Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent, 2016

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Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent, 2016

Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent

  by Sister Gretchen Johnston

The Messiah is coming, and is in our midst!

Have you seen Christ recently? I have, as recently as Wednesday. I saw Christ in a five-year-old boy. He is a rambunctious little boy, racing up and down the aisles or playing with his brother, but when it comes time to play chimes, he has a look of sober concentration on his face. When he plays his one chime at the proper time, he jumps up and down with glee and smiles ear-to-ear.

I saw Christ in a distressed woman whose brother has a mental illness and has murdered another person because of it.

I see Christ in those who stand up to injustice, who protect their holy water and land and the resting places of their ancestors.

I see Christ in those who feel they have no other alternative but to follow the orders they have been given, and violence and misunderstanding results.

The Messiah is coming, and is in our midst!

Isaiah imagines for us, with God’s imagination: Someday there will be no more violence, there will be no more rape, there will be no more oil spills, there will be no more treaties broken, there will be no more fear, there will be no more racism or sexism…Right?

Right. And we are asked to believe it. Not as a vague pipedream coming true in a Someday removed to irrelevancy, but as something coming true Now. An actual possibility. How could it happen now? How could we begin the fulfillment of this vision?   

The Messiah is coming, and is in our midst!

Most Christians would apply Isaiah’s prophecy to Christ and the second coming. But is that far enough? Can we live passively while we wait for this Someday person, this One Who Is Coming, to fulfill what we know can’t fully be done by any of us?

Or what would happen if each of us prepares the way of the Lord, of this Ruler? And not just in our own lives. Let us look for the places in others where this prophecy of peace comes true, where justice and love are present, and let us lift these up, for where peace and truth and love are present, there is Christ also in our midst.

The Messiah is coming, and is in our midst!

What if we could direct our lives to reflect the qualities of Isaiah’s ruler? What if we had the “spirit of the Lord, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord”?

We live our Christian lives believing that we live in such a Spirit: the Holy Spirit. Allowing that we all fall and get back up again, we can prepare the way of the Lord in our lives and in the lives whom we touch. When we seek out “wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord”, we find that, where these are present, in our own lives or in others’ lives, Christ is also present. This is one way we can prepare the way of the Lord.

The Messiah is coming, and is in our midst!

Is it possible to ever have a ruler or governor with these qualities? When we think of Christ we think of him as fulfilling all these qualities. Life will be wonderful in that vague “someday”. However, Christ is not just a powerful person coming at an undefined future date.

If we truly believe that Christ is yesterday, today, and forever, we can prepare the way of the Lord now by our concern for justice and truth, by our concern for the poor and oppressed, for those of different races, nationalities, religions, and gender identities, and of many people we may not agree with. We can even be wrong. The Messiah is in our midst–can we truly welcome him where he may be found in all these people? I’m talking to myself here as well, you know… We all fall, but in community we can help each other up and call each other to remember:

The Messiah is coming, and is in our midst!

What were the Pharisees and the Sadducees in our Gospel thinking? Were they curious about this strangely dressed person with odd eating habits? They were the religious authorities of the day, looked up to by many people, revered as knowing the Law and knowing how to interpret it. I wonder what they felt when John confronted them about producing good fruit.

How would I feel? I would sputter something like “But I am bearing good fruit! I interpreted the Law for these people, I did all these other good things…” John would say “Why? Why did you do them? You did them so that people could see what a good descendant of Abraham you are. Anyone can be a follower of Abraham, and the truest followers of Abraham are those who convert their hearts and make room to welcome the One Who Is Coming into their lives.”

The Messiah is coming, and is in our midst!

What kind of king were they waiting for? This Gospel passage does not say what happened afterwards. The “afterwards” can be different for each of us.

Maybe some of the Pharisees and Sadducees recognized that they were there insincerely. Maybe they wondered about the One Who Is Coming. “Who is that? Can you please be more specific, John? After all, we are the ones who interpret the Law for the people. We need to know so we can tell them.” John says: “He is greater than I. I am using water as a sign of the Holy Spirit and cleansing fire that he will bring.”

The Messiah is coming, and is in our midst!

Who is it? Can this Messiah be one of our sisters or brothers? Each of us has the capacity to let these qualities and Spirit of the One Who Is Coming shine through us. We get off-track sometimes, like the Pharisees and the Sadducees in our Gospel periscope. But then we, like John, can pull each other back up and refocus. Hopefully, we can do it a little bit more gently than he did…

The Messiah is coming, and is in our midst!

How have you met the One Who Is Coming?

 

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