Heaven is expensive while hell is cheap, 4th Sunday in Advent 2017

Friends, there is a certain phobia that accompanies winter season and darkness for many in living temperate countries.Like all phobias, winter phobias vary dramatically in their severity and the impact that they have on individual sufferers' lives.  Some people are afraid of the dark and can be said to suffer from 'darkness phobia'. While some welcome winter as a period of renewal with its longer nights, for a surprisingly large number of people, however, winter is a season filled with sadness, dread, and a longing for the arrival of spring. Some other even suffer from what is known today as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Nonetheless, it is of interest, that we celebrate on December 25 during the darkest time of the year, Jesus' birth into the world. In Sweden, about 8 percent of the population suffers from sedation, but another 11 percent are said to suffer from winter depression. It is sunshine that dispels the darkness. Therefore, there is a strong longing for the sun's light.  People use light therapy to reduce the negative effects of darkness in winter, advent lights placed on windows illuminate and increase the warmth of the house. Christmas light decorations lights up the winter darkness. This something many in Sweden like. As far back as the sixth century, historians described the seasons of joy and sorrow among the Scandinavians, caused by the constant summer light and its almost complete absence in the winter. Will the season of advent prepare us so that we are be lit with the birth of Christ? Darkness has always been attached with something sinister. Scripture reveals to us that the way that leads to Heaven is narrow while the way to hell is broad. To enter the broad way is cheap, it does not really cost anything.

Scripture allows us to read in many stories what happens when darkness is widespread, and people have lived in sin for quite some time. They start to think that's normal. Even those who are strong in their faith begin to stumble especially when surrounded by many non-believing family members. Each of us becomes vulnerable and tempted to break under the pressure of the unfaithfulness tempting us to live as they are in their infidelity and indifference to God and all things that concern God. The Bible's narratives are to strengthen us in our belief never to give up. This was what happened to the Jews in Egypt. Over time in Egypt, they forgot the great works of God in their lives. In fact, the time of evil is limited. God intervenes in his own time. When God decided to demonstrate his glory after Pharaoh's hardening of heart, Egypt's gods and powers were powerless (Exodus 12:12). The purpose of the ten plagues was not only to defeat the Egyptians but to wake Israel from its slumber. After hundreds of years in slavery, they had forgotten who they were and had accepted that all real powers were invested in humans. God's intervention was intended to free the people from attributing greatness to worldly powers. There is no power in other than Yahweh - "ein od milvado" (Deut 4:35). Salvation belongs to the Lord. Every bush is in fire with the Lord's glory, only those who take off their shoes see his glory.I have always revered and prayed for many in our society who have to suffer lot from family, relatives and friends because they have taken the gospel seriously in their lives.

Another biblical story lets us hear what happened when the Jews had lived under Greek culture for some time. Many wanted to exchange the gods of the Jews and customs with Greek gods and beliefs. During the second century BC, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian Greeks), which sought to force the Israelites to accept Greek culture and belief instead of mitzvah observation and faith in God. Against all odds, a small group of faithful Jews, led by Judah Makkaba, defeated one of the most powerful armies on earth, drove out the Greeks from the land, took back the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and rededicated it for the service of God. It seems that we have overthrown God's law and made our own laws higher than God's. The Bible is filled with stories of how the people were unreasonable and broke God's law. They were tormented for their sins.  The fact is that no one breaks the law. It is better said that one is broken by going against the law. Like them, we sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, we defy God's commandment and despise the plans of the Most High. We have forgotten our calling and resemble sheep without shepherd. In our foolishness we say there is no God.

­­­­­­The Lord gave King David peace from all his enemies. The conversation between King David and Nathan the prophet can open our eyes to the fact that God has his word and plan for each one. To understand, we need a listening ear and heart to experience God's hand in our lives. When Nathan heard David's plan to build a house for the Lord, he thought that was something desirable and worthy, but the Lord had another plan. He judged as a human would and sought not the will of God in the matter. The Lord wanted to make David's name the greatest name on earth. The Lord promised to build a house for David instead. Think about this. David wanted to build a house for the Lord. But God said no, and instead he would build a house for David. What love? When God blesses, our gratitude attracts more blessing from Him. If we open our hands and let go of what we have, God will fill our hands with much more. In addition, God promises that his kingdom will last forever. Here again we can learn something about God's plan. King David's castle and kingdom are no longer as it was in David's time, but it is present in a powerful way through Jesus who is of David's descent.

Advent invites us to be a blessing to fellow human beings. Seeing someone in the eye can be what makes the difference and gives Advent its meaning, to meet someone with respect. It can be the strength of living a little bit, daring a little bit. Sharing the word of God with someone during this time may save lives. Jesus meets all of us, especially those who live on the margins, those who are not heard, those who are often oppressed by the rulers and the rich. They must be seen and listened to and we all can do something. This begins with you and I being responsible for our lives, with all who are close to us and for each other, but also with all of society. Everything is connected. There is no end to the love we can share with ourselves. It sounds difficult, but it's easy to make a difference. Through your eyes, perhaps someone may feel that God really cares and then become one of us during this graceful season. We need to let go of ourselves and take a look at him who is coming. In addition, we need to stop discussing and analysing God and begin to practice faith in him (Heb. 11: 6). Then Advent will be truly a time to open ourselves for Christ to be born into our lives.

Advent’s time and the whole of Christian life call us to a new approach to time. As Christians, we must relate to time in a completely different way from people without faith. With faith in Christ, we experience time in a completely different way. There is a constant temptation in our day to forget about the eternal perspective of how we live, a temptation that attracts both believers and non-believers and lead many astray. Time is coming to us. We do not have to run into it. The Lord is the time, existence, nothing would exist without him. Our future is also advent - that is, God comes to us, an unbelievable event. See, I'll Come Soon "says Jesus (Rev 22:12). Maranatha, come Lord Jesus we pray during Advent. Our God, who is coming, has already come. When we say come, it is an obvious answer to his assurance that he will come. How bright would our heart be if we like Christmas lights to brighten our homes and streets and towns, let him who is the real light of the world come and have a living in us.

Jesus is the secret that has been revealed to us. The Story of the Angel Gabriel's visit to Mary relates to God's promise to King David. Angel Gabriel calls Jesus son of David and reveals that Jesus will sit on David's throne and rule over Jacob's house forever and his empire will never end. Nothing is impossible for God except for sin. By nature, God is the basis of goodness and he cannot will for his creation, what is contrary to goodness. From Zion he comes who will rule. Israel and Immanuel are his names. Those who hold out in these difficult times, will see that the Lord is with them. Let us see God in our Lord and Saviour. No one who patiently waits for will come to shame.

To know God by seeing him in Jesus Christ, we are given the opportunity for something that we, by our own power, are absolutely incapable of. Therefore, the answer to humanity's eternal and fervent longing is to see God. Moses had asked for this and received the answer: "No one can see God without dying." Philip prayed Christ the same thing and was told; "He who sees me has seen the Father," In Jesus, our longing is fulfilled. He is the perfect image of the Father, "a reflection of his glory." It is not cheap to acquire such a great treasure. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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