category: Advent

Advent Devotion: Day 7

Saturday,  December 3

Isaiah 40:1-11; John 1:19-28

How frequently do we use the expression “God bless you”? No doubt that it has a powerful implication. What a blessing it is when everything in our life goes well. It’s another thing when trials, frustrations, burdens, and disappointments come our way.

The history of Israel, in previous passages in Isaiah, was one of trials, burdens, and disappointments. However, Chapter 40 shows a different picture. It is a plethora of promises, words of encouragement, grace, and above all, deliverance!! The narrative starts with the Hebrew word נֶחָמָה (nacham), “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Those were words of affirmation of God’s care, mercy, deliverance, and forgiveness. They needed to be proclaimed, not whispered but loudly spoken.

This “second Isaiah,” as it is called by Bible scholars, is an affirmation that God’s presence, during those “uneasy moments,” is real. The proclaimed message is full of certainty, assurance, and confidence. The Babylonian captivity is behind; the war is over, no more guilt, no shame. It is over; now is the time to enjoy and see the revealed “glory of the Lord.”

Many years later, John the Baptist embraced the Old Testament nacham by bringing his μαρτuρία (marturia)—“testimony”—to all of those who were not necessarily eager to see and hear the good and comforting words. Rather, they wanted to enquire about him and the ritual of baptism, which he practiced. Unfortunately, the religious leaders focused on the ritual, and didn’t pay attention to the person and the message behind the messenger.

John’s authenticity of who he was reaffirmed to the enquirers that “his” baptism and identity were not the main focus. He disowns himself by declaring,   Ἐγὼ φωνὴ βοῶντος (egō phōnē boōntos),  “I am the voice of one calling out”—I am a mere voice. Both prophets, Isaiah and John, had a message to be proclaimed. Both had a message, not to be whispered but to be cried out. Their message was about THE One who was announced by Isaiah (v. 3). It was a voice with specific wording: “Make the way of the Lord straight.”The One being announced was not known by them yet.

Unfortunately, the Scribes and Pharisees distorted the message, and John is calling out to return to the true message and messenger, the only true Christ, the Messiah!!

Today, as we look at the coming of Advent, let us remember that in spite of the difficulties during this year, the words of comfort from our Father God are still present . . . nacham, nacham!! “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Therefore, let us focus on the true message of good news and the messenger, Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

Hebert Palomino
Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling

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Advent Devotion: Day 8

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