GSFA Devotional: Bread for Our Journey
Advent Sunday (28th November 2021)
ADVENT: SEASON OF HOPE AND NEW BEGINNING (Luke 3:1-14 )
The word ‘Advent’ derives from the Latin word meaning coming. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming. We may reflect that every year at this time we celebrate his coming and also reflect on His triumphant return at the second coming. Advent is a time for faith communities and families to remember, through prayer, reflections, special music, and good deeds what the true meaning of Jesus’ coming is.
Advent is also the beginning of a new Church year and a new season in our Church calendar. It is a season of remembrance, of longing, and of hope and expectation at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The vision of life that Advent gives us is twofold; it looks back to the first coming of Christ at Bethlehem, and it looks to the future when Christ will come again. In the interval between these two events, we find meaning for our lives as Christians. He came to us in great humility, and will come again in His Glorious Majesty. We are to prepare and receive Him. He is our Lord and our Saviour.
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being Governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of the Lord came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. (Luke chapter 3: 1ff)
From this reading, we observe how Luke goes into great detail to give the historical context and geographical location of events at the first coming of the Lord Jesus. Luke lists the names of five important political leaders and two religious leaders ruling when John the Baptist introduces Jesus. Luke recognised that in relation to these other leaders, Jesus was no ordinary person. So important was his coming that it was predicted by the prophet Isaiah whom Luke quotes in our passage above. The focus of the prophecy is about the coming of someone called “The Lord” (Isaiah 40:3). There had been 400 years of silence since God had last spoken through a prophet.
Is it not significant that 400 years later John the Baptist is seen as ‘Elijah’, sent by God to warn and prepare people to meet His Son? The prophets predicted that God would enter the world in human form. And John the Baptist, like Jesus, conceived by a miracle, is the one chosen to announce the arrival of the Lord. John went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He encouraged people to “produce fruits in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8) John does so concisely and humbly, describing himself as, “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:23)
The most important question to us is: How do we prepare? The simple answer is that we must be ready every day and live our lives daily as repentant sinners. That is why John’s message was “repent”: this means turning around to live a life of obedience to God’s teachings. God wants us to turn away from sin that leads to death and judgement, and turn back toward Him and experience his forgiveness, his peace and his loving presence. This should be our daily priority, and our experience. In the verses that follow John elaborates on what repentance will look like.
“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same… Don’t collect any more than you are required to… Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be contented with your pay.” (Luke 3:9-14)
Generosity, honesty, integrity is what repentance will look like. It entails putting away the sinful activities in our lives and adopting wholesome attitudes and behaviour that comply with biblical teaching.
The book of Revelation sums up the final promise of Jesus and how we should respond in repentance and always be ready to receive Him. He will one day return to bring about our full salvation. In his first coming Jesus freed us from the penalty of sin. At his return he will free us from the presence of sin. Between these two events he will free us from the power of sin as we depend on him. The Book of Revelation clearly outlines what will happen when Christ returns.
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
Think about that: No more war. No more death. No more crying. No more suffering and no more pandemics. Plenty of reason to rejoice that Jesus is coming for us. He is the Lord, our Saviour. We should become more involved, more caught up in the meaning and the possibilities of life as a Christian community. Thus, we are preparing not only for Christmas but also for Christ's Second Coming. This means that when he comes again, we will be awake and watchful. He should not find us unprepared, let us prepare to receive Him.
“He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” (Revelation 22:20-21)
The Most Revd Dr Justin Badi Arama
Archbishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan
Chairman, Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA)