Second Sunday of Advent
December 10, 2017
One tradition has it that the Advent wreath has four candles to symbolize the 4,000 years separating Adam and Eve from the Birth of Christ. Symbols are essential to our Christian faith. We use symbols to help us wrap our minds around things we cannot see. So, it’s important that the message they offer is true and accurate.
To protect the symbol value of the four candles, take special note of the opening line of our Second Reading (Peter 3:8). Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day. Rather than counting days, or years, or centuries, or millennia, it might be more helpful to focus on the gradually increasing light the Advent wreath gives with the passage of each week of the season.
God works very slowly so as not to overwhelm us. We see “Godspeed” throughout nature. Even a new day, with all of its promise and potential, begins with a mere suggestion. Slowly, gradually, gently…almost without notice, the light pushes back the darkness. Nothing we do can hurry “daylight.” We can fight darkness with artificial light, but to enjoy true “daylight,” we simply have to wait patiently. The waiting, however, is made easier by the certainty that eventually the sun will rise.
That seems to be the message that Isaiah brings in the passage from the Old Testament proclaimed on this Second Sunday of Advent. God works very slowly, and there is a lot of work to be done. A straight path needs to be carved out through the wasteland. That means valleys need to be filled in and mountains and hills need to be leveled. The process of clearing the way for The Incarnation, the Birth of Jesus Christ, took many generations. So, too, with respect to the Lord’s return in Glory, when, as our First Reading concludes: the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people shall see it together.
John the Baptist is a major character in the Advent Season. His mission and ministry focused on the work of carving a straight path for Jesus to walk into human history. His call to baptism and the repentance of sin was a challenge to the people to remove all obstacles that prevented them from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. Unlike the Almighty, John did not move slowly. He went about his work with a sense of urgency.
And so, too, with Jesus Himself. His earthly mission as God’s Word Incarnate was measured in time…slightly over 30 years. He could not go about His work of building the Kingdom slowly. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a greater urgency to any task than the urgency of the work which The Father sent The Son into the world to accomplish.
And the same holds true for each of us. Through our own baptisms, Jesus shares both His power and His mission and ministry. But our earthly lives are measured and limited. We have to be aggressive in carrying out our duties as Christian disciples. We cannot go about nourishing the hungry or thirsty at a leisurely pace. We have only a minuscule amount of time to reach out with a healing touch to the sick, shut-in, and dying. We are required as followers of Christ to extend an immediate welcome to the stranger. We might not be able to level mountains or fill in valleys, but we should be quick to knock down the walls that divide us.
Advent is the perfect season to evaluate the pace at which we work on discipleship, aware of the fact that every time we do what we are called to do, the Light of Christ burns just a little brighter in this dark, dark world.
In the coming week, let’s resolve to be a true and accurate symbol of Christ, so that those who do not know the Lord can wrap their minds around Him, Whom they cannot see.