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Third Sunday of Advent: “Proclamation of the Prophets”

Isaiah 35:1-10

Psalm 146

James 5:7-10

Matthew 11:2-10

This is the third Sunday of Advent and we continue to prepare our hearts and our minds for the coming of our King. He surely is coming just as He promised. The theme for this Sunday is: joy. In Latin, it is gaudete, which means rejoice. Gaudete in Dominum Semper means rejoice in the Lord always because the joy of Lord is our strength. The Lord invites us to enter into this joy.

We are in the Season of Advent and Christmas is just around the corner, and we can feel the Christmas rush. Greeting cards have not all been sent. The Christmas rush is not true. We are in the midst of it but don’t let the rat race rob us of our joy. We just need to be still and know that God is God. Learn to stop and smell the flowers. Don’t miss the point of the Season. Jesus is the reason for the Season. The reason we have time in our hands is so that we can have a full life, and not waste it on what the Gentiles would pursue which are fleeting in the first place. God wants us to share His joy and to have His joy in us.

In the Parable of the Talents, three people were given talents. One was given ten, the second one was given five, and another was given one talent. The first two produced more talents from what was given them, and they were told, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.” What is that joy? The joy is participating in the work of God. This joy is being given more responsibilities. There is joy in serving God and in participating in His work. It is not a burden to be serving God. It is not a waste of our time. There is joy there and God wants us to discover this joy. The joy is found in working in the vineyard of God.

God can do anything or everything. Why then is He asking us to work? Why is He inviting us to participate in His work? He can do it without our help! The joy is the opportunity in the work of God. The joy is also bigger responsibilities.

In the gospel, John the Baptist sacrificed everything. He was the son of a priest and was probable heir to his father’s priesthood. In the social structure at that time, they belong to the elite, but John denied himself of this and he was faithful in his weird calling. He stayed in the wilderness, ate locust and honey, and dressed funny. He finds himself in a prison cell and he sends two of Jesus’ disciples to asked Jesus, “Are You the Messiah?” At that point, he may have doubted because Jesus was the Messiah and the Messiah, the expected One, was the One who was supposed to give sight to the blind, to open deaf ears, to open the dumb mouth, to lift up the downtrodden and to proclaim the good news to the poor and set prisoners free, and yet John finds himself in prison.

We may find ourselves in a similar situation – in prison, in bondage, going through something that makes us question, “Is Jesus really the Messiah? I thought He frees people from bondage and slavery? How come I am going through what I am going through right now?

We are reminded to always have hope! Isaiah 35 says, “The desert will blossom. The wilderness will rejoice, and springs of water will blossom profusely.” Isaiah saw springs of water in a waterless place, in a place of desolation. It may be similar to the place we find ourselves in right now or in the past. We are encouraged to have hope despite all of these things that we experience.

In the song “Days of Elijah” it says, “Though these are days of great trials, of famine, of darkness, and of sword, still we are the voice in the desert crying, ‘Prepare Ye the way of the Lord.’” We declare the proclamation in the desert not in the springs of water, not in a garden, and not in a place flowing with milk and honey. Prepare the way of the Lord because He will surely come.

An Advent Hymn entitled, “We Have a Hope” says, “We have a hope beyond this trouble. We have a light above this darkness. Lift your eyes! He is with us! Lift your eyes! See your God! Christ is our joy through all this trouble. Christ is our light. He shines in darkness. Lift Him up! He is worthy! Lift Him up! See your God!” Christ is coming and He will not delay.

John the Baptist proclaimed, “The Messiah is not here yet.” Not yet but soon. When Jesus came, He proclaimed, “Already but not yet.” Already began, but not yet in fullness. We are in the midst of the not yet. We still live in a fallen world and we still experience wilderness, desert, famine and darkness, sword and persecution and injustice, but God’s work has begun.

St. Paul said, “Who can separate us from the love of God? Can famine or nakedness or sword, peril or tribulation, persecution or death separate us from the love of God? I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities, things present nor things to come are able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” St. Paul says that these things can happen. We are still in an imperfect world, still being restored so we may still experience these things.

The good news is not that we won’t experience these things anymore. The good news is despite all these things, despite the darkness, we have a light. Despite the wilderness, the waterlessness, the hopelessness, we have hope, and we must not lose our joy because the joy of our Lord is our strength. In the midst of all these things that we find ourselves in, we have joy. The joy of the Lord is not dependent on external influences. The joy of the Lord cannot be obtained from favorable circumstances. We cannot lose the joy of the Lord to unfavorable circumstances. The joy of the Lord is anchored on the promise and the truth of God that He will never leave us nor forsake us and He is coming soon. He will fulfill His promise. St. Paul says that the new creation has begun. We are still being restored and we await the fullness of this kingdom that is coming to us – the life of the world to come.

In Isaiah 11, he talked about wild beasts being tamed that even a young child will play at the snake’s den. He was talking about a vision of the future – of peace. He is using the animals figuratively to talk about people. The hope that Isaiah offers is not the one day, lions will be vegetarians. The hope is people who act like beasts will realize that they were created in the image of God. They should not be acting like beast, but according to the divine nature that they share in. The lion, the predator will be kind to what he used to prey on. This has already begun.

There was a lion in Jericho at the time of Jesus. This lion preyed on helpless taxpayers. The name of this lion was Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus took advantage of his fellow Israelites by taking taxes from them that were more than what was required. As seen by Isaiah, the Messiah will come and He will slay those who are predators, those who are beasts, with the word of His mouth. Jesus used the weapon against Zacchaeus, and this weapon was kindness. He said, “Zacchaeus, come down from that tree because I am eating at your house today.” The beast in Zacchaeus was slain by those words and he started acting like he had the divine nature in him. He said, “Whoever I have defrauded, I will pay him back four times and half of my possessions, I will give to the poor.” The wolf lay with the lamb.

Another beast was Saul of Tarsus. He was a big-time predator. He put to death many Christians. He put them on trial, took them to Jerusalem, imprisoned them, persecuted them and had them stoned. One day, the Messiah used the sword of His mouth and gave him a word, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” This beast was slain and stopped being a predator and this beast lay with the Lamb and the sheep.

The work of God has already begun, and we are being restored. It is not yet fully because we are still experiencing great trials, famine, darkness and sword, but one day, all of these things will come to their fullness. The wolf will lie down with the Lamb and the waters will break forth in the desert. Isaiah encourages the exhausted, to lift up the hands that hang down, to strengthen the weak knees because these things are happening already and they will come to fullness. Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, the lame will leap, the mute will shout for joy, sickness will be gone, tears will be wiped away, and death will be no more. This is where we are headed. This is the world that is coming to our world.

In the life of world to come, there will be no lion, no vicious beast, no unclean animals but only the redeemed of the Lord will walk the highway of holiness. We sing, “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion. An everlasting joy will be upon their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” Jesus said, “In the kingdom of God, among those born of women, there has not arisen anyone greater than John, but in the kingdom of God, the least is greater than John.” It is not because of our own ability or our own righteousness, but because we have been redeemed, we have been restored, we have been ransomed, and God has worked on our beastly nature and destroyed it and slain it. He has tamed us and He has given us His divine nature.

In the meantime, as 2Peter 3 says, mockers will come in the form of people or circumstances and they will ask, “Where is the promise of His coming?” We are encouraged to rest in Lord and wait patiently for Him. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. His Name is Alpha and the Omega. Peter said that the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, but He is patient not willing that any should perish.

James said, “You, too, be patient. Do not lose your joy over the “not yet” and the “yet imperfect”. Look to the new heavens and to a new earth and a new creation in which righteousness, joy and peace dwells.” Look to the things that can be found in the vision of Isaiah. All the redeemed will be walking to these things and these things are precisely the way it is in the kingdom of our God.

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