Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent
What are we waiting for? What do we expect? What do we really want? This is a season of hopes and expections, of wishes and prayers. It is also a time of longing and restlessness that is felt in cosmic proportions in all humans, especially those living in the northern hemisphere. We feel the shortening of the days and the cooling of the temperatures. For some, this is a period of sadness and depression.
Long before there was a Christmas humans tried to deal with the anxieties this season can bring. Ancients set up elaborate methods to watch the path of the sun in its march across the sky. They watched to see when it would turn from the South and work its way back to the North. Great festivals would celebrate the return of the sun, marked by merry-making and gift-giving. The early Church sought to make the best of these celebrations by connecting them to the Good News of Jesus, our gift of salvation. Advent was the period of expectant preparation, much like a family waiting for the woman to give birth to her child. Christmas was the birth of the Son of God linked to the return of the sun.
Unfortunately, the secular celebration of this season is filled with excess; overeating, overdrinking, and overspending as if any of these activities could fill the emptiness we feel. Happily, it is also a season when we are more open with acts of caring and charity.
In the first reading we see the hope of Jerusalem in the return of its exiled people. They are led by God “in joy, by the light of his glory with justice and mercy.” The author of Baruch was writing long after the exiles had returned. He was writing for the people who were living under the oppression of the Greek Seleucid kings. He was looking back on the history of the Jewish people to find hope for the dark days that they were living in. The Seleucid kings were finally overthrown in the uprising of the Maccabees. When the Jews were rededicating the temple that was desecrated by the Greeks they found only enough oil to keep the sanctuary lamp burning for one day. Wondrously, the lamp burned for eight days. This is commemorated by Hanukah, the Festival of Lights which, coincidentally, also occurs at this time of year.
The reading from Luke is also dealing with the people of Israel who are oppressed, this time by the Romans and their accomplices. Luke is very careful to point to a specific time in history when these events took place because Luke and his readers know that Jesus is the hope and salvation of “all mankind.” This is the Good News.
So, what are we waiting for? If Jesus is already here, if the salvation of the world is already accomplished in Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection, why do we feel this longing? As strong and as powerful as the salvation wrought by Christ is, we are still in this world of darkness waiting for the Son of God to make his return, just as we are waiting for the lengthening of the days. What do we do in the meantime? We allow “the one who began a good work in [us to] continue to complete it…so that [we] may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” We “prepare the way of the Lord.”
As members of the Body of Christ we make the presence of Christ felt in this world. We let those in darkness see the light of Christ in our words and deeds. We let those who are suffering feel the comfort of Christ in our loving touch. We let those longing for hope hear the voice of Christ in the Good News we bring them as we faithfully follow Christ’s example.
We make the presence of Christ felt in our own life when we share in the celebration of the Eucharist. When we partake in the Body and Blood of Christ in communion we are then nourished to bring Christ into this world, a continual reminder of his Incarnation.
Father in heaven,
The day draws near when the glory of your Son
will make radiant the night of the waiting world.
May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy
which moves the hearts of those who seek him.
May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom
which fill the mind of those who find him.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.