Third Sunday of Advent Year A- Rev Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 35: 1-6a, 10; Ps 146:6-10; Jas 5:7-10 and Matt 11:2-11
Rejoice! God Has Come to Heal and save us
In our daily lives many of us would have an occasion at least once in a while to smile and to show signs of happiness. May be when we got a new grandchild, during our weddings and ordinations, honey moons or when we receive cards and surprise presence from our loved ones, and family members, pass our exams, promoted in a job, go through successful medical procedures, have received nice anniversaries and birth day gifts, appreciation of the freedom we have, to name but a few. What gives you hope and what puts a smile on your face?
Elements of Joy and hope continue to resonate in today’s Bibles readings. This is so, because of what God has done for us, His savings works in our lives. And in the case of the Israelites, the hope that their enemies, the Assyrians will not reign forever. Their defeat shall give way to peace and justice, such that as we saw last Sunday in Isaiah chapter 11: 1-10, “the wolf shall becomes guest of the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the young lion shall play together while children shall play freely by the cobra’s dens without hurting”.
These are not only the packages of peace, joy and reconciliation that Christ, God’s incarnate brings with Him for at Christmas. Today Prophet Isaiah 35: 1-6 and Matthew 11: 2-11 particularly step up the call for all us to rejoice because God has included in the package of His Christmas gifts for each and every one of us His Savings and Healing Mercies, in spite of who we are. We are called to be sources of joy and happiness for one another.
Isaiah’s message of hope and joy of freedom would be fulfilled in Christ. He says God has “strengthen the hands that are feeble making firm the knees that are weak” (v 3). There are many circumstances in our lives that would enable realize how week and feeble we are. Think of the nuclear and threats of terrorism that you and I live under today. Think of our experiences of physical illnesses, which sometimes will make us feeble and weak. As a nation, community, family and individual we also have our strengths and weaknesses. Some are stronger economically, socially, politically, intellectually and morally than others.
Whatever area of weaknesses, and difficulties we may have identified ourselves with, for Isaiah sorrow and fear are not the right solutions for believers, but hope, patience, penance and joy because God has the power to make even the lame and cripple to walk and jump like a deer. He is able to make the mute to sing.
Each and every one of us (this we must recognized) are blessed in so many ways by God for instance, the gift to see this day is not because we are smarter than our neighbors or because our health insurance is much better than that of my next door neighbor, but because it has been God’s decision and purpose in Christ Jesus who enables us experience this day and His healing love.
The Psalmist like Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18 (“the spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has appointed me to bring goodness to the poor”) captures this well today when he says: The LORD keeps faith forever, the LORD secures justice for the oppressed, the LORD sets captives free, the LORD gives food for the hungry, the LORD gives sights to the blind and the LORD protects the strangers (Ps 146).
Just as St. James would put it today, it takes patience, prayers and endurance sometimes to discern the blessings and the role of God in our lives, especially in times of great pains, hardship and mix feelings.
Even John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, a Jew, sitting in prison on account of Herodias (Mtt 14) perhaps was wondering why Christ/ if a Jewish messiah would not intervene in his imprisonment. Remember earlier on John’s disciples were surprised that Christ’s disciples did not follow their patter fasting and Jewish observances (Matt 9:14), but spent time healing the blind, the lame, the deaf, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers and preaching the Good News to the poor (Matt 11:5-6) and mingling even with sinners (Matt 9:9), exercises that put others off, or that were forbidden by the status quo and the establishment. Remember, John Baptized with water. Christ baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Christ is superior to John the last prophet of the OT. Even among those born of women, we are told none is greater than John the Baptist, yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John (Matt 11:11). John is the greatest prophet, God’s messenger up to his time- as plan by God, which was a preparation for a new order, the Kingdom of God, which is the fulfillment of all that OT prophets had foretold including the call for repentance and all manners of preparations by John.
The challenge for us is that to be in that Kingdom, even as the least is not only to imitate the hopes and the mission of John the Baptist and other prophets, but to practice with joy the life style of Christ, the Master of the Kingdom- peace, love and by continuing to be sources of strength, hope, God’s saving and healing mercies for the weak, the feeble and the poor of our communities.
Peace be with you!