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Sunday, November 28, 2021
First Sunday of Advent—Advent, Year C
At the beginning of the final cycle of the church calendar, the theme of beginning at the end should be familiar. Advent’s theme isn’t a theatrical “waiting for baby Jesus,” it’s waiting for Jesus to come again at the end of time. So the posture of anticipation is not put on, but a true expectation of what is to come. Jesus’ speech about the cosmos being shaken to its core at the end of the world tells us that the visible world is transient and insecure (modern science confirms this) and only God himself is sure. The picture is of entropy, sometimes gradual, sometimes quick and disastrous. However, in the midst of this chaos, Jesus himself will intervene and redeem the faithful. Jesus offers a positive direction to change. To stand before the Son of Man is to be transformed into new life, a reverse entropy. So our lives are constantly in flux one way or another, and the surest way to lose is to remain sedentary, concerned only with settling the present cares of our lives. Jesus, on the other hand, challenges us to be on the alert for his coming, being sure that we aren’t led astray from the security of God in the transience of a dying world.
Sunday, December 5, 2021
Second Sunday of Advent—Advent, Year C
The second Sunday in Advent always focuses on John the Baptist because he is the bridge between the Old Testament and the New. Besides offering factual, historical data, Luke introduces John in exactly the same way as the Old Testament prophets “in this time and this place, under this ruler, the word of the Lord came to …” (compare this with the first few verses of any of the prophetic books: Jeremiah 1:1-3, Ezekiel 1:2-3, Micah 1:1, etc.). The word from God to John is the last verbal word before the Word comes incarnate. Luke’s quotation of Isaiah’s prophecy of John emphasizes that John’s and Christ’s is a ministry of repentance: crooked paths straightening and mountains and ravines being leveled out. John’s baptismal ministry is one of repentance, turning away from wicked and slothful habits in order to stand at the ready to receive the sudden coming of the Lord (cf. Malachi 3:1-4). Hardly a one-time thing, repentance is something believers must constantly practice as sin and sloth creep into daily rhythms, so the congregation may be encouraged to consciously practice repentance for sins and habits they may have felt convicted of over the past year but have not moved to act upon. Because the Lord comes suddenly, there is no time like the present!
Sunday, December 12, 2021
Third Sunday of Advent—Advent, Year C
The crowds wondering whether John could be the Christ is understandable. The events of John’s life mimic the Lord’s: he comes from a miraculous birth, leads a popular movement encouraging repentance, preaches to the crowds, excoriates the religious leaders, and dies at the hands of the rulers. There is a very specific reason for the similitude. The Old Testament prophets were often commanded by God to do symbolic actions to amplify their verbal message (cf. Ezek. 4, 24). John’s very life is a “speech-act” that heralds Jesus’ life and ministry, proving the continuity between the old covenants and the new. Christians too should expect their lives to become such “speech acts” mimicking Christ’s. This is not a matter of life or career planning. John certainly didn’t plan his own trajectory, but his life nevertheless took on Christ’s shape because he was fully open to God’s molding his habits, life, and path. We too should open ourselves, day by day and moment by moment, to the Spirit’s influence. If we practice this simple way, we will find at the end of our lives that we have imitated Christ and heralded him to the people around us.
Sunday, December 19, 2021
Fourth Sunday of Advent—Advent, Year C
On the last Sunday of Advent, the story goes back to Mary. Luke’s special focus on women includes Elizabeth in the story which gives us the immortal story of John leaping in her womb (a detail that could only have been related by the experience of an expectant mother). Luke also points out that Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. Like John witnesses Jesus, Elizabeth witnesses Mary: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” When Gabriel tells Zechariah that God would accomplish the unlikely and that they would conceive a son even in advanced age, he doubts. But Mary, confronted with the news that God would achieve the impossible in her, believes. This great faith is the basis of all the church’s teaching on Mary and also makes her the best application for the preacher. By imitating her, we too can invite the Lord to do even the impossible through us. Replacing the Psalm with the Magnificat is an opportunity for the congregation to respond to God in faith using her words