category: Advent

Advent Devotion: Day 14

Saturday, December 10

1 Samuel 2:1-8; Luke 3:1-18

Advent is a season for a rich and full reflection on the ways of God, for it culminates with his entrance as a human person into this cosmos. The story of John the Baptist, the one whose prophetic voice announced the coming of the Messiah, is intriguing. John was not just a Same Kind of Different as Me type of person; instead, he proclaimed reality, so much so that listeners touched inwardly asked, “What then should we do?” (Luke 3:10, 12, 14 NRSV). Reality is a serious business. We don’t argue when the car runs out of gas, and we haven’t reached our destination!

To be sure, John would not have won any Oscar awards, and yet he represented the best of its kind from God’s standards, something not easy to swallow when our minds and perceptions think reality is something else.

Luke, the Gospel writer, understands reality from God’s perspective. The recording of Mary’s Magnificat in Chapter 1 says it clearly: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (vv. 52-53). This flipped scenario is not to be taken metaphorically; Luke insists; rather, it is necessary and profitable if our lives are to bear good fruit (v. 9). As John illustrates, if we have two coats, then we share one with someone who has none; we do the same with food. Likewise, there must be no manipulation or exploitation of any kind.

Hannah, Samuel’s mother, captured this awesome vision and could not contain her joy when proclaiming, “He [the LORD] raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world” (1 Sam 2:7-8).

Although the folk thought John the Baptist was the Messiah, for he captured vividly the ways of God, he was quick to inform them, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). The sermon did not stop there. He had more to say with words not often received well today. It is mindboggling that John knew himself so well. He had a sense of reality. He was not the Messiah and never mentioned the theme that bombarded Jesus’ preaching, that is, that the kingdom of God had come near, a kingdom that was “unshakable” and would change persons forever, if they dared to look within and embrace it. Thus, the question, “What then should we do?” will carry us forward into reality until the light shines more clearly with the coming of our Lord Jesus, not only with Christmas celebrations but with great expectations of the completion of this story one day when Jesus returns.

Sophia Steibel
Professor of Christian Education and Spiritual Formation

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Advent Devotion: Day 15

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