Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - December 06, 2020
The prayers and scriptures of the Second Sunday of Advent continue to encourage us to prepare to welcome the Lord – both at Christmas and at His Second Coming. Today, the Church prays that no earthly undertaking will hinder those who set out in haste to meet God’s Son, and the scriptures show us the ways people prepare for the first coming of Christ and encourage us to follow their example. We hear the call to repentance and reform and the encouragement to remain hopeful and joyful in our expectation of the peace and salvation that the Son of God will bring.
The prophet Isaiah delivers God’s tender message of comfort to a people who had seen their temple, their city, and their normal way of life destroyed. Isaiah gave them words of hope and delivered the promise of a loving God. Just as God had acted on their behalf at the time of the Exodus, God would come again to defeat the ones who had conquered them and bring them home. Isaiah’s prophecy directs the people to prepare the way of the Lord, who will come in glory and care for his people like a shepherd feeding, gathering, carrying, and leading his flock. Isaiah speaks to all of us who look forward in hope and long for a “new normal” in the wake of a pandemic year that has afflicted and burdened so many, and he reminds us that that “new normal” finds its foundation in God’s comforting presence and care.
Prophets in Advent prepare people’s hearts for the coming of the kingdom of God, and, while many fulfill the role of prophet in this season (like Isaiah), one of the premier prophets of Advent is John the Baptist, who “came preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John always makes his Advent entrance on the Second Sunday of Advent, and today, we hear St. Mark quote the prophecy of Isaiah given in the first reading. Isaiah’s hopeful and comforting prophecy encouraged people to prepare the way of the Lord is fulfilled in the words and actions of John.
By proclaiming “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” John prepared a way in the desert and asked people to make themselves ready for Jesus's appearance. In the passage, we learn that all of Jerusalem came and the whole countryside came – all who hungered for comfort and hope and who were ready, willing, and eager for God to change their world and bring new life to them beyond whatever wilderness or desert they were facing. John challenges us all to engage in the work of preparation for the coming of our Lord.
Of course, Christ did indeed come, and he will come again, suddenly, “like a thief,” as St. Peter tells us in the Second Reading. Sounding a warning that is closer to the tone of last Sunday’s Gospel, when Jesus told his disciples to "be watchful and alert because we do not know when the time will come," St. Peter describes the delay of Christ’s return in terms of God’s patience with us, giving us the time to become the persons we ought to be, conducting ourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and even hastening the coming of the day of God.
Today, we turn once again to the God of comfort, hope, peace, and salvation, and we pray that he will be with us as we prepare our hearts for the coming of his Son:
“May the almighty and merciful God, by whose grace you have placed your faith in the First Coming of his Only Begotten Son and yearn for his coming again, sanctify you by the radiance of Christ’s Advent and enrich you with his blessing.” (Roman Missal, 526)