Reflections for the Week of Sunday, December 17, 2017 Third of Advent

Gospel: John 1:6-8,19-28 tells of John the Baptist coming “to bear witness of  the Light that all might through Him believe,”and that he (John) is not worthy “to untie the thong of His sandal.”

Why did God become man? God (YHWH) saw that human beings were fallen and evil (Gen 6:5) and needed to be set straight so He made a covenant with Abraham to make of him and Sarah a nation (Israel) that would bless all the families of the earth (Gen 12:1-3). Israel is named after Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, whose name means “deceitful,” but was changed to Israel which means ‘strived with God’ (Gen 32:22).

The Old Testament tells the story of Israel, her coming to live in Egypt under Joseph, her being enslaved by Pharaoh, her being set free by YHWH through Moses and the Passover and the Exodus. She (Israel) wandered in the wilderness for forty years under the guidance and protection of YHWH and received the Torah (‘instruction’ or law) at Mt. Sinai while at the same time building a golden calf as an idol (Gen 32). Because of her idolatry, God almost abandoned her, but mercifully decided to continue with her. She finally arrived at Canaan which YHWH had sworn to give her. The story goes down hill from then on as she turns more and more to idols.

YHWH finally departs from the Temple and sends the Babylonians to conquer her in 586 BC. Though a second temple is built (516 BC, cf Haggai), God did not return to it in the Old Testament.  He promised to return but had not done so by the time of John the Baptist. Daniel 9 had prophesied that the first century was about the time He (YHWH ) should return and expectations were at a fever pitch of expectation among the Jews in Judea. Jesus appears as the incarnation of the Word, as YHWH finally returning after centuries of de facto exile of the people of Israel. Jesus forgives sins bypassing the Temple and its sacrifices and says He is the Lord of the Sabbath. He corrects the Torah (Mt 5-7) and dismisses the dietary laws saying it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles but what comes out of it (Mt 15:10-20). He returns to Jerusalem and purges the Temple and prophesies it will be destroyed within a generation (Mt 24, Mk 13). He is pointed out by John as the Lamb of God (Jn 1.:36) implying a new Passover to be followed by a new exodus from bondage. But the Babylonian exile had been due to the idolatry of Israel who, though returned from Babylon to Canaan, was still in de facto exile under the foreign domination of Rome. Before a new exodus from exile could occur, the sins (idolatry) that had led to exile had to be forgiven. Forgiveness of sins is one of the things that the cross was to accomplish as the sins of Israel under Caiaphas and Herod reached a climax in the crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah. The sins of the people were borne in the flesh of Jesus where they were condemned by God and atoned for in His people. Sin and death, being closely related (Gen 2:17) in the person of the satan, were defeated on the cross as proved by the resurrection of the Lord since death could not hold Him.

This is one of the things accomplished by the cross and one of the important reasons that God became man to fulfill the covenant promises made to Abraham by YHWH. These are things worthy of reflection as we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord to reveal God and to accomplish His purposes on earth as in heaven and so He can dwell in us.

Memory Verse: For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rm 8: 3,4).

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