Second Sunday of Advent
Almost nine hundred years ago, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux suggested in one of his Advent homilies that we should think of three Advents of Christ: the First, when Christ came in humility as Mary’s Child, clothed in our human nature; the Second, when Christ will come in glory as Judge and Redeemer of the world. Then Saint Bernard speaks of a Middle Coming, an “in the meantime” Advent, when Christ comes to us in his Word, in the Eucharist, and in those who need our love and care, family and friends, neighbors and strangers. That’s this year’s Advent, the one we’re celebrating now; and this Advent’s question is: how attentive am I to Christ’s coming into my life-story, right here, right now?
AN UNNOTICED ADVENT
Today Luke solemnly announces the names of the secular and sacred powers who thought they held the world’s destiny in their hands. But they completely missed the decisive event that forever changed the world’s religious and political history. When no one else was listening, God’s Word came to a nobody, John the Baptist, and not in the temple sanctuary or palace throne room, but “out in the sticks,” the Word that would one day cleanse the temple and topple thrones. The powerful names that Luke announces were not popular with ordinary people: times were tough, the economy was bad, people were having to make do with less; and those names reminded common folks that so much of life was beyond their control. Sound familiar? Yet just then, when many were far from hopeful, God acted decisively to save the people, and John the Baptist invited his listeners then, and us today, to join in the Good News of new life.
GOD’S RECONSTRUCTION PLAN
We heard Baruch, in the first reading, picturing our broken world reborn: the dispersed being carried home, tears wiped away, righteousness and justice, peace and worship. How we wish it could all be true! It will be true, Paul declares, optimistic that God, who has already begun such good work in us, will continue to complete it for the day of Christ’s glorious return, increasing our love and sharpening our discernment of the values that endure. So we should begin this second week of Advent reinvigorated with hope in God’s plan for the world’s salvation. But John the Baptist reminds us that God’s “reconstruction plan” for the world’s transformation begins much closer to home: what twists and turns of my own life must be untangled, what lofty mountains of my own pride and self-centeredness brought low, which gorge-deep valleys of my own indifference and neglect filled in? Come, Lord Jesus, and make the whole creation new—but start right here, right now, with me!