GNB 172

December 12, 2022 (The second day of the third week of Advent 2022)

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:

“John replied, ‘A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of Him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase; I must decrease.’” (John 3.27-30)

TODAY’S REFLECTION:

The God who dwells within us makes us His people!

The God who dwells within us reveals Himself in Word and Action!

The God who dwells within us will not forsake His Word of Promise!

What powerful words were uttered by John the Baptizer. There is little wonder why so many came out from Jerusalem and the surrounding region to find him in the wilderness and be baptized. Interestingly enough, John always found his resting place near water. The boy who would become king, David of Bethlehem, sang “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall never be in want. He leads me to green pastures by still waters and restores my soul.” We can never doubt the immersion into God’s word which John not only enjoyed but promoted. Yet, it was never for his own fame and fortune. In fact, John knew full well that he stood contrary to the “word of the day” which was reflected in the stagnant pools of the world, the world’s leadership and those who fostered their own worth and value as superior to all others. John understood the work and the word that was in front of him. And believers were not the only ones who followed him and sought him out. There were those who made no bones about being wolves and prowling lions ready to pounce on John at a moment’s notice. So, in the gathering places there were sheep, predators, the watchman (John, the temporary watchman) and the Great Shepherd. John was so filled with joy at the presence of each one of them. Yes, even the presence of his enemies was a source of joy; mitigated joy perhaps. And why? Again, I would lift up that song which David sang and call your attention to one of the promises in it: He has promised to anoint my head with oil and prepare a feast for me in the very presence of my enemies. It was a reality which David knew all to well. But, as David grew in the joy which such confidence elicits he knew the day would come when the presence of enemies would demand choices to be made. David learned valuable lessons from that song which was given to him. It would teach him how to battle the enemy, the giants of foreign nations and a domestic giant as well. It would even teach him what to do with himself when he became his own worst enemy. The result and consequence was a joy of finding the truth and deciding to live in it. That joy was to serve God and bring glory to His name. It was what John knew, too.

John the Baptizer’s greatest joy was when his cousin Jesus stepped into the water with him that day by the Jordan River. The usual crowd had appeared. Each person there was filled with expectation, praying for a miracle and willing to stake their life on the next decision they would make. It was true for each person whether they were for or against John. Their decision would posit them on the faith spectrum from “for God” on the one hand to “against God” on the other. Fortunately, there were more “for God” than not. And from the midst of the people came one man from Nazareth. His name was Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph and God. John knew Jesus as his cousin and as his colleague. In truth, John knew that Jesus was far more than that. Jesus was his Christ, the Savior of the world, the Lamb of God sent to save those who were lost. He would put the enemy in the limelight of truth so they could be seen for who they were by their very own words and works. What joy it brought John to see Jesus approach him in the still waters of the Jordan. In one instance, John may have entertained the hope that Jesus would stir the waters and declare “My Kingdom has come, My will be done.” Instead, however, Jesus stirred the waters around John and requested that He, Jesus, be baptized by John. John’s joy turned to humility as he proclaimed “I am not worthy to do such a thing. I am not even worthy enough to untie your sandals and wash your feet. It is I who should be baptized by you.” Jesus replied, “It is fitting for us to do this thing as it fulfills the call for all to righteousness.” And in that moment, John’s joy was restored. His place in the course of spiritual history was validated. Shortly thereafter John would declare “I must decrease so that He will increase. There is another who comes after me who is greater. Behold the Lamb of God who is in the midst of you but you refuse to recognize.” Ah, yes, we have heard of “the boy who would become king” but now we are introduced to “the lamb would become the Shepherd.”

What is our greatest joy at Christmas? Is it family gathering in festive celebration sharing gifts, laughter, food and entertainment? Is it the lights, the chill in the air (for those who get that), the decorations and old familiar carols as they play? Or is it the opportunity to change our focus in life away from ourselves and put it on “Behold, the Lamb of God, born in Bethlehem, adored by shepherds who left their flocks at night to come into the light of angelic proclamation hearing for unto you is born this day in Bethlehem, the city of David, a Savior whom you will recognize as a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths asleep in a manger”. Now our joy can be complete when we share our hope which is immersed in the deep waters of faith to fulfill all righteousness? Is it a joy that we are willing to stand by, declare boldly and even put our lives on the line for as we stand with God in the hope of converting the enemy who has gathered around us while a banquet is set before us by God Himself, Immanuel? Isn’t this what we should want for every Christmas? And for every person at Christmas? Isn’t this the true reason for this season? It is not just about celebrating the birth of Jesus. It is about celebrating our birth; baptized by water and the spirit knowing we are being welcomed into the House of the Lord forever with nothing to offer our Heavenly Host but our very own lives. To exchange our unworthiness for His which He desires to give us freely, willingly, lovingly for the glory of His Father and ours.

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Father, what joy fills our hearts and lives when we remember that You have found us worthy enough to receive the gift of Your Son who has laid down His life as an atonement for our own to fulfill the call to all righteousness. We commit ourselves to sharing this good news which is for all people regardless of where they may be on the wide spectrum of life. The gospel shall be the greatest gift we share this season. AMEN.

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