THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Nigerian names, and especially Ibo names, generally have a meaning; meanings that tell a story, describe a situation, make a statement, state an intention, or even declare a wish. The name of my friend is “Akujobi” (the one who has taken the anger away). He was named “Akujobi” because his parents experienced great opposition to their marriage from both of their families. They were, by all intents and purposes, forbidden to marry. But, because they were so much in love with each other, they defiled the family opinions and got married, which, for all intents and purposes, ostracized them from their families for many years. His mother eventually took in and he came into the world. With their grandchild in the picture, the walls of racial divide crumbled and the grandparents spoke to themselves. So, his parents named him “Akujobi”—“the one who broke down the walls of hostility and took away the anger.” Reflecting on this, it dawned on me that there is no better name for Jesus Christ than “Akujobi I—the Reconciler in-Chief”— since He is the one who came to reconcile us with the Father and freed us from the bondage of the evil one.
This Sunday is called “Rejoice Sunday” and so the readings encourage us to bask in spiritual joy, in worship and praise, and to glory in our God who has freed us from the bondage of sin and death. In the 1st reading, Zephaniah piled praise words upon another – sing, shout, rejoice, and exult. Why? Because God is now on our side and has taken away the judgment against us! The Lord of Lords is in our midst; we should never again be afraid. We should sing and rejoice and shout aloud in His praise. We should not be silent, rather, we should boast as loud as we can about God’s grace and goodness. He is on our side! Scripture says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Jesus, our King, did not come to condemn us; He came to save us from our sins. Therefore, we must let go of the humiliations of our past; we should not let past sins embarrass us any longer. We should reconcile with the Lord and move on.
On October 10, 2016, four buildings collapsed in Wenzhou, eastern China, killing 22 people, with five surviving. After working more than 12 hours, rescue workers discovered the final survivor in the rubble, Wu Ningxi, a three-year-old girl, wrapped tightly in the arms of her dead father. He had shielded her from the crushing weight of the building by using his own flesh and blood to prop up a life-saving space for his daughter. That is exactly what Jesus did for us. God’s judgment came crashing down on Jesus, who used his own flesh and blood to prop up a life-saving space for us!
In the gospel reading, people came to John the Baptist and asked him “What shall we do so that we can bask in the joy of what Christ has done to save us? John did not demand that they wear sackcloth and sit in ashes; he did not tell them to offer more sacrifices and do week-long fasting; he simply told them to work on the areas of their greatest weakness; to the public, he told them to overcome self-centeredness by sharing what they have with those in need; to the tax collectors, he told them to overcome their occupational temptation of collecting too much money from the people; to the soldiers, he told them to overcome the temptation of power by desisting from extortion; and to you and me, he said….
What would John the Baptist say to you if you were to ask him, “How about me? What situations in your life will he point to that pose the greatest threat to your spiritual joy?