2 Dec 2012
“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” (Jeremiah 33:14) In the name …
Starting last Sunday I had to deal with some computer problems. Well actually, Brandon had to deal with them I just had to suffer through the inconvenience of them. My email account is linked to our website account, and it seems that somebody hacked into holynamedeerfield.org. They were sending out spam by somehow taking over our website. So much traffic was going out that the web provider wouldn’t let me send out my real emails. I could receive incoming emails, but I couldn’t respond to them. I couldn’t email back. I couldn’t be heard.
Today the church begins her preparations for Christmas. By the standards of the world, we’re late. They started right after Halloween and then went into hyper-mode the day after Thanksgiving. That was then followed by some sort of shop-local Saturday and a Cyber-Monday. And finally here comes the church today with a measly few purple bows and one little candle. That lone candle that Alice lit for us this morning is called the Prophet’s Candle, and it’s apropos. Almost 600 years before the birth of Jesus the prophet Isaiah was talking about the coming of the Messiah, but when Jesus was born to a carpenter’s family from Nazareth, there weren’t very many people prepared to listen. After 600 years the light had grown dim. They were sending word to God about all that they expected, but they weren’t hearing what God was answering in reply. It’s like they took over the proverbial website and God couldn’t get through.
It kind of made me smile when we then read over at the Advent Wreath that “a voice cries ‘Light’ into a prophet’s ear.” You’re supposed to whisper into a person’s ear, but the heavenly voice yells into the prophet’s ear. It’s like, “Hey, pay attention!” That image, though, isn’t about Isaiah, who is the picture of anything but a distracted prophet. The “Hey, pay attention!” reflects a certain amount of frustration with the rest of us. In these few weeks we’re now enjoying, Christmas is an incessant message, but almost none of it has anything at all to do with Christ. We’re having the hardest time letting God’s Advent message get through all of this X-mas-noise. Again, God’s website has been overwhelmed by our spam and God can’t get through.
Now let’s go to the prophet Jeremiah and what we heard as this morning’s first reading. It’s a reading, just like Isaiah’s, that we have always associated with the coming of Jesus into the world. Isaiah foresaw Christmas as the coming of light into the world. Jeremiah prophecies that Christmas will be the days that are coming when God will raise up a Messiah, and the Messiah will bring about a time when right, justice and peace prevail in all the land (cf. Jer. 33:14-15). What we have a tendency to do when we hear these prophecies is cut Advent in half. The first Advent, the first coming of Christ, is the humble Bethlehem story. The second Advent, the second coming of Christ, is at the end-time, and that second Advent is filled with the imagery that we heard this morning from Luke’s Gospel. The entirety of creation will announce God’s dramatic and all-powerful intervention. The sun, moon and stars will all change, signifying that creation itself will be altered when Christ returns. The Messiah will descend upon the clouds with power and great glory. And this should sound exactly like what we heard last week from Matthew when we closed our church year, but it should sound nothing like the story we’ll proclaim on Christmas Eve.
But is this fair? Was Jeremiah talking about this kind of a divided Advent? Don’t his words sound like right, justice and peace arrive in the Messiah’s lifetime? Isn’t Jeremiah’s phrase “fulfill the promise” not “begin to fulfill”? Can we be honest to the text and say that all of this is postponed to some imagined end-time when Jesus will come again? I hinted at it last week. We’re not good at predicting the future. Maybe Jeremiah did confuse the first and second Advents. Or maybe there’s something else going on. Maybe what God had revealed to the prophet about the coming of Jesus is that right, justice and peace will prevail with His advent, His first advent. They will be real and powerful. They will be backed by the hand of the Almighty. And maybe they came with the earth-shaking reality of their ordinariness, that fulfillment is dependent in part upon us really believing in them and acting accordingly. Maybe God isn’t treating us like children locked in Eden’s playground. Maybe we’re being treated like adults. Maybe God is sharing with us the responsibility of making right, justice and peace possible. Maybe God has fulfilled His part of the promise in the Advent of Jesus’ coming into our world in the extraordinary ordinariness of us, and maybe now it’s up to us to be like Jesus.
Maybe the image we began Mass with today of “a voice cries ‘Light’ into a prophet’s ear” is the reminder that God is trying to get our attention over all the noise that clutters our Christmas season. Maybe it’s like my email problem where He can hear us, but He can’t respond back to us. Maybe Advent is the season where we have the occasion to think about what it means to be a godly people, that if in Jesus God is like us, then can we be a bit more like God? Maybe this Advent we can try to wake-up on some given day and just give it over to God, which doesn’t mean locking ourselves in here. It means acting like our consciences would have us act in our regular lives. If we can do this on occasion, and maybe then more frequently, maybe we can begin to turn the tide. Maybe charity and worship, kindness and faith, gentleness and conscience, maybe these can show that Jesus really did bring, right, justice and peace into our world, but not fully formed until we add our efforts. That we may become the people Jesus shows us we can be, for this we pray in His name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo