Second Sunday of Advent
Cycle B, December 10, 2017
Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Psalm 85;
2 Peter 3: 8-14; Mark: 1: 1-8
"Become that finger!”
Do our lives point people toward Christ? Or do they turn them away from him because of the life we live?
The twentieth century Protestant theologian Karl Barth regarded John the Baptist as the prototype of Christian discipleship. From the time he was a young pastor, Barth kept a reproduction of a painting by Mattias Grunewald over his desk. On the left panel of the work, John, the beloved disciple, holds Mary, Jesus’ mother, as she looks in horror at the bloody, pierced body of her son on the cross. To the right, John the Baptist, in bare feet and camel’s hair cloak, holds a book in one hand and points the long, bony index finger of his other hand toward Jesus on the cross. When asked what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ, Barth would walk over to the painting, gesture toward the image of John the Baptist, and exclaim, “Become that finger!”
Do our lives point people toward Christ like the image of John the Baptist in the Grunewald painting? That’s exactly what Advent asks us to become, a finger that points others toward Christ, living lives that reflect the grace and love Jesus expressed through the life he lived, the teachings he shared, and the sacrifice he made for all humankind.
To be a prophet like John the Baptist we must begin by accepting God's vision of what the world can and should become, and then give ourselves totally to the work of pointing folks toward that vision of hope. Pointing them towards the coming of Christ.
In today's Gospel, John the Baptist appears preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. A kingdom that welcomes every heart and soul, and reveals the truth that lives can be transformed into visions of hope and possibility. And that same Good News John preached continues to be proclaimed by modern day prophets in our day and time. Prophets called to point others toward Christ, prophets like you and me.
Let us take up John’s Advent work: to straighten the crooked roads of our lives, to transform ‘deserts’ barren of love into places of welcome and reconciliation, to gather up the lost and forgotten, and to proclaim the coming of God’s Christ. Let’s become heralds like John as we go about our holiday preparations. May every act of kindness and generosity we extend this Christmas season mirror Christ’s presence in our hearts, and may the gifts and greetings and hospitality we extend proclaim the good news that God’s love for all humankind is about to dawn once again. Let us become that finger in the Grunewald painting, pointing others toward Christ whose birth we will soon celebrate.
Through simple acts of kindness and compassion, we give the world around us, especially those in need, a greater gift than money can ever buy. It's the same gift of hope that John the Baptist offered so many years ago; the proclamation that Christ the Lord is coming! It is not just the promise of these four weeks of Advent or even of Christmas itself, it is a promise fulfilled each day throughout the year. God's love, compassion and peace knows no season. Let our lives reflect that promise, let us become God’s expression of that hope, let us become that finger pointing others toward Christ.