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Archive for December, 2013

The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday, which means to rejoice.  The readings this week have been from the prophet Isaiah; these scripture passages encouraged the Israelites by describing the expected coming of the Savior.  We pause during the advent season of penance, and celebrate with joyful anticipation the blessings and grace the messiah will bring.  The early Church “saw Him as the morning star, the breaking dawn, our Light who comes” (from the Passionists). When he comes,Jesus will bring peace between nations and even between wild animals; greed and selfishness will end, and instead we truly will love our neighbor as ourselves.

Isaiah is rich with imagery of our deliverance “Then the eyes of the blind shall see, and the ears of the deaf be opened…The burning sand will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water…And the ransomed of the Lords shall return, and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning flee away.” (Isaiah 35)

Isaiah 61 continues with the promise that the long awaited messiah would “bring good news to the afflicted, bind up the brokenhearted, liberty to the captives, and comfort all who mourn.”  But by far my favorite verse is Isaiah 30:15 “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust shall be your strength.”  In verse 18 we are promised “….he shall rise to show you mercy…you shall no longer weep; He will be most gracious to you when you cry out; as soon as he hears he will answer you.  The Lord will give you bread in adversity and water in affliction.”  Can you imagine anything more reassuring than a God who will come come and comfort us in time of need; he will take away our tears, answer our prayers, and provide for all our needs.

Throughout scripture joy and strength are intertwined; in Nehemiah 8:10 we’re told “…today is holy to our Lord.  Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord is your strength.”  Advent mirrors the Jews experience in the time of Nehemiah;  the Israelites had been held captive for 70 years in Babylon.  During those years the Jews were unable to practice the requirements of their Jewish faith, and had no access to the book of the law.  Finally the captives were freed and allowed to return to Jerusalem, but what a price they had paid.  Only a few had vague memories of the Commandments and other ritual Judaic laws. First they rebuilt the Temple and surrounding protecting wall.  Then Ezra, the priest, brought out the book of the law, and before the entire assembly of men, women and children, he read from the book from daybreak till midday.  Ezra was a scribe and had been faithful to keeping alive the book of the Orthodox Jews Prepare For Sukkot Festivallaw.  As the crowd heard God’s words they started weeping in sorrow and repentance.  The word of God pierced their hearts and convicted them of their failure to follow His will.

But Ezra admonished them to be quiet and and declared the day a holy day, encouraging them to “eat and drink, and celebrate with great joy”, for now they knew the place of importance God should have in their lives, and they were excited to renew their faith and worship Him once again.  Then Ezra reminded them it was time to celebrate the week long Feast of Booths.   So the Israelites went out and made ‘booths’ or dwellings of olive or palm branches.  During the festival they lived in these booths as a reminder of the way God protected them during the forty years they wandered in the desert.  The temporary nature of the dwellings, or ‘booths’, symbolized their need to rely on God for their very sustenance, and was meant to be a time of rest and peace, similar to the rest on the sabbath.

This festival is a reminder of the stark contrast between the oppression and drudgery they experienced as slaves, and the triumph over sin and the restoration brought about by Jesus’ death on the cross.  The prophet Zechariah saw the Feast of Booths as a precursor of the day when “the Lord your God will come Christ the King in Artand all the holy ones with Him” .  “On that day,” the prophet explains, “there shall be neither cold nor frost.  And there shall be continuous day. . . not day or night, for at evening time there shall be light” (Zech. 14:5-7). 

During the week long festival, the people would reflect on the time when Christ would “return as king in all his glory and power” (Isaiah 66), returning us to the unity and harmony we first had with God, and which was fractured through original sin.  After Christ returns, Revelation 21 describes the kingdom of God as “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev 21:23).  

So let us joyfully wait for the ‘new and glorious morn’ when as in the words of the beautiful hymn “O Holy Night” “a weary world will rejoice” and “all oppression shall cease”.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Zh-yR0pbmU

 

Related Articles:
Advent, a Time of Penance and Doing! http://thepassionists.org/reflections/2013/12/01/advent-time-penance/

The Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) http://www.goodnewsaboutgod.com/studies/spiritual/home_study/feast_of_tabernacles.htm

and http://www.ucg.org/booklet/gods-holy-day-plan-promise-hope-all-mankind/feast-tabernacles-jesus-christ-reigns-over-all-e

Return of Christ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10307a.htm

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During advent we reflect on Jesus’ first coming; born as a tiny infant with the jesus glorifies the father | Mary, the mother of Jesus, on Jesus | Unsettled Christianityexpress purpose of dying to take away our sin.  Jesus became fully human so that we wouldn’t fear death.  As Saint Cyprian tells us “We ought never to forget, beloved, that we have renounced the world.  We are living here now as aliens and only for a time.  When the day of our homecoming puts an end to our exile, frees us from the bonds of the world, and restores us to paradise and to a kingdom, we should welcome it…we look upon paradise as our country, and a great crowd of our loved ones awaits us there, a countless throng of parents, brothers and children longs for us to join them…What joy both for them and for us to see one another and embrace!  O the delight of that heavenly kingdom where there is no fear of death! O the supreme and endless bliss of everlasting life!”

St. Paul proclaims in 1st Corin. 15:55 “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  The study note for this verse explains that “death, scorpion-like, is equipped with a sting, sin, by which it injects its poison.  Christ defeats sin, the cause of death.”

Because of sin, man lost eternal life and suffered death.  The only way we could be restored to everlasting life would be for Jesus to leave the splendor of heaven and become fully human; to be born and die, to break down the wall of separation that our sin had built and reconcile us to Himself.  But why did we have to suffer such a severe punishment as death, for a relatively minor act of disobedience?  Because Adam and Eve’s deliberate choice to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a willful rebellion against the will of God; they were seduced by the serpent who promised they would be “as gods”.

Expelled From the Garden. BIBLE SCRIPTURE: Genesis 3:24, "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."They lost everlasting life and their “eyes were opened, and they knew they were naked” (Gen. 3).  They suffered shame and fear because they lost their innocence; lust and passion for each other entered their hearts, and they felt the need to cover the parts of their body connected with the lust they suddenly experienced.  The other consequences of  ‘original sin’ was that woman would suffer the pain of childbearing, and in 1st Timothy 2:12, St. Paul explains  additionally “women shall not be allowed to teach authoritatively over men”.  Men were condemned to “toil and work hard all the days of your life”.

Through disobedience Adam and Eve shattered the close relationship and harmony they had experienced in the Garden of Eden.  Instead of a lush, verdant garden in paradise, they experienced hunger and thirst, physical pain and heartbreak, depression and anger, greed and violence.  Instead of a blissful, delightful sanctuary, the world became marred and corrupted by sin; yet advent reminds us that Jesus will come again to restore our inheritance with him in paradise.

So during this time of advent, let us pray the hopeful words to the beautiful hymn, “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns”

The King shall come when morning dawns, And light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills, And life to joy awakes.

The King shall come when morning dawns, And light and beauty brings:
Hail, Christ the Lord! Thy people pray, Come quickly, King of kings.

Related articles:

Why Did God Impose the Penalty of Death http://creation.com/why-did-god-impose-the-death-penalty-for-sin

Emmanuel, God with Us http://www.orlutheran.com/html/immanuel.html

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