Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
2 Peter 3:8-14
The Second Sunday of Advent draws our attention to and gives us a glimpse of the figure of John the Baptist. He is considered by many to be the last of the Old Testament prophets, for while he comes across as a bit quirky in the New Testament, he is doing nothing more than the prophets of old did, pointing a finger at the coming Messiah. But John the Baptist holds a very special place in salvation history, for not only could he speak of the coming of the Lord, but he would actually hold that Messiah, his cousin, in his arms as he poured the Jordan’s cleansing waters of baptism over him. John would continue to draw crowds to the Jordan River, trying to awaken within them a spirit of “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” that would enable them to recognize the Messiah who was already preaching in their midst.
The Baptist is a perfect Advent figure for us, for through God’s living word he continues to call us to a sense of repentance, to a humble awareness of our deep seated need for God’s forgiveness and mercy. John the Baptist possessed a keen understanding of the need for repentance, and he was never confused into thinking that he himself might be the Messiah. It is that humble awareness of our need for God’s mercy that is the foundation of our ability to look for and recognize the Messiah when he comes to us in the Ordinary events of each and every day, and when he comes to ask us for an accounting of our lives at the end of time. A genuine humility keeps us looking outward, keeps us searching for that which can truly fulfill our most fundamental needs. Pride clouds our vision and confuses us into thinking that we ourselves can satisfy those needs, and avarice deceives us into thinking that the things of this world can make us truly happy. Perhaps it was John the Baptist’s simple life which caused him to be in tune with the prophets of old and recognize the long-awaited Messiah in their midst.
For us this advent season is meant to be an opportunity to look more intently in our own world for the signs of God’s presence. Advent is not meant to bring on an amnesia which forgets that our God has, once and for all, broken into our world, for God made his dwelling in the midst of our broken humanity. He came into our world to pay the price of our salvation and to insure that we not perish. He came into our world to show us the way back to the father. It is why Jesus is the fulfillment of what Isaiah foretold, for he has truly brought us “comfort,” he has truly spoken “tenderly” to us and taught us how to live our lives. “Like a shepherd he feeds us,” gathering us like lambs, leading us with care. It is with humble gratitude during this advent season that we prepare with the witness of our lives for the coming of the Lord at Christmas and at the end of time. May our very lives be signs that God, Emmanuel, is truly with us. May our lives be lived in such a way that they truly bring others to come to know the love of the God who is at the center of this advent season, and who should be at the center of our lives.