12/4/11, 2nd Sunday of Advent

The Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 40:1-5 & 9-11;  2 Peter 3:8-14;  Mark 1:1-8

     As you know, the Season of Advent has four Sundays.  Each Sunday has a particular theme. The first, which was last week, was the Sunday of HOPE.  Isaiah the prophet cries out to heaven for the people,  “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you...”

     Today is the Sunday of LOVE.  Again the Prophet speaks, this time for God.  “Comfort.  Give comfort to my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem...  Here is your God!  ...his reward with him, his recompense before him.  Like a shepherd, God feeds her flock.  In her arms she gathers the lambs.  God carries them in his bosom, and leads the ewes with care.”

     Next week is the Sunday of JOY.  And the final Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of PEACE

     Advent is also characterized by another theme.  Sandi made mention of it last Sunday -- namely the Three Incarnations of Christ:

  • 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, the First Incarnation happened when  God came to us in human flesh with the birth of Jesus.
  • The Second Incarnation, is happening now.  This is described in 1 Colossians:  We look at the Son and see the God who cannot be seen.  We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created.  For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels--everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.  He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment.  And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.  He was supreme in the beginning and--leading the resurrection parade--he is supreme in the end.  From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, above everyone.  So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding.  Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe--people and things, animals and atoms--get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of him.
  • Finally, the Third Incarnation will happen at the end of time, Christ will come again in glory, with his angels and all the saints, bringing with him a New Heaven and a New Earth. 

      In today’s second reading, St. Peter introduces us to yet another Advent theme -- WAITING.  He says that, “...with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.”   It was nearly 800 years between the time when Isaiah cried out for God to, “...rend the heavens and come down,”  and the time when Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem.  St. Peter goes on to say that God is not delaying the fulfillment of his promises.  He is being patient with us not wishing that any of us should perish.  God is waiting for us to get our ducks lined up.

     During Advent the readings tell us some of the things we should be doing while we wait. We are to be watchful, alert, attentive, and as Peter says today, we should come to repentance, conducting ourselves in holiness and devotion, refraining from every kind of evil.

     Waiting can actually be a holy devotion.  We can wait for others, practicing patience for them as God does.  In prayer, we can bring our pleas and supplications to God, and then sit wordlessly, attentively, patiently for awhile, listening to the sweet, God-filled silence.

     And finally, another theme during Advent, particularly in the Lectionary readings, we read again the writings of the prophets of old, especially the writings of Isaiah.  No doubt this is because he was one of the greatest, most prolific of all the prophets.  Also, Isaiah wrote and spoke eloquently of the anticipation and the coming of the Messiah.

     Some of the prophets were willing; some were unwilling  (Jonah ran away and got swallowed by a whale, and Habbakuk was so resistant that an angel had to pick him up by the hair on his head and carry him to the lion’s den);  some were eloquent;  some were poets;  one was an ass, as the bible calls it; I personally knew a prophet who was a tree;  many were treated poorly. But the one thing they all had in common was that they were inspired  and commissioned by the Holy Spirit to speak with the voice of God. Their words were passionate and powerful.  When the prophets spoke things happened.

     By virtue of the fact that we all share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal life of the risen Christ, and because the law and word of God are carved into our hearts, any one of us may be called to exercise a gift of prophesy at one time or another.  We may be asked to bring comfort, or to speak of hope, or love, or joy, or peace to the people.  We may be compelled by conscience to cry out for justice, or to confront evildoers.  For the sake of others, we may be called to demonstrate courage.  God may have some words for us too.  So,we are also obliged to be silent at times and receive words spoken by others for our own virtue, edification and correction.

     2000 years ago the angel Gabriel appeared before a young Jewish woman named Mary, and he said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”  He went on to say, “Fear not, Mary, for you have found grace with God.  Behold, you shall conceive in your womb and shall bring forth a son.  You shall call his name Jesus.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High...”  Mary did not understand.  Not only was she being addressed in a most astonishing way by an angel of God, but she had taken a vow of virginity and did not know how this could possibly happen.  Then Gabriel said, “The Holy Ghost will come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you.  And therefore, the Holy one which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.”

     One day, when our long wait is over, we will raise our eyes to the horizon, and in the distance we will see Christ coming in all his Glory.  Overflowing with joy we will raise our voices in unison with all of the angels, and with the great throng of saints.  Together we will all shout, “Here I am!  Come Lord Jesus!  Come quickly!’

by Marcia Lee