Second Sunday of Advent
In today’s gospel Luke provides us with some very descriptive historical details. This kind of historical detail is rare in the four gospels, because, in terms of literary genre, they are not historical books. The gospels are a unique genre, and it is meant to inspire faith. Since Luke does give us historical data, we must pay attention to it. Luke tells us who the Roman Emperor was (Tiberius Caesar), who the governor of Judea was (Pontus Pilate), who the regional leaders were (Herod, Phillip, and Lysanias), and who the high priest were (Annas and Caiaphas), when John the Baptist began his ministry. Surely, Luke was being intentional in giving these details. What do these details teach us? I would like to suggest three things:
1. Luke’s intentionality is seen in the person and the place where the word of God begins God’s work. The word of God came to a simple ascetic dressed in animal clothing whose name was John (Lk 3:1-2). As far as the “powers-that-be” were concerned (Caesar, Pilate, Herod, Phillip, Lysanias, Annas and Caiaphas), John was irrelevant. Besides John, it was also the location of the event that is important. The word of God came to John in the desert. In the Bible, the desert, the outskirt, the periphery is a place of God-encounters. What is the significance of this for us? The gospels give us an answer. Of all the women, the word took flesh in the humble Mary; it was a simple righteous man, Joseph, to whom the angel appeared; it was the poor unassuming shepherds who first heard the news of the incarnation. What did the word of God have to do with Caesar, Pilate, Herod, Phillip, Lysanias, Annas and Caiaphas? Where arrogance, scandalous opulence, pretensions, greed for power, self-interest exists, there is very little space for the Divine. On the contrary, the word of God needs the simplicity of John, the humility of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, and the poverty of the shepherds. The word of God needs people and places where it may move unhindered. This advent, may we be a people, and may ours be the place where God’s word can freely work.
2. Since Luke pays detailed attention to the historical context surrounding the birth of Jesus, perhaps we should take today’s historical context into account as well. If Christ was coming today, where should we look for him? Where is the desert where John the Baptism is preaching today? I do not want to make judgements about people or about where Christ may not be found. My point is that in the story of that first Christmas, Christ was found in unlikely places and among unlikely people; among the poor, humble, meek, gentle, and peaceable people. The angels announced the “good news” to people of “good-will.” At his birth, during his life, and at his death, he was found in the peripheries of society. Where are we looking for Christ today? At the malls? In the corridors of power and wealth? In glitz and glamor? If we pay attention to the intentionality of Luke’s gospel, we may want to look for Christ in today’s stables, mangers, borders, crosses, and peripheries. If we want Christ in our midst, we must become the stables and mangers, borders and crosses. We must place ourselves in the peripheries.
3. John the Baptist’s message, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” became the signature call for Israel as they awaited a Messiah. Today, during this Advent, we are the people awaiting our Messiah! We too must “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Luke is calling us to intentionality. John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the magi from the East – they are all models of the kind of intentionality that the word of God requires from us. Perhaps, this advent we could work on intentionality. Where in our lives does the Word of God find resistance? Where in our lives does God find obstacles? Where in our lives does God not have a free reign? These areas are precisely where we have the choice to intentionally “prepare the way of the Lord.” These precisely are the areas where we must intentionally “make straight his paths, fill up the valley and flatten the mountain, where the winding roads is made straight and the rough ways is made smooth.” God was intentional in the way Christ came into the world. God’s intentionality and our intentionality is the place where Christ come alive.
The Eucharist is how God intentionally chose to be with us. Let God' intentionally meet our's this Advent.
- Fr. Satish Joseph