Midrand Congregation has yet another new member Caydene Jade Carelse who was born on 4 December 2015.
And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them about John the Baptist. — Matthew 17: 10–13
Advent confronts us with the question of how we accept Christ.
After the transfiguration of Jesus, the disciples asked Him questions associated with the promises of the prophet Malachi. Centuries before, he had announced that Elijah would be sent before the promised Messiah was to appear (Malachi 4:5–6). It was for this reason that the returning Elijah was expected before the appearing of the Messiah. But because Elijah had not yet come, Jesus could not have been the promised Messiah in the eyes of the scribes. How did Jesus resolve this contradiction?
The way-preparer of the Messiah
In our Bible text, Jesus responds to the question of the disciples by saying that the promise would indeed be fulfilled and that the returning Elijah would “restore all things”, which meant that he would induce the people of Israel to return to God. Then Jesus makes it clear that the sending of Elijah had already occurred in the activity of John the Baptist. In other words, John the Baptist is this expected Elijah (Matthew 11:14). He has assumed Elijah’s commission and calls upon the people to repent and return to God. John the Baptist is the way-preparer of the Messiah of whom Malachi speaks.
“… a people prepared for the Lord”
When the birth of John the Baptist was announced, the angel promised, “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1: 17).
Today the focus is on preparing the bride of Christ. At the promised return of Christ, His people—that is to say, His bride—are to be prepared. The Apostle ministry has been occupied anew in order to gather and prepare the bride of Christ.
Those who are prepared for the return of Jesus Christ are those who:
- Accept the Apostles sent by the Lord today, believe in the word of God proclaimed by them, and accept the sacraments.
- Allow themselves to be strengthened by the spirit and power of Elijah, which means that, like Elijah, they continue to trust and obey God, and believe in the promises of God without ceasing (1 Kings 18: 43–44).
- Recognise their weaknesses and sinfulness in the light of the Holy Spirit and come to the wisdom of the just through the saving activity of God.
Being a way-preparer for others
Over this Advent season, let us occupy ourselves intensively with the gospel, with the Christ who has come into the world and who will come again, and let us act accordingly. This also includes professing the return of Christ and telling other people that we are being prepared for this event by the Apostles.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on Sunday, 06 December 2015 at Midrand Congregation.
At Christmas, Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Saviour and Deliverer. In many Christmas songs, we sing of Him as the Saviour of the world:
“Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates! Behold, the King of glory waits. The King of kings is drawing near. The Saviour of the world is here.”
“Saviour of the world” means “Saviour of all mankind.” He is my Saviour and He is your Saviour. He is my Redeemer and your Redeemer. He is my Benefactor, and the Benefactor of my neighbour. Your Saviour is also the Saviour of that other person who is completely different from you—the one who does not behave as you do, who has a lifestyle that is completely foreign to you, who advocates opinions with which you do not agree in the slightest. But the mere fact that the other person is different from you does not mean that he is further removed from God! Our Lord and Saviour does not want our neighbour to become as we are. Rather He wants all of us to become as He is!
Of course, none of this is staggeringly new. But if we really take the message of Christmas seriously, we cannot help but accept our neighbour—and not only because everyone is good and kind to each other at Christmas, but rather because the Saviour of the world desires to grant His peace and salvation as much to my neighbour as to me.
Indeed, a joyful message for the whole world!
* Food for thought from a divine service by the Chief Apostle
The theme series on Expectation, which already began on the first Sunday of Advent, is continued in December with the following three focal points:
- The way-preparer
- The nature of the Saviour
- The King comes
Expectation is most often associated with preparation. For example, one might prepare for a celebration, a visitor, or even a test. As officiants we prepare ourselves for a divine service, but we should also do this as listeners. This preparation will always relate to the focal point of the upcoming event. So let us also focus on the birth of Jesus and its effects as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas.
On the second Sunday of Advent we are called upon to prepare ourselves for the upcoming events of Christmas. Indeed, we are to make use of the time of Advent in order to occupy ourselves with the coming of Jesus to this earth, as well as His imminent return. In addition, we are to become way-preparers for others in order to profess the Lord, who has come and who will come again. How do we treat the people around us who do not yet know the Lord or do not know Him anymore? Will we have the courage to share our anticipation of the feast of Christ’s birth with them?
On the third Sunday of Advent we deepen our expectation by visualizing the nature of our Lord. His exemplary activity was already foretold by Isaiah, who spoke of the righteousness of the One who was to come. The remarks concerning this divine service are to create awareness about the tremendous grace with which the Lord treats us human beings, be it in the past, present, or future. The more we become aware of the nature of Jesus Christ, the closer we will come to His way of thinking, and the closer we will come to Him in our service to Him.
The focal point of the divine service on the fourth Sunday of Advent is “The King comes”. His love for us and our love for Him are now the focus shortly before Christmas. We also become credible witnesses of our love for Him when we prove our love for our neighbour through our deeds—on the basis of love and not calculation!
In so doing we already practise that which we will continue as a royal priesthood in the kingdom of peace, namely to profess the Lord and proclaim the gospel credibly!
The three aforementioned focal points build upon one another. Before occupying ourselves with the birth of Jesus we turn our attention to the exemplary activity of Jesus and His infinite love. The focal points are each seen from a historical and present-day perspective, but also refer to the future, namely our eternal fellowship with God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We conclude the year with worship and bow down before the hand of God in awareness of His omnipotence. Elements of our worship that should come to expression include our profession of the Lord, humbleness before Him, gratitude for all of His blessings, and ultimately also trust in Him.
We have so much reason to be thankful to God for all we have received over the past year: we have benefitted from His grace, His protection, and the continued activity of His Spirit.