Let’s worship today with these two short verses at the forefront of our praise. Our tears, one day, will reap a harvest, our cries, one day, will give way to bountiful provision.
Psalm 126:5-6 Common English Bible (CEB)
5 Let those who plant with tears
reap the harvest with joyful shouts.
6 Let those who go out,
crying and carrying their seed,
come home with joyful shouts,
carrying bales of grain!
- When you consider your deepest longing you identified these last two weeks, if this longing is fulfilled, how will it bring God’s Kingdom?
- What are the things you do that block or deny this longing from being fulfilled?
We’ll keep these two questions in mind as we journey through this third week. Return to them often and listen for God’s voice.
John 1:19-28 Common English Bible (CEB)
19 This is John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?”
20 John confessed (he didn’t deny but confessed), “I’m not the Christ.”
21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
John said, “I’m not.”
“Are you the prophet?”
John answered, “No.”
22 They asked, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John replied,
“I am a voice crying out in the wilderness,
Make the Lord’s path straight,[a]
just as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 Those sent by the Pharisees 25 asked, “Why do you baptize if you aren’t the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”
26 John answered, “I baptize with water. Someone greater stands among you, whom you don’t recognize. 27 He comes after me, but I’m not worthy to untie his sandal straps.?” 28 This encounter took place across the Jordan in Bethany where John was baptizing.
Someone greater stands among you
It’s sometimes jarring to intentionally walk through the Advent season identifying with those who suffer. During Advent, we remind ourselves our spiritual forefathers and foremothers found themselves very much without hope. During this time period of Jesus’ coming birth, darkness prevailed – there was no Christmas joy, no Black Friday, no Santa in every mall.
Advent is the quiet before the tornado. Advent is the pause between seeing the mushroom cloud and feeling the concussive blast. Advent is the boat ride before Omaha Beach.
The already-won war continues
Advent jerks us awake to the war around us. In a Roman world fueled by domination and iron-fisted rule, just as now, the hope of every Jew was for a more titanium-fisted ruler to crush the oppressors.
John the Baptist points to this coming King but interestingly points to His arrival through an act of ritual cleansing. There’s no gathering arms, no massing of resources, just baptism with water.
He says, “Someone greater stands among you, whom you don’t recognize.”
Winning the war
Today, we win the war and push back the darkness by recognizing this King that still stands among us.
We win the war against darkness by standing with Jesus.
During Advent, we intentionally partner our hearts with the most persecuted and beaten down among us: those caught in the evil web of human trafficking, the refugees streaming from war-torn, power-ruled territories, the starving, the widows, the discriminated against and judged.
We bring Advent when we awaken from our comfortable consumeristic stupor and hear the cries of the oppressed. We awaken when we notice those who feel they can’t go one more step, but still go on planting for the future with their tears. We become Advent when we walk with those who still sow seeds, even though they are uncertain they will live long enough to ever reap a harvest.
When we tear ourselves away from the sheen of commercial Christmas and embrace the gritty, real-life darkness in this world, we find Jesus standing there among us. And we recognize Him in an instant.
We bring Advent
We resist evil by standing firm in love. We see Jesus by trusting when we have every reason to fear. We stand with Jesus when we reach out to those who have walked away. We proclaim Advent when we invest and support others when they cut us off and cast us aside.
When we hear the cries of those persecuted voices in spite of all the Christmas muzak blaring, we get to listen to the coming Jesus footfalls. When we downsize and minimize when we are drowning in 40% off sales, we bring the hope of Advent.
Advent is praying to the Changeless One when there is nothing we can do to bring change. Advent is worshipping the Eternal One when we are tempted to idolize the temporary.
But first, He?ll want to baptize us to wash away all we’ve layered over our own refugee lives so we may see Him as a babe in a manger carrying peace and love and grace, not an iron fist.
- In what way can you identify with being without hope?
- How might you journey with others without hope?
- What needs to be washed away in order for you to see where Jesus is standing?
Is there a people group crying out for justice? How might you pray or help?
A Closing Prayer
How hard it is for me to celebrate Christmas but also yearn for you to come. In order for me to pray hard for your coming, for your rescuing of me and others, I have to see where rescuing needs to happen. Lord, help me to glance longer than an evening newscast at your suffering people around the world and in my city. Help me to see with your eyes. Break my heart, Lord. Make it so I cry out with the Psalmist for your rescue. Make this cry come from all that I am. Lord, I want to ache for your coming. Help me to move into the margins of places where no one goes, no matter the cost. I know I’ll find you there.
- This evening, continue again to worship through Psalm 80:3 as a personal prayer. Return to this often over this Advent season.
- Tomorrow morning, awaken, pray, and resolve to go where God is standing, no matter where that is.
Scriptures from Our Advent Series
Texts for First Advent Week: Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37; Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Texts for Second Advent Week: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; Mark 1:1-8
Texts for Third Advent Week: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; Luke 1:46b-55; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28