Sunday 13 December 2020: Advent 3
The Joy of Waiting
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
Context: all-age service, probably for the young parents who have newly joined the church
Aim: to remind the congregation of the joy of waiting for the Lord’s coming. What we’ve been given to us is the evidence of the love of God.
MY LITTLE CONFESSION
I have to make a little confession before I say anything to you my brothers and sisters! I always find the third Sunday of Advent is a bit awkward! It is not because I don’t love Advent or even Christmas. The third Sunday of Advent is quite often the moment when I switch to panic mode realising that I haven’t actually bought or even ordered any Christmas gifts for my family! Also, I know that my patience sometimes is running out around this time, and I can hear this creeping voice from my heart saying, ‘I want my Christmas, now!’ No matter what happens to me, I still love Advent, as it makes me think about the meaning of waiting.
WAITINGS IN THE BIBLE
Now, I would like to ask you to pause from what you have been doing and think about, not your Christmas shopping list, but any Bible story that contains the sense of ‘waiting’.
Are there any stories that you can remember?
Of course, there are many stories in the Bible, telling us of different waitings. The story of Moses can be one of the good examples of containing such a sense of waiting; the people of Israel, being enslaved in Egypt, they were waiting to be freed from their enemies. The story of Noah is also another great example; when the whole world was covered by water, he and his family members had to wait inside the Ark until they could land on dry ground. And we have many more stories that contain the sense of waiting.
For those who have read or heard today’s Bible readings attentively, I am sure you will also be able to spot that all three readings contain the message of waiting in one way or another.
In the first reading the prophet Isaiah tells us the joyful waiting of the people of Israel as God’s own people and what they would see in the future; rebuilding the ancient ruins, brings justice and blessings to the people. What a wonderful image of hope we hear from Isaiah! And again, in the second reading, we see the same theme, but with a slight twist in style; waiting that requires us to do a little more action such as keeping our spirit and body sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus! And finally, in today’s Gospel story from Saint John, we hear the story of John the Baptist, whose calling was to be a herald for Christ. His task was to bring the lost sheep of Israel back to God through repentance. Knowing that the Messiah’s coming is very close, John the Baptist himself was also waiting for Christ with a great expectation and trying to encourage people to join him in humility with humble hearts.
In all three readings, the object of their waiting is the coming of the Messiah, long prophesied through the lips of the prophets. And the act of waiting can be seen as a time of joy and excitement, as well as a time of repentance and restoration. This makes us think about our own waiting. Are we waiting for Christ’s birth, properly? Are we faithfully engaged with the spirit, and nurturing our faith?
WAITING FOR CHRISTMAS
This wonderful season of Advent is set for us, so that we can reflect on the true message of Christmas. Also, particularly, today’s Bible readings, remind us of the powerful promise of God to all human beings; the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth is the good news for the whole world, and it is freely given to us, who profess Jesus Christ is Lord!
Of course, when we say ‘free’, it doesn’t mean that what God is offering has no value in it. Rather, it is completely the other way around; he offered his own Son as a sacrificial offering for our redemption, exchanging the life of Jesus with ours.
Therefore, what we need to do is to respond to the call of God, and once we know the deep love of Christ within our heart, we will begin to experience the wonderful transformation of our lives in God.
Advent is the season when we wait patiently for God’s love to be revealed. I sincerely pray that the Lord’s anointing spirit may dwell in us all, so that we may enjoy our waiting for the Lord’s coming, and may, through this waiting, be nurtured into Christ’s likeness.
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