There is something blowing in the wind. The breath of God is announcing a
coming event which is to rearrange or “un-disarrange” what has become usual.
It is a time in nature when the sun’s movements change how we look
at things. We may have gotten accustomed to the warmth of summer and fall.
In other segments of the world you may be putting away heavy clothing for
We are invited to pray in and with the wind or breath of change during these
Advent days. We are moved by the Spirit of God to keep growing, changing,
advancing and becoming more of what God originally created us all to be.
We pray with the sense that the way things are in us, in our world, do not
have to be as angular or hostile, or alienating as they are presently. We
pray to sense the Breath of God softening us and yet embolding us. We pray
with the real question for each of us about whether the coming of Jesus is
a basic comfort or discomfort.
Our ears are washed by a more familiar reading from the Hebrew Scriptures
for this Second Sunday of Advent. It is a definite poetic-prophessy
of the character of the awaited-for Messiah and the rearranging his coming
will secure. It begins with his coming from the Davidic family tree
or bush. He will spring from the royal root of God’s chosen leading family.
He shall be surrounded by the spirit which embraced the traditional
religious leaders of Jewish history. He will have the wisdom of his
ancestors Solomon and David. He will have the fear of the Lord which allowed
Moses to trust God. In truth the Messiah will fit into the well-known
pattern of the great leaders of Israel’s past.
This new and longed-for blessed man will have the spirit of the Judges of
Jewish history, but will judge more by God’s spirit than mere human evidence.
He will be dressed in the clothing of Justice, faithfulness, and sensitivity
for the poor.
The most familiar verses conclude the poem. This Messiah will reverse the
accustomed ways in the animal world. Natural enemies will no longer fear
their natural rivals. Eden’s curse of hostility and fear will be dissolved.
The “little child” and the “baby” will join in familial interchange with
the animals, because of their innocence. This rearranging of the old will
take place in the “glorious” dwelling offered to the earth by its Creator.
The dwelling will be the universal embrace of the Messiah offered to the
Jews and through them to all others known as the “gentiles.” The usual dwelling
of shame and guilt resulting from the fracturing in the Garden of Eden will
be refashioned, replanted, reoffered in the bestowing of innocence once more
through the same breath/spirit which once gardened the earth.
The drama of Matthew’s Gospel intensifies with the opening verses we hear
for this Second Sunday of Advent. John the Baptist comes on stage and his
role is to begin rearranging the religious scenery. The scribes and Pharisees
soon join him representing the old accustomed religious furniture. While
many of those who have been listening to John’s call to recover their faith
traditions and are being baptized, John has hard words for the pretenders.
The Pharisees are religious observers and this is meant in two ways. Mainly,
they observe how others are keeping clean by keeping externally comformative
to the teachings of the same Pharisees. John’s words to them are directed
not so much to their coming out into the desert to be baptized, but that
he knows the cleansing waters will be only a skin-deep observance. What John
is announcing is that the ax is being laid against the roots of unfruitful
religious observatism. He is calling out for a baptism leading to the works
of original innocence. He proclaims that one is coming who will gather the
true fruit of his garden and the unfruitful will be burned away. The scribes
and Pharisees know well that John is denouncing religious spectatorism and
calling for true participation in the recovery of God’s bountiful garden.
It is three weeks before Christmas and decorations are beginning to appear.
I was recalling the time that my father decided to position our Christmas
tree in a different place in our living room. We had to have, (he had to
have) the tallest tree possible for our house. Generally it was as round
above as below. Well this called for much moving of chairs, lamps and tables
to accommodate my father’s designs.
It seemed strange to have the tree in an unfamiliar location, but who’s to
argue with the “Un-trimmed Trimmer.” We also had a chubby “Weiner Dog” who
had his own ways around our house. One day he began nibbling at something
hanging on a lower branch and before it was all over, yup, it was all over
the living room. We figured that Nick didn’t like the rearranging designed
by Santa’s helper and my mother seemed to agree with Nick. The reassembled
tree and decorations were re-postured in the usual corner to Nick’s satisfaction
John announced that Jesus was coming to set things back right. His teachings
would invite His hearers to evaluate their personal interior and where they
had placed things in their ways of life. Jesus’ teachings are not to be observed;
they are offered to us for our personal participation in His garden where
there will be no need for separation, violence and fear.
Change, rearranging on the external level is hard enough, but Jesus is inviting
us for more interior replacementing. We have our own ways and while we are
decorating our homes inside and out, we are reminded that interiorly we might
have to hear His call to de-decorate firstly and then allow His ways to re-model
our spiritual homes. It is from our rearranged interiors that God’s fruitfulness
will decorate God’s house, our world.
“Come Lord Jesus.”