The best news these days is the production of Covid vaccine. However, I heard from a recent news that even with the production of the vaccines, by April the number of deaths by Covid will rise to approximately 520,000. On Friday, the world Covid death count rose to 1.52 million. The causalities of the most tragic war of WWII (Sept. 1993 – Sept. 1945) was 29 million, including the victims of atomic bombings. American casualties were 420,000. So, the estimate of 520,000 Covid-related deaths by April 2021 is shocking. During the pandemic many insights were gained. And the most important one is that I am glad I know Jesus, and how previous life is.
Advent is a time of remembering the Christ who came and preparing for the Christ’s second coming. First Advent Sunday focuses on staying awake and waiting for the Last Day. Second Advent Sunday focuses on repentance in preparation for His return. Then, on the Third Advent Sunday, the joy of His expected return is expressed. Finally, on the Fourth Advent Sunday, the focus is on the news of Jesus’ birth and His love. Today is the Second Advent Sunday. The candle lit today is called ‘Bethlehem candle.’ It symbolizes the peace our Christ brings. It represents the hope of uniting with returning Christ. And in preparation, it compels us to examine our lives and sanctify ourselves. It is Sunday when our faith in Lord is restored. In the midst of chaos and anxiety in the world and the future, we trust in our Lord, the king of kings.
A few days ago, someone sent me a Katalk message. The person was very upset about her church. Although she believed that Jesus was in control of everything, thoughts about the future brought fears. She confessed how her faith was not as strong as she imagined. And she asked for prayers. I think there are many others who struggle to experience peace in their hearts. In the midst of pandemic, perhaps we should be grateful for having opportunities to examine the strengths of our faith in Jesus Christ. We are human beings, so it is natural to be fearful in the midst of crisis. However, if fears start to cause doubts and pessimism, then we need to deal with them right away with whatever are causing God’s children to feel that way.
Today’s text appears between the story of Jesus’ birth and the beginning of his public ministry. In today’s text, Joseph and Mary visited Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. The fact that they visited Jerusalem annually indicates that Joseph and Mary followed Jewish holidays and traditions very well. At the end of the Passover period, they headed back to home while the twelve-year-old Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. And the parents did not know until the next day that Jesus was not with them. When I read this story for the first time 32 years ago, I thought this was an odd story. How could parents become aware of Jesus’ absence a day later? These days, there are many Joseph and Mary in our time. They think they are accompanying Jesus when they are not.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” Jesus said he did not know those who even had power to drive out demons and they were recognized as prophets by people. Jesus added how they were evildoers. Those people thought they were accompanying the Lord, and they did not know that they weren’t. They also did not know what they were doing were evil.
Even today, may will think that they are in the company of Jesus, but they have drifted away from Jesus committing evil things. The prospect of Jesus saying ‘I do not know you’ when all along I thought I was in the company of Jesus gives chills on my spine.
Greek word for ‘company’ is ‘sunodia’. It means ‘company of travelers’ or ‘caravan’. In the Old Testament, accompanying appears in Genesis 5:21-24, mentioned how Enoch accompanied God. In Hebrew, “accompanying” is ‘halach,’’ which means ‘walking with’ or ‘walking together.’ There are two types of accompanying. One is a company of many people where people do not know other individuals very well. The other accompanying means walking and doing things together. Walking and doing together indicate that they are of one heart and mind. Accompanying with God was initiated by God. God desires to accompany human beings, so he came down to the world abandoning his heavenly throne. In order for the accompanying to happen, hearts must desire that. For example, God called out Abraham and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.” Verb form meaning of halach can be interpreted to mean, “You and I together in perfect unity do my works in life.” In relation to accompanying, Jesus mentioned in verse 49, “I had to be in my Father's house.” “Father’s house” can be interpreted to mean “My Father’s works.”
First, one must discern whether one is accompanying Jesus. One needs to see the manifestation of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, character, and community: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. One also needs to observe how some among the company might use godliness for selfish gain or whether there are internal conflicts. (1 Timothy 6:5 mentions how minds will be corrupted causing conflicts when truths are robbed.) And one must see that Lord’s works are active in life. Through good works and saving lives we witness to God’s love, life, and lights building up God’s kingdom. In Luke 6:9, on Sabbath, on Lord’s Day, Jesus himself did good deeds and saved lives, and demonstrated what it means to do good and save lives in verses 12 to 47.
Fortunately, Mary and Joseph became aware of Jesus’ absence in the company after one day of traveling. Then, they returned to Jerusalem. Finally, after three days, they reunited with Jesus and headed to Nazareth. It is Advent and repentance Sunday. Beloved church members, I trust that all of you are accompanying the Lord. However, in order to joyfully welcome the second coming Jesus, we must repent if we have not been accompanying the Lord. Joseph and Mary were God-fearing people who faithfully followed traditions, however when they relaxed, they travelled without Jesus. When people become spiritually conceited and sloppy in thinking that they are accompanying Jesus, they are very likely to leave Jesus behind (vv. 43-44).
Second, we must yearn to accompany the Lord. In Psalm 63, the writer calls out, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” The psalmist writes in Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” It is a yearning like a big thirst. It is like Joseph and Mary’s hearts frantically looking for Jesus once they became aware of Jesus’ absence.
Third, one must stay awake always. One must examine one’s heart with God’s word and strive to walk with the Lord while being awake every day (14:20; 15:4-9).
Two thousand years ago, Jesus came to this world and saved us from our sins and the power of death. One day, we will live in the world where Jesus rules. This is in-between time. Do not lose Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. If you become aware that you have left Jesus behind, repent and turn around. Daily, stand before God’s word and talk to Him in prayer. Please the Lord by doing good works of the Lord. Then, our fears will turn to joy when we meet the second coming Christ. And the Lord will welcome us joyfully.