Second Sunday of Advent
December 10, 2023 — Year B
Readings: Is 40:1-5, 9-11 / Ps 85 / 2 Pt 3:8-14 / Mk 1:1-8
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
In the gentle glow of the second Advent candle, we find ourselves journeying through the scriptures of the Second Sunday of Advent. The readings, like a compass, guide us through the wilderness of anticipation, urging us to prepare the way for the Lord. The image of John the Baptist emerges prominently – a voice crying out in the wilderness, urging us to make straight the path for the arrival of the Messiah. It is a powerful metaphor, reminding us that the preparation for Christ’s coming often occurs in the rugged terrains of our lives, the places we may overlook or avoid.
A story is told about a school principal who called the house of one of his teachers to find out why he was not at school. He was greeted by a small child who whispered, “Hello?”
“Is your daddy home?” asked the principal.
“Yes,” answered the whispering child.
“May I talk with him?” the man asked.
“No,” replied the small voice.
“Is your mommy there?” he asked.
“Yes,” came the answer.
“May I talk with her?”
Again, the small voice whispered, “No.”
“All right,” said the man. “Is there anyone there besides you?”
“Yes,” whispered the child, “a policeman.”
“A policeman? Well, may I speak with the policeman?”
“No, he’s busy,” whispered the child.
“Busy doing what?” asked the principal.
“Talking to daddy and mommy and the fireman,” came the child’s answer.
“The fireman? Has there been a fire in the house or something?” asked the worried man.
“No,” whispered the child.
“Then what are the police and the fireman doing there?”
Still whispering, the young voice replied with a soft giggle, “They are looking for me.”
Poor fireman and policeman.
It would be pretty hard for rescuers to find this child as long as the child keeps hiding from them. In today’s gospel we see John the Baptist in the desert, calling the people of Judea to come out into the open desert and let God find them. You can liken it to the fireman calling out to the lost child. The child has to leave his hiding place and come out into the open for the fireman to find him.
To go into the desert is to leave behind the normal props of life on which we tend to depend. Such life props we often find in our jobs, in our relationships, and in our routine religious practices. God can’t do much with us as long as we hope and trust in these things as the first things that give meaning to our lives. When the heart is full, no one can come into it, not even God. You have first to let go of what your heart is holding onto before you can embrace God.
In today’s reading from Peter, we hear that Jesus’ second coming is still being delayed because He does not want to lose any of us. He is giving us more time to repent and prepare. He’s calling us to metanoia, to a complete change in our lives.
All of us have experienced someone telling us how to change our lives. Most likely it was our parents. This call to change our lives may be the only one that some of us have ever heard. Someone may announce, discuss, and invite people to think about a new way of life saying, “I want you to do what I told you to do.”
But then there was Jesus’ approach. Jesus comes along and doesn’t simply discuss it. He is it. Jesus is the experience of the transformation that we all need.
In today’s readings, we also notice that Mark is the only evangelist who introduces the word gospel in his opening statement, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The word gospel means people – God’s people as they manifest the glad tidings of the Lord’s presence in their midst, or as they become the instruments of God’s redemptive presence toward others.
Advent is given to us in order that Jesus may be manifest in our midst. We are to become the heralds of glad tidings, which is the gospel.
The gospel is Jesus Christ. John the Baptist in the message today is preparing the way for Jesus’ presence in our midst. Jesus is the gospel. Perhaps a more correct translation would be: The Beginning of the Gospel which is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Gospel is people, manifesting God as Savior, intervening as God’s instrument in the work of salvation toward others.
In the gospel message today, John the Baptist tells us that Jesus is coming, and when He comes, He will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Each of us is called to be the beginning of the gospel for others, to tell the good news in a way that makes us a messenger for the One who is coming. As Christians, we have the role of preparing the way of the Lord, and John the Baptist is our model. Mark’s gospel is but the beginning of a story that continues down to our time. It started with John the Baptist. Today it continues with us. He prepared others for the coming of the Lord. We must do the same.
Before we help to prepare others, we must acknowledge our own sins and seek forgiveness. We must be renewed so that nothing impedes our walk with Jesus. We must examine our inner sins, those that go beyond the ten commandments.
We must prepare as a people, because we tend to overly individualize our relationship with God. Advent is something we do together. We dream, repent, turn our faces toward God together. In the season of Advent, the church extends to us the call of John the Baptist to repent and confess our sins in preparation for the One who is to come. It is an opportunity to re-discover our total dependence on God. God has made us for himself, as Saint Augustine confessed, and our hearts are restless until they rest in God. When we realize this and make room for God in our lives, then we are on our way to true repentance, after the example of John the Baptist.
As we continue our Advent journey, may the light of the candles guide us through the darkness, reminding us that our preparation and anticipation are not in vain. The lessons of Advent are not confined to a season. They are a timeless call to keep the flame of hope alive in our hearts, ready to shine brightly, even in the unexpected moments that await us.