Saturday, December 7, 2013

12-8-2013 -- Second Sunday of Advent

December 8, 2013 - Second Sunday of Advent, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

John the Baptist is not a pretty Advent figure. You won’t find him as a character in any nativity set or on any Christmas card.

Imagine receiving a Christmas card depicting John the Baptist wearing his dusty camel coat. It might read like this:

“Greetings from our house to yours.
Our thoughts of you at this time of year are best expressed by the words of John the Baptist.

“You brood of vipers! Even now the axe lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Merry Christmas!”

No. No, no, no…we prefer the Holy Family or the Madonna and Child or even the Three Wise Men, but not John the Baptist.

However, his message on this second Sunday of Advent is clear:
If we want to get to the joy of Bethlehem, we must first get past John the Baptist. There is no Jesus without John.

And John is charismatic, fearless, confident and wild.
He appears in the desert. Why the desert?

The desert is a place where spiritual seekers go to confront their inner demons and beasts, to purify their minds, to return to the essentials.

John proclaims the coming of Jesus. He distinguishes between the truth and all the cultural clutter that surrounds it. He focuses on what really matters.

John baptizes people to free them from their sins and to return them to their original freshness. He is single-minded and direct.

He knows who he is and what God asks of him.
His is not a small voice. He cries out:
I am not the Christ. I am the voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.

He’s perfectly willing to point at the seats of power and accuse those sitting there of the most outrageous things. All of which happen to be true.

Imagine this wild figure sprinting into church and stopping right in front of you.

Looking, pointing, saying nothing, just standing there, a wild, unsettling, holy presence.

We know his message. Prepare the way of the Lord. Repent for the Kingdom is at hand.

He doesn’t have to say anything. We know already.
So we lower our heads and promise in our hearts to repent.

We know what we need to repent of, don’t we?

So let’s pause for a moment beneath his uncomfortable gaze and think: of what do I need to repent?

Small mindedness, never seeing the big picture
Jealousy, always wanting what others have
Lust, sexual fantasies, internet pornography

Anger, hatred, rage all bottled up inside
Greed, minor embezzlement, theft
Taking advantage of others, unethical business practices

Sloth, laziness, apathy, just not caring,
Not caring about God, not caring about others
Resentment, the feelings we have when things don’t go our way

Adulterous affairs, real ones and the ones we have in our heads
Self righteousness, “Look at me, I’m fabulous aren’t I?”
Self pity, “O poor me. See how much I suffer.”

Self centeredness, caring only about ourselves,
Not caring about anyone else, putting our needs before others

Over indulgence, eating and drinking too much
Irreverence, not showing proper respect for God and not having proper reverence here in church

These are all things we probably should confess this Advent season as we prepare the way of the Lord.

Here he is! The unwanted, challenging prophet from the desert standing right in front of us, leading us to the place where God wants to speak to us.

And the fact is, he is going to stay there blocking our view of the Christmas crib, because that’s his job.

He is searingly honest. He will not allow deception.
He wants to see our new behaviors as fruit that there has been a change of heart.

“Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.”
That’s what he’s about. That’s what Advent is about.
Bearing good fruit in our thoughts, words and deeds.

What good fruit will we bear this Advent season?

John lays an axe to the root of the tree. The productive tree stands. The tree that does not bear good fruit falls.

It is an echo of last week’s message. Remember?
One will be taken and one will be left behind.

There is no Jesus without John. There is no Bethlehem without the desert. There is no rejoicing without repentance and preparation.

While we won’t find John the Baptist on any Christmas card or in any nativity set, we find him here and his message is clear.

Prepare the way for the Lord is coming soon.


  1. Should it be "There is no Jesus without John" in the 6th paragraph? Good reflections - as always!

  2. Indeed it should be. Thanks for catching that. The correction has been made. Happy Advent!

  3. Thank you for this wonderful reminder of how to prepare the way for the Lord this Advent. Loved the Christmas card illustration.