2nd Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15: 4-9, Matthew 3:1-12

A bare treeIn the Gospel Reading last Sunday, the 1st Sunday of Advent, we heard three times the phrase “when the Son of Man comes”.  This is a call to watch out, to listen carefully and it may indeed lead us to be anxious and unsure wondering what will happen when the Son of Man comes.  This certainly was the mood that the statement provoked in the people of Jerusalem and all of Judea and the whole Jordan district and drew them out into the wilderness to witness John the Baptist and hear his proclamation. 

 John the Baptist did not appear in the Temple, nor did he wear the ceremonial robes that might have been expected of one in his position. And perhaps their curiosity drew the people out to wilderness, the desert, and his eccentricity held their interest. So often in the Gospels Jesus is seen teaching his disciples on a mountain or on high ground which is removed from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives.  John the Baptist preaches in the desert which is stark and empty! 

 Not many of us can claim to have had any experience of a real desert.  The closest I have come to a ‘desert experience’ might be the pilgrimage to Lough Derg, our penitential island.  That ‘desert’ is indeed stark; bare feet, no food, no sleep or comfort, none of the props on which we all rely and consider essential for our human existence.  It is in the serene silence of such a place that we can hear clearly and in the clear starkness recognise the truth.  This compels us to look inwards at our basic selves.

Advent is like winter!  In winter the trees are stripped bare, the light is fading and dimmed, it is cold and uncomfortable.  Nature is searching for growth and light, there is need for rescue, for a saviour!  We too, are diminished in this Advent winter and pray for the same growth, light and saviour.  These will be given “when the Son of Man comes”.

But we must prepare for Him.  For this John the Baptist was called; “You little child, you shall be called a prophet of God, the Most High.  You shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare his ways before him”. (Luke 1:76) John’s call is ‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand’.

Unlike Lent, when we are called to put on the garments of penance, to resort to ‘sackcloth and ashes’, Advent is a time to strip away the old garments, give up the old habits and begin again with a new way of living.  When the Son of Man comes and we celebrate his Incarnation we will then put on the garments of Salvation and walk in the Light of knowing Him as our Saviour.