Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday of Advent - December 5, 2010, Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
Preparing to Meet Jesus
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Get ready! Jesus is coming. John exclaims, "Someone is coming who is mightier than I." And folks from all over the region responded to John's invitation to be baptized. Coming to John for baptism was the way to prepare for the spiritual renewal Jesus would give. John's baptism was a spiritual exercise in which these followers of John embraced to be better prepared for the coming of Jesus. After all, he is greater than John and will baptize not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Spiritual readiness is a prerequisite for having a deeper relationship with Jesus. I sometimes like asking folks, "How are you and Jesus getting along?" We could say that Advent asks us the same question. What is it that we do to embrace the true meaning of Christmas? We want to be able to sing with a greater understanding, "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity." The deeper we go in understanding the mission of the first coming of Christ, the more we will appreciate the necessity of Christ's second coming. The anthems for Christmas announce Jesus as love's pure light. At Christmas we will sing, "Radiant beams from thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace." When he comes again, he will descend with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He will come again with no less of love's pure light when he comes on the clouds of heaven accompanied by all the choirs of Angels. Angels sang at his first coming. They will sing again when our Lord's justice flourishes and the fulness of his peace is forever and forever.
John reminded the people of Israel of their calling. His message reminds us of ours. We are called to be a spiritual people; that is, we need to be filled with the Spirit. Not once, or twice, but always. We should always pray, "Holy Spirit, lead me." This is the Spirit Jesus gives us so that we will be like him; so that somehow in our face those dearest to us will see Jesus. In this holy season, let us fervently pray for the Spirit of kindness and gentleness. Together, as the people of God, let us give place to the Spirit, who will help us be in harmony with each other. Then will we glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one voice.
Listening to John the Baptist, we hear him preaching about an ancient prophecy. He proclaims that this prophecy is nearing fulfillment. Sharing with all who came into the wilderness to hear him, he invites them to prepare for the fulness of salvation. He pressed his audience to believe that they belonged to God and to each other. Relationship matters. It matters because we matter to God; we should matter to each other. We have within each of us an eternal space that belongs to God's Spirit. Isaiah describes God's Spirit in our lives as bringing seven gifts: Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. It is into the depth of our inner life in which the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirt restore in us the beauty of holiness.
In this Advent Sunday, we are aware of things that can mar the beauty of our soul and of those we love. We can suffocate the breath of God in us by unloving thoughts and unkind words. How special it is when we allow God's beautiful presence in us to refresh the people around us. Especially we want to let this season of Advent to help us grow in love of one another. It is this love that acknowledges the beauty of God in each other; this love can help someone we befriend to breathe deeply again the life that comes from the Holy Spirit.
How promising and inspiriting John's message was to the people of God. He inspired his followers to think deeply about God. John equipped his listeners to prepare themselves to meet God in the flesh. God was coming among them. He would have skin and a face. Soon John would say, "Behold the lamb of God." As we come to the Lord's Table this morning, again we will hear, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
That we might be properly prepared to receive him today, we will pray, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed."