Advent Daily Devotional by Prof. Michael Azar

December 6, 2017
"As Christmas draws closer and we prepare for the birth of this Messiah, we must regularly ask ourselves, 'Whom are we expecting?'"- Rev. Michael G. Azar, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Theology/Religious Studies

The Birth of the Messiah—Whom are we expecting?

By the time Jesus was born, Jews had for generations lived under the rule of the Roman Empire, and amid the oppression, many hoped that God would soon send a Messiah to free them. While the people differed as to what this Messiah might be, a telltale sign of his advent would at least be the waning of Roman influence in the Promised Land.

Needless to say, Jesus disappointed a lot of people. He brought no end to Rome and no tangible peace to the Land. Though many were expecting a Messiah, none—including his disciples—were quite expecting the one they got. In the honest words of one disciple, “We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Only slowly did Jesus’s immediate followers come to see that the purpose of God’s Messiah was “to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day” (Luke 24:26) and so free not from Romans but from the burden of sin. Once Jesus came and went, his contemporaries were therefore left with a question: Do we reexamine our expectations and accept Jesus as the Messiah, or do we hold to our expectations and continue to wait for another? A few chose the former; many chose the latter.

As Christmas draws closer and we prepare for the birth of this Messiah, we must regularly ask ourselves, “Whom are we expecting?” Are we expecting someone that God does not ultimately send?  Do we the short-tempered prefer a Jesus who did not suggest that murder and anger deserve similar punishment (Matt 5:21–22)?  Do those of us who are lustful prefer a Jesus who did not suggest that it was better to pluck out one’s eye than to lust (Matt 5:27–30)?  Do we the vengeful believe in a Jesus who did not say, “Love your enemies” (Matt 5:44)?  Do we the rich prefer a Jesus who did not say, “Sell all you have and give it to the poor” (Luke 18:22)? Will we, like many of Jesus’s first disciples, hold to our various expectations of what the Messiah should have been, or will we part with those expectations and joyfully recognize the birth of the Messiah whom God has sent?

Rev. Michael G. Azar, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Theology/Religious Studies

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