Reading 1: BAR 5:1-9
R Psalm: PS 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6.
Reading 2: PHIL 1:4-6, 8-11
Gospel: LK 3:1-6
Liturgical colour: Purple/violet
Brothers and sisters in Christ:
Baruch, was a Hebrew prophet who isn’t very well known as such, and whom we heard in today’s First Reading. He had a strong sense that things in the world would be different.
The people suffered because their leaders were so painfully inadequate – and sadly, this still happens in our own world today. Both priests and kings, religious and secular leaders, totally unwilling to trust God and God’s ways, were leading the nation into unnecessary suffering and to eventual destruction.
Baruch connected peace with integrity, honour with devotedness.
Along with Isaiah, whom Luke quoted in the Gospel reading, Baruch was saturated with God’s vision for his world. They both had a sense of what life could be like if genuine concern for the common-good of all replaced the self-interest and national interest of the powerful and the rich; and if a sense of the inviolable dignity of every person replaced violence and the culture of death.
For that to happen, people’s eyes needed to be opened – to see that many familiar and unquestioned ways of doing things were not necessarily the only ways, or the best ways. People needed to be educated, their consciences formed, and their sense of mutual responsibility sharpened and activated.
The need is universal, as important now as then.
Six centuries after Baruch and Isaiah, John the Baptist appeared on the scene. Luke summed up his striking entry onto the stage in today’s Gospel:
The Word of God came to John, son of Zachariah, in the wilderness… and he went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
John believed that the power of sin could be broken, not in some distant long=term to come, but immediately, by one who would follow in his footsteps. But people first needed to share his pain, and his distress at the way things were. Then they needed to become aware of their own often unconscious sharing in the destructive networks, relationships and customary ways of doing things that destroyed their own human dignity as they undermined the dignity of others. And thirdly, they needed to find the motivating power and the energy to do things differently: they needed to share John’s hope for change and his confident sense of God. John sensed that God was moving… God – the source of being, the creator of the universe, the life-force of all that lives – was moving. Indeed, unknown to John, God had stepped into the flow of human history in order to engage with it from within. God had taken human flesh and blood, and become incarnate in Jesus.
It is so sad in today’s world, that the true meaning of Christmas is often forgotten, and for many has replaced the awe-inspiring mystery of incarnation of Our Lord and saviour, with commercialisation, with Santa Claus, and with songs such and ideas like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. We need to Prepare a way for the Lord, we need to make his paths straight. This is a call to active commitment in the true reason of Christmas…
God’s Kingdom is possible. But we do not get captured by that realisation as we ought in the midst of noise, frantic movement or distractions of the world. During the coming days of the remainder of the advent season, it is important that we try our hardest to construct some quiet time in the midst of all the noise; and to find some stillness in the midst of the frantic distractions of the world, and to focus on the coming of Christ amongst us.