
So much of what goes on around us seems to make little sense. I'm thinking of the mysteries of life, how one person gets cancer and dies while another person is spared cancer and yet another person gets the same cancer, goes through chemotherapy and survives. Why does one child live and another die? Why is one family hit with a seemingly endless series of trials? Why did this husband decide to walk away from his marriage? Why did the car wreck leave this man crippled but the man next to him walks away unscathed? The list goes on and on and on.
Why was this person promoted and that one passed over?
Most of the time we can't see any clear answers to those questions. I ran across something John Piper wrote that really helped me. He says that every day God is doing perhaps 10,000 different things in your life, but you will only be dimly aware of perhaps three of those things. The numbers are arbitrary but the point is absolutely right.
We barely get a glimmer of all that God is doing in us and through us and to us and for us. We're like little kids peering through a keyhole. At best we see a sliver of what lies on the other side of the door. We often mistake that "sliver" for the whole spectrum of reality.
God knows what he's doing even when we don't.
Four Key Words
Joseph's experience is a case in point. He's about to discover that his two years in prison were not wasted. They prepared him for a future only God could see.
Although Genesis 41 is a long chapter (57 verses), we can summarize in four key words;
Pharaoh had two dreams (vv. 1-13).
The whole chapter is right there.
If we stand back and take a birds-eye view of Genesis 41, we see that it's ultimately about the unlikely path that led Joseph from prison to the palace. If any chapter in Genesis reveals the sovereignty of God, it's this one.
Let's take a look at seven signs of the sovereignty of God in Genesis 41.
1. God Gave Pharaoh Two Dreams
One night Pharaoh had two bizarre dreams. In his first dream seven fat cows coming up out of the Nile River were eaten by seven skinny cows that came out of the same river. Pharaoh awoke for a few moments, considered his dream, and then went back to sleep. In the second dream he saw a stalk with seven plump heads of grain on it on it. Suddenly seven shriveled heads appeared that devoured the seven plump heads of grain.
Verse 8 tells us what happened next:
Though Pharaoh was the mightiest man on earth, he was helpless to understand his own dream. Money and power and worldly success may gain many things, but it avails nothing in the realm of the spirit.
The magicians couldn't figure it out either. A thousand years of pagan religion could not produce what the king wanted. Thus a crisis exposes the futility of the world in the things that matter most. It reveals the true condition of the human heart apart from God. Without divine revelation, human wisdom and power can never discover the way of salvation. That must "come down" from God above.
2. God Reminded the Cupbearer about Joseph
At that moment the cupbearer remembered Joseph from his time in prison two years earlier:
At just the right moment God joggled his memory so that he remembered how Joseph had correctly interpreted his dream and the baker's dream.
This "coincidence" is actually a remarkable link in the chain of God's providence. If he had remembered Joseph earlier, Joseph might have been set free earlier. Perhaps he wouldn't have been anywhere near the palace when the king had his dreams. As far as Joseph was concerned, he was just being faithful to God when he interpreted those dreams two years earlier.
Now his faithfulness will be rewarded in an amazing way.
3. God Gave Joseph the Interpretation of the Dreams
After changing his clothes (v. 14), Joseph is brought before Pharaoh.
What a sight!
Twenty-four hours earlier no one could have predicted this, least of all Joseph.
Once again Joseph refuses to take any credit.
The interpretation is a good news-bad news situation. First there will be seven years of plenty in the land. The rains will come, crops will be plentiful, and everyone will have more than enough to eat. But the seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine. And the seven bad years will be worse than the seven good years are good.
Then Joseph adds this:
In other words, "O King, you'd better take this seriously because God does."
4. God Gave Joseph a Wise Plan
Having explained the dream and its meaning, Joseph goes on to suggest that Pharaoh find a "discerning and wise man" (v. 33) to administer the economic affairs of the nation during the seven good years so that one-fifth of the grain is stored in granaries in all the cities of Egypt. The four-fifths that is left will still be more than enough to feed the whole nation. That way there will be grain for the people when the seven years of famine hit.
This was a simple and clear plan, but its success depended on finding a man of exactly the right character. Pharaoh needed a man who was gifted in administration, loyal to him, and honest in all his dealings. Obviously with that much grain being stored, there would be many opportunities for fleecing the people and lining one's own pocket. Thus Pharaoh must choose carefully or this whole plan will fail.
5. God Moved Pharaoh to Choose Joseph
Not surprisingly, Pharaoh recognized that Joseph was the man he needed:
Though he was a pagan ruler, Pharaoh recognized the work of God's Spirit when he saw it. He made Joseph the second-in-command, which really made him the second most powerful man in the world. Then he sealed the deal in regal fashion:
He gave Joseph his signet ring (like having the King's credit card).
'"Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt" (v. 43).
They even gave him an Egyptian wife named Asenath who was the daughter of a pagan priest. I tend to think that the wife came with the job. Pharaoh wanted Joseph to become a family man.
All of this happened when he was only 30 years old. Thirteen years earlier he was tending the flocks with his brothers. Now he is the Prime Minister of Egypt.
How much of this did Joseph see in advance? Not a bit.
6. God Caused the Years of Plenty and Famine to Come
It all happened as Joseph had predicted. First came the seven years of plenty when there was more than enough food. Even with one-fifth of the grain put into storage, everyone in Egypt had plenty to eat. But eventually the seven years of famine came. As crops dried up and hunger spread, this is what happened:
It all happened exactly as Joseph had said it would.
7. God Gave Joseph Two Sons
Finally there is a wonderful note of hope in this story:
Note that Manasseh and Ephraim are Hebrew names. Even though he was living in Egypt and even though he married an Egyptian woman who was the daughter of a pagan priest, Joseph gave his two sons names that would remind them forever of their true heritage. It tells us that though he appeared to be Egyptian on the outside, on the inside he still worshiped the God of his fathers.
He named his firstborn son Manasseh, which sounds like the Hebrew word "forget." He even spelled out the meaning so no one could mistake it. "God has made me forget all my hardship and my father's house." He didn't mean he had forgotten his family. As we will see later in the story, they remained always close to his heart. But it means that God had enabled him to forget the pain of the rejection and betrayal by his brothers.
Recently I ran across this quote: "We can move on from things we will never get over." That strikes me as profoundly wise. Sometimes people glibly say, "Just get over it." How do you "get over" hatred, envy, conspiracy, attempted murder, betrayal, and being sold into slavery? You don't ever really "get over" things like that. They mark you for life. Some things that happen to us leave scars on the soul that time does not erase. Joseph would never forget what his brothers had done, but he would forgive them.
It is a great advance spiritually to say, "God has made me forget the pain of my past."
The second child he called Ephraim, which means made fruitful. The Hebrew is a form that means something like "super-fruitful." The "land of my affliction" refers to all that he suffered in Egypt - the false accusation, the unjust imprisonment, and the years of total abandonment. Yet in that place where he had suffered so much, he now experiences untold blessing.
The order of these names is important.
I have often mentioned the First Law of Spiritual Progress, which is really a series of three statements:
There was no going back for Joseph, no way to undo what his brothers had done to him, no way to undo the lies of Potiphar's wife. Likewise, there is no going back for any of us. We can't stay where we are because life is a river that flows ever onward. The only thing left is to go forward with God's help and by God's grace.
We all go through hard moments. Long ago the wise man said, "Into each life some rain must fall." For some reason, while I typed those words I could picture the girl in a yellow dress holding an umbrella on a carton of Morton Salt. Their slogan is, "When it rains, it pours." We all get hit with a thunderstorm eventually.
A Voice from the Past
I was reminded of that recently when Marlene said to me, "You'll never guess who sent you an email." She mentioned the name of someone I haven't seen in more than a quarter-century. It brought to mind an extremely painful time for me and my family. Through a long series of strange events and foolish mistakes (some of them made by me), a shared dream crumbled into the dust.
Fingers were pointed.
That was a long time ago both in real time and in "life time." This particular person wrote out of the blue (but not by chance) to say, "I am not sure you remember me and if you do it is probably a bad memory." I had hardly thought about those bad times in many years. So much has happened since then that it never comes to mind. I was glad to write back these words that same day:
Every word I wrote was true. I can say with Joseph, "Manasseh." God has made me forget the pain of the past and freed me from bitterness. And I look at my family and say, "Ephraim." I have seen the blessing of God in ways I couldn't have imagined all those years ago.
I can't change the past and I don't want to.
We need a big God.
At the beginning of Genesis 41, Joseph languishes in prison.
So we come back to the central question of this message:
How big is your God?
Is he big enough for your problems?
The scene is now set.
Back in Canaan, the brothers think Joseph is long dead.
Copyright © 2013 Keep Believing Ministries, All rights reserved.
by Justin Holcomb
The third Sunday in Advent (Advent III) shifts from a tone of expectation of Christ's coming to one of rejoicing at the arrival of God's kingdom with the coming of Jesus.
The Scripture and Theology of the Third Week of Advent
Scripture readings for Advent III reflect on the salvation and restoration Jesus brings, which is cause for rejoicing and perseverance.
Old Testament Readings
Old Testament readings for Advent III highlight the universal restoration Jesus accomplishes. In Isaiah 35:1, the prophet looks forward to the future promised for the people of God - a future inaugurated at the first coming of Christ and consummated at his second coming. When Jesus returns, the effects of sin's curse will be removed: the wildernesses and dry land will blossom, and streams will come forth from the desert. The miracles he did point to his kingdom: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy" (Isaiah 35:5-6).
Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah 61:8 shows God's concern for those on the fringes of society - those who have no voice of their own and cannot speak for themselves. The Messiah has been anointed by God to bring good news to the poor and liberty to the captives, proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor and the day of God's vengeance. God is one who loves justice and mercy, and in his coming kingdom those who suffer from injustice will be restored. The coming Christ "will save the lame and gather the outcast, and [he] will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth" (Zephaniah 3:19).
Readings from the Psalms
The Psalms for Advent III carry on the theme of the justice and mercy brought about by God's coming kingdom. Psalms 146:4 says that the one "who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry" is blessed. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up the downcast, keeps watch over sojourners, and upholds widows and orphans (146:8-9). When God brings restoration to his people, there will be laughter and joy, and tears shall be turned into shouts of joy (Psalms 126:5).
New Testament Readings
New Testament readings in the third week of Advent show how believers are motivated to wait patiently for Jesus' return. As 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, patience should be accompanied by rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving as well as abstaining from evil. God is faithful, and he is the one who will sanctify us, so Christians can be sure that we will be kept blameless at Christ's second coming. Only God's power can do this, and "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it" (1 Thess. 5:24). Philippians 4:4 continues the theme of rejoicing, because God's peace for those in Christ will guard our hearts and minds.
Gospel readings for Advent III return to John the Baptist, but in a way that points from him to Jesus. In Matthew 11:2, John hears rumors about what Jesus was doing and asks him (through his disciples) "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Jesus responds to John's followers: "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them" (Matt. 11:4-5). Jesus' answer is incredibly fitting - "look at what I'm doing," he says. "You know that the Messiah will bring healing to those in need, and that's exactly what I bring."
John the Baptist came as a witness, "to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him" (John 1:8). John came to bear witness about the light, who is Jesus. John claimed, "I am the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said." (John 1:23).
John preached the gospel to the people - the good news of God's coming kingdom of justice and peace (Luke 3:18).
The Symbolic Spirituality of the Third Week of Advent
The Jesse Tree
During the third week of Advent, the Jesse Tree recounts the story of how God's people often failed, revealing their deep need for a Savior. The branches on the tree this week are crooked and deathly-looking, with few leaves on them. Through the stories of David (1 Samuel 16:1, 2 Samuel 5:1, 2 Samuel 7:1), Elijah (1 Kings 17:1, 1 Kings 18:17), Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1), Isaiah (Isaiah 1:10, Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah 8:11), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:4, Jeremiah 7:1, Jeremiah 8:22), Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:1, Habakkuk 3:16), and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:1, Nehemiah 6:15, Nehemiah 13:10), the Jesse Tree narrates Israel's fall into exile and her waiting for the Messiah.
The Advent Wreath
A third candle - a pink one - is lit on the Advent Wreath for Advent III. This candle, often called the Shepherd's Candle or the Joy Candle, represents joy, such as the joy the shepherds experienced when the angel told them that Christ was to be born. The Advent season is now half over, and Jesus' coming - both his first coming, liturgically, and his second coming, historically - is nearer now than it was two weeks ago.
More than any other week during the Advent season, Advent III represents a shift in attitude. One moves from hope, repentance, and fear of the coming Judge to rejoicing at the coming of salvation and the kingdom of God as Jesus makes all things new.
These Advent rhythms represent shifts that we often experience in our Christian lives. Some days we feel like the injustices in this world are more than we can handle, some days we anguish over our sin, and others we long for the day when God will finally defeat the last great enemy, death. Advent III helps us move out of these moods and into rejoicing, because God has come to save us and to be with us, and he will come again.
About The Author:
Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. Justin wrote 'On the Grace of God' and co-authored with his wife Lindsey 'Rid of My Disgrace and Save Me from Violence'. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture.
Copyright © 2013, Christianity.com. All rights reserved.
by Charles Henrickson
Gospel: Luke 7:18-28
Today is the Sunday of the rose-colored candle. On the other Sundays in Advent, we light violet, or purple, candles on the Advent wreath. Today, though, we light the one that is the color of rose. What is the significance of that?
Well, the color violet, or purple, is a color associated with repentance, reminding us that Advent is a season of penitential preparation. Just as John the Baptist came preaching repentance to prepare the way of the Lord, so Advent calls us to mourn our sinfulness and to repent of our sins and to bear fruit in keeping with repentance, as we prepare for our Lord's coming. Thus the penitential purple sets a somber mood for the Advent season.
But today, in the midst of all that purple, we light the one rose-colored candle. Rose is a color associated with rejoicing. Joy breaks in, in the midst of our Advent preparation. The rose-colored candle reminds us that our Redeemer's coming is near. "Lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh." And so there is room for rejoicing amid the repenting.
The Introit of the Day sets the tone for the day. It begins: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." The Latin word for "Rejoice" here is "Gaudete," and so this Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent, is known as "Gaudete Sunday." We find a glimmer of refreshment and joy shining in the darkness. Christmas is getting closer.
And so this is the note of joy that our lessons give us on this Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent: Even as we wait, in situations that are not always pleasant--even as we endure, having to bear up under suffering and perplexity--even so, we still have reason to rejoice. And so this morning we will be looking at "Advent through a Rose-colored Candle."
"Advent through a rose-colored candle." This is no Pollyanna-ish pipe dream that I am proposing. You know, we have the expression about looking at something "through rose-colored glasses." And by that we mean an unrealistic, overly cheerful, sunny optimism that does not see the darker side of life. No, that is not what I mean when I say, "Advent through a rose-colored candle." But I am saying that it is possible to maintain a cheerful hope and joy, even while recognizing the painful reality all around us and the painful reality within us.
Even when we are perplexed by the suffering and sorrow we feel and see all around us, there is reason to rejoice. Take the case of John the Baptist, for instance. Here he was, the great forerunner of the Lord, a man who did the will of God with boldness and faithfulness, and what kind of reward did he get for all that? He got thrown into prison and was about to get his head lopped off. How fair is that? Not very. No wonder he got perplexed and bewildered about it.
See, here's the deal. God's hand was upon John from even before his birth. God had marked out this man for a special mission. He would be the one to go before the Lord to prepare his way. Which is what John did. He went out as a prophet, the likes of which had not been seen since Elijah, centuries earlier. John went about in the wilderness, preaching repentance to the crowds coming to be baptized. He said that the ax was already at the root of the trees, and that every tree not bearing good fruit would be thrown into the fire. God's judgment was coming for the proud and defiant. God's salvation was coming for the humble and repentant. John was unafraid, calling out the powerful hypocrites, saying, "You brood of vipers." No people-pleaser he. John even confronted the ruler of the region, Herod Antipas, rebuking him over his adulterous affair with his brother's wife.
So John, very bold, very faithful, in carrying out the Lord's work--and what happens? He gets tossed in the jailhouse. "This doesn't seem right," thinks John. "Herod is getting away with this. Why doesn't the Lord come to my rescue? Here I thought Jesus came to make everything right! To overturn the evil ones and to come to the aid of the righteous. Yet here I sit in this prison cell. What's wrong with this picture?" And so John sends a couple of his followers to go ask Jesus a question: "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" In other words, "Are you sure we've got the right Messiah?"
John didn't seem in any mood to rejoice. Who knows, he may have felt like giving up. Like, what's the use? Did I put my faith in a false dream? Why does everything seem to be going wrong? I preached the coming judgment, bad trees getting the ax and being whacked down. Yet there is Herod, sitting untouched in his nice palace, about to get away with murder. I preached the coming salvation, coming with this Jesus--I thought. So what's taking so long?
These were John's questions. This was his perplexity. Maybe you've got some questions, too. Maybe you share some of that perplexity. You see on the news a crazed killer in Connecticut, gunning down a kindergarten class--an unspeakable horror. Where is God in all of that? Where is the justice in that? You know loved ones suffering with terrible illnesses--lingering, wasting diseases--cutting people down before their time. Loss. Divorce. Tragedy. Evil seems to be triumphing in the world, and I don't see God doing much about it.
And when I look inside myself, the view doesn't get much better. I see sin. I see the same old poor excuse for a Christian that I have been all along, and I don't seem to be getting a whole lot better. What's wrong with me? Am I even a real Christian? How long, O Lord, how long? How long will this Advent waiting last?
The problem of evil, the long wait, the endless Advent--like Narnia, "always winter, never Christmas"--this can be hard to take, hard to understand. It was for John, and it is for us. But here is what Jesus would have to say to John and to us on this Sunday of the rose-colored candle. He says, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."
What Jesus is saying is this: You are perplexed because the evil seem to be triumphing and the judgment doesn't seem to be coming. But that day will come, you can be sure of that. And the reason you can count on it is that the rest of the prophecies, the prophecies of end-time blessing, are starting to take place. And so you can be sure that the judgment prophecies will be fulfilled, as well. Look at what I've been doing in my ministry, Jesus says: healing the sick--the blind, the lame, the leper, the deaf. These are the signs that Isaiah prophesied, signals that the messianic age has arrived. And now they're happening. Even the dead are being raised up--literally. In Jesus' ministry, he would raise up Jairus's daughter, the widow of Nain's son, and Lazarus of Bethany. Just a few select examples, but enough to get the point across. All these miraculous blessings are a little sneak preview of what's in store for all who put their trust in Christ. And so Jesus is preaching the good news, the gospel of forgiveness and life and salvation, to those who are poor in spirit, who know their need for a Savior. In other words, to people just like John and like us.
If Jesus did this much, he will surely do the rest. And the proof of that, in all certainty, is in the cross that Jesus will endure. If ever there was unjust suffering, this is it. If ever it seemed like evil was triumphing, it was on that day when the sky turned black and God's own Son cried out in agony on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Never has there been anything so unfair and unjust.
Yet, paradoxically, never has there been a greater cause for joy. For God was, in Christ, rescuing the world from the grip of evil. Here is the only answer that works, ultimately. God taking the evil upon himself, and bearing the burden for us. Here is redemption for all your sins. Here is the only thing that will give you the strength and the comfort you need to rest your soul amid all the turmoil and perplexity of this troubled life. This is the only reliable reason to rejoice in any and every circumstance. It is knowing that God has dealt with the problem of evil and sin in the most decisive way. For God has given Christ to be our Savior, and by trusting in him, we share in his victory over sin and death and evil. Yes, dear loved ones, in Christ we have resurrection and eternal life ahead of us, after this often perplexing, often sorrowful, vale of tears.
And so this is the way to look at Advent through a rose-colored candle. It's not Pollyanna pie-in-the-sky. Rather, it is realistic rejoicing, based on a sure hope, even as we repent and mourn and endure and wait. Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent, the Sunday of the rose-colored candle--this day reminds us that Christmas is right around the corner. Christ's return to set everything right--it's right around the corner, too. It's getting near now.
So light a candle today. Make it a rose-colored one. It's time to rejoice. Gaudete! "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice."
by Gary Zimak
We're all familiar with the main message of Advent:
As we look back on past Advents, however, most of us have done a rather poor job preparing to welcome Christ. Sure, we've prepared for Christmas by buying gifts, decorating and baking and we've probably reflected on the Lord's birth, but have we honestly followed the Church's instructions to "Prepare the way of the Lord"?
I would guess that most of us would have to admit that we've often failed to use the season of Advent as a time of preparation. And why is that? After doing some thinking, I've identified two big reasons why we fail to prepare to welcome the Lord.
1. No Need To Prepare
"Why should I prepare when Jesus was already born 2000 years ago?" Does that question sound familiar? It's a very common and reasonable question and one that we have every right to ask. Every Advent, the Church tells us to prepare, but what's the point? He's already been born!
A related concern has to do with Our Lord's second coming. In the gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, Jesus issued a stern warning:
When we look at Jesus' words, we generally think of His glorious second coming. When we do that, the common perception (not one I would recommend, by the way!) is that we've got plenty of time. After all, He hasn't returned for two thousand years, why should we expect Him to return any time soon? When we think like this, just like when we focus on Jesus' historical birth, we convince ourselves that there is no real reason to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
In reality, the Church gives us the season of Advent so that we will prepare to welcome Jesus spiritually into our lives NOW! Rather than wait to welcome the Lord in the future, we are invited to welcome Him into our hearts right now. Thinking along these lines helps increase our sense of urgency and allows us to use THIS Advent to prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus.
2. We Don't Have The Time
Certainly, it's easy to understand why we're stressed at this time of year. Endless errands, shopping trips and holiday activities leave us little time for our spiritual lives. Although it doesn't seem to make sense, it's during the times that we're busiest that we need to focus on our relationship with the Lord. One of the best Biblical examples of this is found in Jesus' visit to the home of sisters Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). While Martha actively served and showed hospitality to Jesus, her sister Mary "sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His teaching". In reply to Martha's desperate appeal for assistance, Jesus answered:
In other words, taking some time to listen to the Lord (even while there is much work to be done) is more important than running around like a chicken with it's head cut off. Notice that Jesus never said that Martha was wrong for working so hard to show hospitality. He simply pointed out that Mary has chosen the better part. If we take the time to focus on the Lord during this Advent season, He will reward us with the gift of peace.
We never know if this Advent will be our last. Let's not make the mistake of being unprepared to welcome Him into our lives. Instead, let's strive to make it the best Advent ever!
Dear Lord – Please increase my desire to welcome you spiritually this Advent. Help me to pause from the activities of my daily life and focus on my relationship with You. Grant me your supernatural peace and the graces that I need to walk with You each day. Amen.
by Margaret Manning
In the world of quirky factoids and interesting anecdotes, I have often heard that if one lives to be seventy years old, one will have spent three years of her life just waiting. Waiting in line at the grocery store; waiting in the doctor's office; waiting in traffic; waiting for lunch to be ready; waiting for recess time at school; waiting. In his book, Oh, the Places You'll Go, children's author Theodor Geisel, or "Dr. Seuss," describes a place called "the waiting place." It sounds like the place most of us inhabit. He describes it as a useless place where people are just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
Sometimes waiting feels useless and futile. We are waiting around for what, exactly? More than this, waiting is difficult. It is difficult to have patience. It is something we admire in others, but find difficult for ourselves. Patience is something I can admire in the driver behind me, for example, but not in the one ahead of me!
The patience required by waiting is counterintuitive in our busy, fast-paced world. When our daily lives are made up of high speed Internet, instant messaging, and fast food, waiting for anything seems like an eternity. Moreover, in a world where so much beckons us, waiting asks us to be still and this can feel meaningless. English poet John Milton once wrote that those who serve stand and wait. Indeed, waiting asks us to be disciplined, self-controlled, and emotionally mature as the world speeds by us. Waiting requires an unshakeable faith, hope, and love that will trump all the action done for the sake of expediency. Waiting is often our best, hard work.
Waiting comprises a large part of the Christian worldview. But it is not the useless waiting of "the waiting place" that Dr. Seuss writes about, nor is it simply waiting for certain things or events, a trip or a raise, or even fulfillment. Christians await the return of Jesus in glory.
The season of Advent that precedes Christmas is a season of hope-filled waiting. Advent looks forward in anticipation of Christ's return, but also remembers all those who awaited his arrival into our world more than two thousand years ago. Advent is a season of stillness and reflection and as such, it is the antithesis of all the busyness and chaos of the Christmas shopping season.
The consumer mentality overwhelms and demands a fever pitch of activity. Sadly, any waiting one might do is more likely waiting for Christmas to be over. And rather than being filled with hope and joy, we wait in a state of anxiety, or cynicism, or harried indifference toward the miracle that is upon us. In all of our busyness, we miss the gift of waiting with hope and expectation.
Yet, the Advent season extends an invitation to do just this: to watch and wait for the coming of the King, to wait for the Christ who comes in new ways into the very messy stuff of our lives - not just one season a year. But we cannot hope to catch a glimpse of him without the hard waiting for him to show up.
Of course, there are those who feel they have been waiting so long for God to show up in the messy details of their lives. Giving up on waiting seems to hold the promise of rest, as the work of waiting is wearisome. Just as there were those in the early days of the Christian movement who began to ask "Where is the promise of his coming?" and those who mocked the divine silence of inactivity, it is not difficult to understand how those who wait for answers - for an end to suffering, for reconciliation, for transformation - are tempted towards cynical despair.
Is there hope in remembering that Advent invites us to wait for the God who shows up? Can encouragement be found in the celebration of Christmas, a celebration proclaiming that God has come and that God will come again in the waiting of today? Is there reason to watch and wait for a God who arrives in ways we could not expect?
Advent invites the world to examine these things with courage. The very act of waiting opens eyes, hands, and hearts to receive this most precious gift.
About The Author:
Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.
Source: A Slice of Infinity © 2013 RZIM
Editor's Note: "Star of the East," written by noted songwriter Amanda Kennedy in 1918 is one of her earlier hits. The lyrics, with their reference to death and "dark billows" may reflect the environment of war, pestilence and political and economic turmoil that dominated the world of 1918. This song truly brings a message of hope in contrast to the insipid, feel-good tunes like "Holly Jolly Christmas" which we hear every December.
Star of the East, oh Bethlehem's star,
Fearless and tranquil, we look up to Thee,
Oh star that leads to God above.
Star of the East, thou hope of the soul.
by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World
4 cups all-purpose flour
Egg white glue:
In an electric mixer, slowly incorporate 3
ounces of pasteurized egg whites and 4
cups of powdered sugar until it's shiny.
Place in a piping bag or a squeeze bottle.
TO MAKE THE BASE
1. Lay the wreath form on a paper plate.
1. Preheat the oven to 300°.
4 cups all-purpose flour
Egg white glue:
In an electric mixer, slowly incorporate 3 ounces of pasteurized egg whites and 4 cups of powdered sugar until it's shiny. Place in a piping bag or a squeeze bottle.
TO MAKE THE BASE
1. Lay the wreath form on a paper plate.
1. Preheat the oven to 300°.
by Ann Spangler
Birds and cats are not normally best friends. That's why the video I watched surprised me. A couple had documented the relationship of a crow and a stray kitten for a period of eight months. For several hours each day, the crow and the kitten could be seen playing together. Whenever the kitten began to cross the road, the crow would start squawking at it or hop around, pushing it back toward safety. The crow would also feed the kitten with its own preferred cuisine - a diet of worms and bugs - no doubt saving its life. Now that's one nice crow and one fortunate kitty!
Watching that video of the two unlikely friends reminded me of God's promise that one day the lamb would have nothing to fear from the wolf because every creature in the world would reflect God's peace. It made me think, too, of Paul's words to the Romans:
Some of the pain and suffering we endure comes from the strife we experience in relationships, broken and twisted by sin. We find it hard to get along with certain people at home, at work, and at church. Because of what Jesus has done for us and because his Spirit lives in us, nothing is impossible for the God who is able to heal even our most fractured relationships.
Don't wait for the Second Coming to begin to pray about your own difficult relationships. Ask God for grace and wisdom for yourself and the people you find difficult. Who knows what unlikely friendships you may be able to forge as a result of God's peace at work within and through you.
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