(Don’t miss the hymn at the close of this meditation!)
My adult children have made their travels plans. My house is decorated with the brightly lit tree in the living room and the various Christmas trinkets scattered around. It is a “most wonderful time of the year.” Next Sunday we will begin the season of Advent and remember the amazing, world changing Truth that God became flesh, a baby born to Mary, and we will know the joy of Christmas.
The Gospels tell us of an apocalyptic preacher who is very much a part of the Advent (From Latin, the word means “He is coming”) message. His message was anything but comforting! He looked beyond the role of Jesus as Savior to remind us that He is also the Judge. “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near … I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12, NIV)
John did not sing “Away in a manger” while remembering a baby surrounded by a holy glow, looking around at shepherds with a gentle smile. He saw a Man, full of the Spirit, come to shake things up, to call the world to repentance, and to renew the Kingdom reign of God among men.
Do you remember this part of Christmas? As much as we love to remember the Babe sent to save us from our sins, the greater message of Advent is that the Lord will return with justice.
On the back wall of the sanctuary in the church I am privileged to serve as pastor, there are large wooden letters that announce – MARANATHA! I wonder if even 1 in 10 of the congregants have a clue to the meaning of that word? It is an Aramaic word, found only once in the New Testament, in Paul’s writings to the Corinthians. In most modern translations the word is translated for understanding, but the KJV retains the ancient phrase. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” (1 Corinthians 16:22, KJV) Maranatha means “Our Lord comes.”
What a change has come over the Church since that building was built as a place of worship. Those who chose to put that word across that wall in 1979, had an awareness of the promise of the Second Coming. The hope of a New World, set right by the Holy King of Glory, gripped us with fervor, moved us to sacrifice, and compelled us to share the Good News of the Savior who sets those who trust in Him right with God, taking away all fear of judgment because He reconciles us to the Father.
Let’s return Maranatha to a place in our minds this Advent season. Even as we are enthralled with the song of the angels –“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14, NIV), we must remember the cry of the forerunner of Jesus who spoke of the Righteous Judge that calls all of us to repentance, renewal, and holiness. His message is not so warm and fuzzy, but it is the rest of the Story.
Our word from the Word today encourages us with the promise.
Lord, give us faith to believe and to receive. Amen.
“And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died. I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.
First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, NLT)
Maranatha! (Mar • a • na • tha) – Our Lord is coming!
(a beautiful Wesley hymn, follow the lyrics below as you listen, and worship!)
Lo He comes
With clouds descending
Once for favored sinners slain
Thousand thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of His train
God appears on earth to reign
Every eye shall then behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty
Those who set at naught and sold Him
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree
Deeply wailing deeply wailing
Shall the true Messiah see
Yea amen let all adore Thee
High on Thine eternal throne
Savior take the power and glory
Claim the kingdom for Thine own
O come quickly O come quickly
Hallelujah come Lord come
Come Lord come