Second Sunday of Advent ~ 9 December 2018
The first reading from the prophet Baruch speaks of the labour of Love; “For God will show all the earth your splendour.” Though stripped of grandeur, Israel will be led by God in joy. Even in their terrible loss, God will shower them with glory, mercy, and justice.
Writing from prison, Paul’s letter to the Philippians in the second reading is also filled with promise and with high hopes and comforting words. Paul is convinced after a great work has been started in the community that it will be carried out to completion. He is filled with love for them: “God knows how much I long for each of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. My prayer is that your love may more abound, both in understanding and wealth of experience, so that with a clear conscience and blameless conduct you may learn to value the things that really matter up to the very day of Christ.”
In our gospel, Evangelist Luke is about to unfold the story about Jesus Christ with the accompanying story of John the Baptist. For two reasons, their stories will be different from the tales of many gods and goddesses of Greece and Rome and Babylon.
First, Jesus was a real historical person. He was a man, not a woman. He lived in a particular place and at a particular moment in history. The time and places in which he lived were well within the records of written history. He spoke a particular language, called Aramaic and knew Hebrew for he read the Scripture publicly in the synagogue and had some colloquial Greek, the lingua franca of the Eastern Mediterranean. John the Baptist was equally an historical figure who was chosen to announce the coming of Jesus: the Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour-Servant- King.
Second, the Evangelist noted that names of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, Annas and Caiaphas, indicating that the stories of Jesus and John the Baptist happened during the ruling time of these men whose names bode more doom than deliverance. These men were the mighty and the dangerous, the important and the awesome. Yet hidden in the records of their dominion, a single voice was raised to preach repentance and forgiveness. John the Baptist, mindful of Isaiah’s promise that all shall see the salvation of God, grasped that the time was ripe. Here was this hidden man, John, a voice in the wilderness of time, who was given God’s word. “Make ready the way of the Lord.”
Our readings this second Sunday of Advent may as well speak to us of paradoxical affirmation of hope despite almost impossible odds. It invites us to hope and despite every sinking feeling in our hearts about the world– to hope against hope that “all flesh shall see God’s salvation.” This is what Advent waiting means– to believe that God will, against every odd, complete his work of salvation not only in us, but also through us.
Thus, as we continue to enter more deeply into this season of Advent, let us not give up waiting and keep hoping that God in time, in His own time, will show us His salvation.
Fr Sherwin Lapaan
Assistant Priest, Cathedral of St Patrick & St Joseph