Reflection for December 6, 2020 – Advent 2
Loving God, we offer to you that which is here spoken, heard and thought. Accept that which is worthy of you
and forgive that which is unworthy. Amen.
John the Baptizer is a strange guy, an astounding character yes, but unconventional and eccentric all the same. I don’t think he was very docile and probably not at all winsome. Yet crowds flooded out to see him even though he ranted at them “You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” It seems that the clothes he wore were thought to be odd even in his day; actually, the Greek words indicate that John wasn’t just ‘clothed’ like Elijah the Tishbite, as most of our English translations imply, but rather that he was intentionally ‘clothing himself’ to be like Elijah. That just might indicate that John was very deliberately and self-consciously dressing to fill the shoes of Elijah; that he was casting himself in the role of one of the greatest prophets in Old Testament times. If indeed John had an Elijah complex that would only add to his peculiarity. And besides all that, his lunch pail was filled with grass hoppers.
There he was, out in the wilderness; not in the hustle and bustle of the holy city Jerusalem, not at the foot of the temple mount and certainly not in the temple itself where God was thought to dwell. John was in the wilderness, a long, long way away from where God was supposed to be and there, in the dangerous wilderness of Judea, “the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem” went out to see this messy wild guy named John, to hear his words and to be baptised by him in the river Jordan. And those who went out to see this John, so the Gospel of Luke tells us in his version of these events, were filled with expectation and they wondered if John might just be the long expected messiah.
Beyond the boundaries of where God was thought to be, supposed to be, came the message of God through John. What a radical disorientation – prepare the way for the Lord in the wilderness. John’s proclamation decentered God’s good news which now, he announced, was to be found outside of Jerusalem’s city walls, in the margins, on the sidelines, in a frightening place that was thought as a place not meant for human habitation, a place considered to be the natural territory of demons.
There on the edge John proclaimed the good news of God. Here again I turn to the Gospel of Luke who has a more detailed account of John. In chapter 3, verse 18 of the Lukan account we hear these words, “with many other exhortations, he (that is John), proclaimed the good news to the people”. The word proclaimed in Greek is “
Could this strange but astounding, Elijah impersonator, who proclaimed that God was to be found somewhere other than the temple, somewhere beyond the walls of Jerusalem, in the wilderness where it was thought that even angels feared to tread, actually be
But John couldn’t really be an angel, could he! He doesn’t seem to fit the profile. After all, aren’t all angels just like the ones that appear in medieval paintings, dressed in flowing robes that are usually white, with wings and halos? And don’t angels make people feel good, feel beloved and don’t they bring comfort and tend to our personal needs?
εὐαγγελίζω”, the prefix “eú” meaning “good” coupled with the with the word for “to announce”, which is
“aggelizó”. “Angelizo”, the verb directly connected with the noun – “ángelos” – which arrives in modern English
“ángelos”, an angel? After all, look at all the messengers of God in the
gospel accounts of Jesus that are angels.
, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph and even the shepherds are
among those who were visited angels.
Well, the Bible may not tell us exactly what an angel looks like or how many angles can dance on the head of a pin but biblically speaking, the angelic encounters of Zachariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds were anything but comforting: the angels they encountered challenged all of them to go as far away from their comfort zone as possible; to take up tasks they did not want to do; to set aside their own plans and their pleasures and to risk everything for God. They come to bring God’s word and proclaim what God was asking of
Reflection for December 6, 2020 – Advent 2 2
them. In short, those visiting angels, those messengers of God set before them the choice to accept God’s call
into the wilderness and challenged them to be faithful … or not!
And so too, was the message of John. John called the people of his day and calls us in ours, to hear God’s good news in a different way. John pointed to one who was greater than himself, one who would come into the wilderness of our lives bringing promise, hope, sacredness and God’s Spirit to overcome the bareness of the wilderness. John’s proclamation assures us of God’s promise that there is no place on earth God will not go or
be for us.
However, like all angelic proclamations, John’s voice challenges us to go beyond our comfort zones, to radically alter our lives to conform to the will and purposes of God, to be faithful and to prepare the way for
the Christ of God.
God’s love goes beyond the boundaries of where we think God is supposed to be, and angels do not come to bring us comfort; they come to bring us God’s word and tell us what God asks of us. The message of John brings us God’s words of hope when we are standing on the fringes of life and tells us that what God asks of us is to prepare a way for the Christ to be born once again in our world and in our lives. As one commentator put it, “If we are to get to Christmas, we have to get there through an angel.” Perhaps John is after all, an angel pointing us to the one who is greater than himself, calling us out of our comfort zones, challenging us to
amend our lives and leading us to Bethlehem and the birth of the Christ of God.
And so we say, come, O come, Immanuel
Reflection for Advent 1, November 29, 2020 1
Happy New Year! Today we begin a new Church year, a year that, for the most part, will find our Gospel readings coming from the Gospel of Mark as we have today.
And what a challenging passage it is with which we begin – verses from the 13th chapter of Mark, a chapter that is often referred to as Mark’s “little apocalypse.” Mark 13 is a tough passage to wrap one’s head around as it appears that the author has woven together at least two, seemingly different traditions concerning what is called in theology the “second coming” of the Christ of God. At least, that is one theory that holds that on one hand it seems as if this monumental event, the second coming, is about to happen, it is imminently; note verse 30 in which Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” Then, on the other hand verse 32 is far less specific and has led to an understanding that this monumental event will only occur at the end of time. Here Jesus says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
[Just to explore this theory, this afternoon maybe you can try this: first, read Mark 13:1-2, 8, 14-22, 24-30. The text flows smoothly, and warns to prepare for an imminent apocalypse. Then, read Mark 13:3-7, 9-13, 23, 32- 37. Again, the text flows smoothly, but it offers counsel of another sort: believers need to dig in, stay faithful, and prepare for the long haul.]
Advent means “coming” and is understood to refer to the coming of God into our world – Come, O come Immanuel – God with us. And so traditionally we begin our Church year focusing on the “coming” of God. As we begin not only a new church year but also the season of Advent, what do we make of this passage from Mark which seems to point in differnt directions? Perhaps, as one commentator put it, Mark recognized that neither tradition had the last word on the coming of God and the Christ of God. We are not in charge of the timeline – God’s time is not our time and perhaps our own traditions, our own thinking and our own understandings about the coming of God among us are not the last word either. Perhaps Mark’s choice to offer elements of differing traditions might give us license to consider various ways that we might approach and embrace the coming of the God this Advent season.
Here are some options for us to consider and thoughts to ponder as we journey through this season of Advent:
1. The primary Advent of the Christ of God has already happened; it happened hundreds of years ago in a place far distant and notably different in many ways from our own. Yet still, all our waiting and watching, as Mark encourages, should be shaped by that first Advent that we eagerly and with great
on December 25th we do so with the expectation and hope that we will experience God’s coming into and God’s presence in our own lives in the here and now. Then, as one commentator expressed it, the second coming of the Christ may well be revealed and realized within our cooperation with the divine presence that came in the first Advent.
- Perhaps our Advent preparations and our Christmas celebrations might be about seeing where God is entering our lives in ways that parallel God’s coming in the vulnerability of the manger; seeing that God comes to us as we are; God comes to us in our vulnerability, in our weakness, in our brokenness, in our fragility and in our imperfection and coming to us where we are God affirms that we are loved, valued and longed for.
- It is no secret that one of the biggest adjustments that confronted the early church was the delay of the Second Coming of the Christ of God. What was expected to be imminent became something rescheduled to an unknown future. Since we cannot know the day or the hour, and since it could be another two thousand years away, maybe we don’t need to be concerned about it or think about it.
expectation look forward to celebrating on December 25
2. As we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Christ of God in the birth of Jesus the Babe of Bethlehem
Reflection for Advent 1, November 29, 2020 2
Mark counters such thinking saying that since we do not know when the master will return we should keep awake and we should think about it all the time because it could be today.
God comes into our lives and into our world in many and varied ways. The Christ of God is not with us as he once was following the first Advent. The Christ of God is not with us as he will be in an Advent yet to be. And the Christ of God is with us in a present-tense Advent, in the here and now of our lives, coming into our world as we actively become the people God has called us to be.
Come, O come Immanuel – God in the midst of us. We celebrate your coming in the baby Jesus, we welcome your coming into our lives and through us into this world in the here and now and we wait with expectation and hope for your coming in all our tomorrows.