2nd Sunday of Advent
Dcn Tony Van Vuuren.
John the Baptist was the last of the great line of prophets, and in fact Israel’s biggest hit as a prophet since Elijah, the prophet who called down fire from heaven nine centuries earlier. So what drew massive crowds to a finger pointing hermit dressed in animal skins?
It was his call for repentance and peace. When John told his listeners to turn away from sin, he offered them something in return. He offered them fresh hope with promises of restoration.
God wanted to do more than just pardon their offences. He wanted to open the floodgates of heaven and shower them with His Holy Spirit. By this Spirit, God wanted to bring His people to a new level of healing, reconciliation and peace.
Clearly, John the Baptist was a mighty man of God.
He was an ambassador called to prepare the way of the Lord by pointing the people to Jesus. But as charismatic as John must have been to attract the crowds that he did, he was still the #2 man, the supporting actor. He knew his role and fulfilled it well.
He did not get in the way of — the one who is coming after me, the thong of whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie — in fact John saw his role as simply making the paths straight for the Messiah.
The season of Advent is meant to be a time for us to hear John’s words and prepare our own hearts for the coming of Jesus as well. Each and every day, Jesus invites us to draw nearer to him so that we can develop and strengthen an intimate friendship with him and become holy, just as He is holy. What can hinder this intimacy?
Sin, fear, indifference to God, lack of compassion for others; these are some of the bigger obstacles that come to mind. And this is why John’s call to repentance is so important to us today; it isn’t just about this or that sin we have committed. Repentance involves total change.
We must change our ways of thinking and redirect our lives. He invites us to confess our sins. But that doesn’t merely earn God’s coming into our lives; instead repentance heightens our awareness, and sharpens our perception of what is about to happen.
John assures us that Christ is coming to begin something new in us and repentance clears the clutter of our lives so we are free to receive him when he does come. God wants to free us from everything that holds us back from surrendering to His love and His will.
Through repentance, He wants to lead us out of guilt, alienation, and shame into a state of joy and freedom. When we repent, the gates of heaven are opened to us, and our relationship with God is restored and deepened.
In repentance, we remove the veil of confusion and deception, which sin weaves in our hearts and minds, and we are enabled to see the beauty of God’s truth and goodness; and we catch a glimpse of God’s kingdom; a vision that fills our hearts with hope.
This Advent, let’s take the time to examine our lives in the light of God’s truth and His love. Let’s not avoid the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but embrace it for all the grace and power it offers to us.
Each day during Advent, a quiet review of our personal progress will help us to see where along the road we are. St Peter writes that righteousness and peace will dwell in the new heavens and the new earth of the Kingdom.
Are we a part of making that Kingdom happen? Because Advent is also a season which demands that we ask ourselves, as individuals and as a community, the question: ‘what in my life, in my family, in my community, in my country, needs to turn around if I am to recognize the Lord when he comes in this Christmas season – and when he comes at the end of my time?’
How will we account for the use of the life and the talents He has given us?
In the words of today’s psalm; “when the Lord comes, ‘justice shall march before him.”
How do we need to turn around our attitudes, turn our thinking upside down, and repent so that Justice and Peace can be the signs of the Lord’s coming?
The injustices in today’s world are numerous; seen both from a personal and societal viewpoint. Each list is long. So many of us are just so tired of all the broken-ness. We are waiting and longing for peace in our hearts, in our families, in our land, and in our World.
Perhaps all of us fit that description to some extent; one way or another.
Each of us needs the Lord’s personal intervention; but sometimes the wait seems endless. Who of us doesn’t sometimes feel that the Lord is in “pause” mode or has hit the “delete” button after hearing our pleas? Many of us become discouraged and often look elsewhere for answers, because we think the Lord has stamped “delay” on our requests.
The Change that we all need the most (and this is not in any way a political point) is not a different presence up here at Groote Schuur, or in parliament, but a different Presence (with a capital P) in our hearts.
This Advent we need to pray that it may begin with us.
St Francis of Assisi was asked by one of his brothers what he would do if he knew the Lord was coming tomorrow. He replied; “Nothing different. I will just keep hoeing my garden.” No changes necessary; he was ready for Jesus. Are we?
C.S. Lewis said; ‘There are only two kinds of people in the end; those who say to God, “Thy will be done.” And those to whom God says in the end “All right then have it your way!”