Reflection on This Week’s Readings

AN IMPOSSIBLE VISION?

Today’s image from the Old Testament reading of a world at peace—a peace so full and universal that it extends to every living creature—may feel as comforting as it does unbelievable, at least by our logic (Isaiah 11:1-10). Wolves and lambs aren’t friends. Lions don’t eat straw. Children should not play with snakes. In the animal kingdom—and we are animals—there are predators and prey. Whether we take it literally or metaphorically, “Eat or be eaten” is how we’ve been taught to survive in the wilderness.

And yet here, on this wilderness morning, we hear the prophet telling us that it does not have to be this way—indeed, that it will not be this way forever. In the new world God is coming to bring, we won’t need to tear each other apart just to survive. Somehow we will be able to live together in peace.

No wonder that of all the ways God could have revealed the depths of holy love and brought reconciliation to the world, God chose to come as a little child, a child no one thought possible, a branch from a tree that was seemingly long dead.

Beholding this child moves us to repentance, turning us from all the ways we demonize and hurt each other, and calling us instead to offer peace. Rather than taking the bait set to keep us fighting, we come together to eat the bread and drink from the cup set at the Lord’s table.

In the new creation, our identity is no longer defined by our lineage or status, as those who came to be baptized by John imagined, or by being enemies, prey, or predator. Instead, in Christ’s baptismal waters we are given a new life as beloved kin. With God all things are possible!

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READINGS FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
The origin of Advent as a season of fasting to prepare for baptisms at Epiphany is evident on the Second Sunday, which introduces the fiery preaching and baptismal ministry of John the Baptist. God comes, in the past in the history of Israel and the incarnation of Jesus, in the present in the word and sacrament of each Sunday, and in the future at the end of all things. The preaching of John the Baptist calls us to prepare for God—perhaps in many ways quite different from our usual preparation for Christmas.

 

 

To prepare for the coming of God in Jesus Christ, we are invited into a total reversal of life’s values, a complete change of mind, the burning up of useless chaff. God comes to inaugurate “the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew’s Jewish way to speak of the presence and power of God. We celebrate that presence of God coming today in word and sacrament.

 

 

In Advent we read Old Testament poems that are filled with images of peace, justice, and joy. The church sees in past, present, and future the presence of Jesus Christ, in whom is the realization of these perennial human hopes. Jesus fills and fulfills our human hopes.

 

 

Christ comes not only to the Jewish people, as we would know from the Scriptures, and not only to us in the church, but also to all the Gentiles, that is, to all people of the world. In Advent we prepare for this momentous arrival, which in word and sacrament fills us with the power of the Holy Spirit. God comes always as the Triune One.

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