Advent 2: Year C

Repent!

  • Baruch 5:1-9 or Malachi 3:1-4
  • Canticle 4 or 16: The Song of Zechariah
  • Philippians 1:3-11
  • Luke 3:1-6

“You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.” Luke 1:76 – from The Song of Zechariah, the Benedictus

With these words, the mission of John the Baptizer is foretold. For the next two Sundays our Gospel readings focus on the prophetic voice of this powerful presence.

John came to “prepare the way of the Lord” so that all the world would see God’s salvation. Even nature would be affected by this preparation: valleys would be filled, mountains leveled, and a smooth and even way made ready. Yet there was nothing sentimental or permissive in John’s message. It was a wake-up call. Judgment was near, and all people – sinners and even those who thought of themselves as righteous – were accountable for their past transgressions.

With John the Baptist the fulfillment of God’s promise of a new exodus from sin and death into newness of life in God’s Son is proclaimed. As the last of the prophets in the Old Testament tradition, John has come forth to awaken the world to a new reality. One that those who historically lived during this time (C.E. 26-36) such as Pontius Pilate (governor), Herod Antipas (king), and Tiberius Caesar (emperor) ruled and would be challenged.

John made his home in the wilderness, but he was called to warn the people of Judea of the judgment to come. It was a harsh message preached by an unusual man. (Painting by by Jacopo del Casentino and assistant, c.1330.) Using unusual images of separation – gathering the wheat while burning the chaff and cutting away dead wood that does not bear fruit – God was going to discard what was useless so that what was useful could grow and flourish. He called for a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Membership in the people of God, he says, is not a birthright. Being chosen as God’s people means receiving a gift so gracious that it compels and outward response. John calls the people to give evidence of their relationship with God through their actions. He invites those who are able to share with those in need. He urges those in power to exercise their roles with fairness and integrity. He calls for repentance and a new baptism.

In the Wilderness

John came out of the 
desert
to preach in the 
wilderness.
    . . . 
The wilderness
he preached in
was his own country.
A wilderness
not coming 
from the hands of God,
but a jungle
caused by innumerable
human decisions
that were 
    wrong,
    shortsighted,
    and selfish.
Decisions 
that had created havoc
in the lives
of the many.
    It was in that 
    jungle
    that John preached
    and baptized.
As long 
as we think
about John
like that
- preaching
in his own country
two thousand years ago - 
his preaching 
remains distant
and very far
away.
Let us try
to get that wilderness
and also John's word
nearer home,
so that it can cut us
to the bone.

Let us speak
about the wilderness
in which we live.
And let us think
not only of sin
but of the world
we are accustomed
to. 
    . . . 
It is in that forest,
in that jungle 
that the word of God
sounds
through John,
saying that once
justice and integrity
are victorious,
the whole of humankind
will be saved,
that Jesus, the savior,
is going to bring
a total difference.
But indicating also
where we come in and
what we should do:
    straightening the paths
    we are walking now,
    preparing a way for the Lord,
    filling the valleys and potholes,
    leveling the mountains and
        obstacles in us
    and in the lives
    we live. 

Joseph G. Donders, 
"The Jesus Community: Reflections the Gospels for the B-Cycle" 
(Orbis Books, 1981).

Baptism by John is an act of preparation – an outward acknowledgment of sin undertaken in light of God’s coming judgment and salvation in Jesus. Repentance is part of conversion; it means to turn in a new direction. The radical call for repentance guides the preparation given of those who will be baptized. This week’s Gospel is interconnected with next week’s Gospel, Luke 3:7-18.

For reflection:

  • Why do you think Luke makes such a point of noting the historic time and place of Jesus’ ministry? What difference does this make with regard to our understanding of the story itself?
  • John the Baptist is the last of the prophets of the Old Testament tradition. John proclaimed a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” What do you think he means by this?
  • As you read verses 4-6, what kind of world is describe here? How can this world become a reality?
  • What does Luke indicate about God’s justice in his account of John the Baptist’s preaching?
  • What Advent themes do you find in Baruch 5:1-9? How are they related to the portion of Luke we read today?
  • John calls us to prepare the way so that Christ can come. What can we do in this season of Advent to prepare the way for Christ to enter into our individual lives?
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About Sharon Ely Pearson

Editor and Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated
This entry was posted in Advent, Baptism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Advent 2: Year C

  1. Pingback: 12/9/2012 All Shall See God’s Salvation | ForeWords

  2. Pingback: Advent 3: Year C | The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education

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