|The Third Sunday of Advent
The President of our country visited our city last week and for most citizens it was a joyous event. For some the joy was that he finally came to our state and for others their joy was that he was here only for a few hours. No matter, there was a bit of excitement that we had a real important person visiting us, we are not so unimportant after all. We were remembered and for a while, he was in our midst and then he was gone.
Today’s First Reading is full of the theme of Zion’s being remembered and made important for the Lord is in Her midst and the Lord will sing over Her and the Lord will rejoice because of Her.
Now the President came to Omaha and Nebraska for no advancement politically. We didn’t vote for him as a state nor his party’s candidate in our recent national election. We were not getting paid back or rewarded. He just came because we were the only state he hadn’t visited during his eight years as our leader. In a sense, he tipped his hat, blew us a kiss and then blew back to Washington.
Jerusalem and Israel are visited by God not because She had been voting for God recently. Israel had had a history of voting for other gods and had been exiled for Her lack of loyal patronage. God continues faithfully to love Zion in Her disloyalty. Unlike our President, who came, saw and left, God, through the prophet Zephaniah, announces that like a mighty warrior, the Lord is in the midst of Israel and there is no need to fear their being abandoned any more.
In today’s Second Reading, we hear Paul encouraging his community to a peace that surpasses our understanding, because the “Lord is near.” We can rejoice, because Jesus has fulfilled the promise of God to come, see and lovingly conquer, and not kiss us good bye.
“Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the People.” These words end today’s Gospel. John has been telling the crowds of the coming of their savior. He himself is only the advance man, not the main person Whose coming he foretells. The coming will bring about order and justice. The crowds, including tax collectors and soldiers, ask John what the “coming” would ask of them. John is very specific in his replies. Simply, they are to act with justice and charity. “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. Whoever has food should do likewise.” To his hearers, these do not sound like good news. He reminds them that the One Who is coming is similar to a gatherer of grain and who has a fan, which by blowing separates the good healthy grain from the throwaway chaff. By doing the deeds of love and justice, John's hearers are promised to be gathered into God's barn.
John is putting his listeners into a tension. The tax collectors have to stop cheating, the soldiers have to stop extorting and stop falsely accusing people. Good news for them would be ways to do more of these practices, but John tells them that the One Who is coming will baptize them with “the Holy Spirit and fire.” Perhaps the “good news” for them now is that they wouldn’t have to cheat, steal and bully, because they would somehow understand God’s love for them.
The “Coming-One” is, of course, already in our midst. Advent is our coming more and more into His ways. Charity and justice are still incomplete in our hearts and lands. The joy of our lives is not that He finds us complete and most welcoming to Him, but that He has not kissed us good bye and gone back home. He loves us the way He finds us and is in our midst to bring about His total family.
Most of us are glad, we do rejoice that He has come. There are others who are glad he has gone away, left us to our unfamily ways. Our joy is not that we are ready for His arrival, but that He is arriving to stay no matter our condition of readiness.
We too have voted for other gods, other means of being saved. It is to us and within us, that He comes to sing for joy that we just might give Him a listen during our few days of His advent and our lives.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”
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