Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
This weekend we have our annual encounter with that strange man with an even stranger message. The Church wants us to hear from him each Advent season, so he becomes in fact “the man of Advent”: John the Baptist. His is a call to lift our minds and hearts up from undue concern about earthly prep for Christmas 2020 and consider the superior importance of spiritual preparation for the next coming of Christ.
After all, the ultimate reason for Christmas is the incarnation, the taking on of a human nature of the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He truly becomes the “Emmanuel” foretold by the prophets, a title which means “God with us.”
In this early part of Advent, the focus turns to the matter of Christ’s second coming because that event should have a profound personal impact on how we live each day.
The first Coming, we know, is all joy and glory to God in the highest. That’s as it should be, as we note God’s eternal plan slowly coming to fruition with the birth of the holy Babe.
The second coming is described in more frightening terms because then this Babe will have matured and will be coming as our Judge. That will also mark the end of the universe as we know it. So that inescapable moment of judgment we each face could well have a background we can only imagine. Frightening beyond words.
As if to shake us out of the sentimentality associated with Christmas, the Church presents us with Mark’s gospel, where he hurries past the birth tale to Jesus’ adult baptism in the Jordan. It marks the beginning of Our Lord’s brief time being personally present as God’s best emissary. Jesus launches His “campaign” if you will. We will come back to this event in a few weeks to mark the liturgical end of the Christmas season early next year.
God knows we Americans are very familiar this year with the notion of “campaigns,” as we have just lived through months of one for the highest office in our land.
I think the vitriol we saw on both sides causes us to look back in wonder that we could ever stoop so low to make a point.
Meanwhile, we must be careful not to turn John the Baptist into a kind of campaign manager. Rather, is he Our Lord’s precursor, the one who gets us ready to hear the Good News?
Salvation history has come to its final chapter, after centuries of hoping for it. Thus does John the Baptist straddle both biblical testaments as the last prophet of the Old and the first of the New. The era of ultimate choice has arrived, and John is the first to make it known. In blunt terms, it is between Jesus and Satan.
Satan, you ask? Oh yes, he’s still around and very real. He is evil personified. We may not automatically think that way but every one of our sins is a vote cast for the evil one. This culture of ours has found a somewhat sleazy way out of living by objective morality by making everything subjective.
So somebody might justify drinking too much at a Christmas party by thinking he/she deserves it “because 2020 has been a very bad year.” We should wonder just how such an excuse would hold up on Judgment Day. Tough and sober truth.
So, allow me to put an Advent twist on the well-known lyric of a Christmas song, “You better watch out; you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why: Jesus Christ is coming to town.”
At any rate, God love you and give you His peace.