Preparing for Sunday anticipating this day.The Second Sunday of Advent
Psalms 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Accidents happen, usually as a result of neglect, inattentiveness, or reckless behavior. Christ’s birth was not an accident, but a result of careful attentive courtship by a loving God.
How Christmas is celebrated can be accidental; we can just kind of bump into it, as one might jostle another person in a crowd. We can bump into the celebration of the birth of Jesus through recklessly, neglectfully crashing through these days of Advent. We can tramp through these days as one might thrash through the undergrowth of a forest. Merely by accident, we might come out onto a road or into a clearing. Accidents happen, but celebrations take time to prepare.
This Second Sunday of preparation offers us some readings which can snag our attention. We hear firstly from the prophet Isaiah who has much to say about the fantastic results which will occur upon the coming of the Messiah. Things will be different around here!
The One Who is to come will have a different style of governing or using His strength. The unusual will be the usual then. He will judge, not by how things seem, nor by what is whispered, but by a wisdom that is of God. The justice which He will triumph will not be based on the evaluation of evidence, but more a reflection of how God sees the needs of the poor and afflicted. Since the “great dismissal” resulting from the “great disobedience” in Genesis, there has been the separation, fear, and alienation within the family of nature. The unusual will become normal on that great day when natural enemies will graze and rest and play all together.
The effect on earth will also extend to us. There will be a sense that the earth is the glorious dwelling place of God and there will be no harm or ruin for we will sense the presence of God and reverence God’s holiness around us, within us and among us. John the Baptist appears preaching so that there will be no accidents. Jesus is not to be bumped into, but truly met. The preparation ritual is John’s baptizing those who have come to be cleansed from their sins. John notices that some “accidental tourists,” the Pharisees and Sadducees, have arrived, not for encounter, but for judging. Before they are to meet Jesus, they are warned that their roots are being readied for the destroyers ax. When Jesus comes on the scene, then things are really going to be different! “Not by appearance shall he judge....” John declares himself to be the one who prepares the way for people to deliberately, intentionally be prepared to meet the One Whose fire purifies and separates the real from the pretense. John warns the Pharisees that they are heading for an accident by not being prepared to be called, challenged, and taught by Jesus. The Messiah, the Christ is sent to rearrange nature including human nature so that sincerity and frailty, sin and forgiveness, struggle and holiness can play gracefully within this earthly family.
Advent can prevent an annual sadness. It is a time to “get real” as our students say. Getting real means not pretending that Christmas is for children. The birth of Jesus is so real that we can find it hard to face it so we turn it over, reduce the light, prop it up and allow the kids to cheer us up or the gifts to replace the Gift. What is real is our truth and our need to be comforted as we grow into it. Holiness and humanity are similar to the calf and lion browsing together. The birth of Jesus is not the one central thing for which we prepare.
What John the Baptist was preaching was not a birth that was going to happen, but a new way of living, which was the central intent of the “Birthing God.” God’s meeting with us in our humanity is eternally intentional and no accident. We prepare not for Christmas, but for an intentional relationship which God constantly initiates and to which we can respond. It is this response that John calls for from his listeners as well as from us.
“Justice shall flourish in His time, and fullness of peace for ever.” Psalm 72
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