Second Sunday of Advent
Cycle A, December 8, 2019
Matthew 3: 1-12
By Rev. Jack R. Miller
On this second Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves on the banks of the River Jordan with John the Baptist. All four Gospel writers agree that there is no good news, no Gospel of Jesus, without John the Baptist. Jesus himself describes John as the greatest of prophets. John took his mission, which was to declare the coming of the Messiah, very seriously.
John feared no one, not even Herod or Herod’s wife, who in the end arranged to have John’s head. He was, however, totally devoted to the One for whom he came to prepare the way, saying to his followers, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Scholar’s point out that the Biblical understanding of the term “repent” is deeply shaped by the Jewish experience of exile. To repent, to return, is to follow the way prepared of the Lord that leads out of our separation and back into reconnection with the God who made us and loves us beyond our understanding.
To repent doesn’t mean to simply be sorry. In the New Testament, to repent means to begin seeing differently, to begin thinking differently, both of which lead to acting and living differently. To repent is to change, but not for the sake of change itself. Rather, when we change, we develop a new mindset, a new way of seeing, and we become aware that our actions are out of step with God’s dream for all creation.
And what is God’s dream for all creation? God’s dream is for the world to be a place where peace and justice, rather than fear and hatred, rule the day. God dreams for the world to be a place where we view each other with compassion and love each other as neighbors. God calls us to live this dream, not next year, not ten years from today, but right now.
Could it be that John the Baptist, our rugged nonconformist was not yelling with a tone of dread and doom, but with an equally intense voice filled with hope? What if we choose to hear John’s call not as a threat of impending condemnation, but as an invitation to embrace God’s dream?
God invites us all to dream for ourselves and our world something beyond what we can presently see, the suffering of migrants, the hopelessness of refugees, the homeless, the hungry, and those who have lost loved ones through acts of violence.
We, as children of God, need to heed the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness, the voice that reminds us of God’s dream. We must take the time to seek God’s vision for us and to ask, “What does God want us to be and to do?” How do we begin? We need to choose one, at least for now, just one element of our lives where we see the need for repentance and take advantage of the opportunity to change direction.
Following Paul’s counsel in our second reading (Romans 15:4-9), we who have caught a glimpse of God’s dream must now share that hope. Like John in our Gospel reading, we must strive to renew the hopes of a disillusioned and exhausted world. With practice, we can be like Isaiah (Isaiah 11: 1-10), who can see beyond the mess and dream of a world in which all are ready for the arrival of God.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Repent and embrace God’s Dream for us and for our world. This is our personal invitation to become the people God has created us to be. Let’s RSVP today.