Advent Reflections: Celebrating Him, not ourselves

Michelle Quach

By Michelle Quach

Dec 11, 2018

Michelle Quach is a 2nd-year MDIV Pioneer student on a leave of absence, taking care of her 6-week old son. Prior to being called to seminary, Michelle had a career in marketing and strategic management. Below is her reflection for the third week of Advent on the theme of joy.

 

Passage for reflection: Luke 3: 7-18

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

(NRSV)

***

Celebrating Him, not ourselves

At the end of the year, people find a variety of reasons to enter a period of celebration. Churches try cutting through the noise in claiming to have the best and original reason for the season. Their message is typically presented as a warm hospitable invitation, far from the lines of “You snake! Who told you to come here?” Yet this was how John the Baptist extended the “good news” to those coming to him. Perhaps more shocking than John’s greeting was the people’s response. Instead of taking offence, they remained attentive and faced the honest truth in John’s difficult words. They were a broken people who deserved God’s wrath. Aware of their neediness for salvation and filled with desire for a saviour, they earnestly asked, “What should we do?”

It is a stark contrast to our time and culture of “do what is right for you,” where faith is purposed for self-validation, not conviction. John’s sobering words that “God is able to raise up children to Abraham from stones” remind us to avoid whimsically celebrating ourselves.

The joy we have is in God, who fulfilled His promise in John’s words to send us the Messiah who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit. The joy we have is in our Lord, who will return to personally gather all who repent in His name. The joy we have is in the Holy Spirit, who gives us power to live in accordance with these truths.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for the joy in your Son, which we have by the power of the Holy Spirit. May there be waves of revival around the world where people repent and bear fruit in keeping with your will for humanity, thereby spreading the joy of living under Jesus’ lordship. Amen.

 

 

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