category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 6

Friday, December 4

Jeremiah 1:4–10; Acts 11:19–26

When I was studying for my PhD at Baylor University, I had a professor whom I will call Dr. T. When Dr. T was convinced that a certain idea was correct, it was somewhat risky to contradict him. His students learned very quickly that if you were going to disagree with Dr. T, you’d better bring your A–game. If you didn’t, Dr. T would not hesitate to set you straight (in front of everyone!).

One significant idea from the New Testament that Dr. T found convincing was that of “divine enablement.” In his reading of the New Testament, Dr. T argued that followers of Christ are enabled by the Spirit to live lives that are worthy of the gospel of Jesus. Christ followers are not expected to live out the values of God’s kingdom solely by their own strength and wisdom. As one of Dr. T’s students, I have become convinced that this understanding of scripture is correct.

Both of our passages today reinforce this idea. In the passage from Jeremiah, God calls Jeremiah to be “a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah protests; notice his use of the word “I”: “Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” Jeremiah’s focus is on himself and his limitations as a human being. But notice also God’s response to Jeremiah: “you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.” Then in verses 9–10, God tells Jeremiah, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms …” In effect, God tells Jeremiah that his perspective is all wrong. Instead of seeing things from his finite, fallen, human perspective, Jeremiah should view things from the perspective of the One for whom nothing is impossible.

In the passage in Acts, there are “some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus.” The passage goes on to say that “the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord.” Here too, the risen Lord enables these anonymous disciples from Cyprus and Cyrene to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. It is by “the hand of the Lord” that many believed their message and committed themselves to follow Christ.

During the season of Advent we have the privilege of celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. It is through Christ’s death and resurrection that we are delivered from sin and death. But we should not forget that as Christ’s disciples, the ongoing work of the Spirit is to enable us to serve the risen Lord, both within the church and outside of it. Like Jeremiah, we might be tempted to say, “I am just …” or “I cannot …” God knows us better than we know ourselves and will enable us to be of service in God’s kingdom, despite our limitations.

This Advent season, may we commit ourselves to serve our Lord and savior, knowing that he will work through us to bring about his purposes.

Jim McConnell
Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation

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