• Baruch 5:1-9 • Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11 • Luke 3:1-6 • 2 Advent C ‘13 •
Today we begin the Second week of Advent. Look! Listen! Already you can see and hear Christmas – “Cultural Christmas” with the shopping, the music, the cards and the gatherings. For most of us these awaken fond memories and some even recall the birth of the historical Jesus. I hope you will go far beyond that. I hope you will go deeper into the Christ Mystery.
If you are among those who feel discouraged because the leadership in our household of faith seems inadequate, it may be helpful for you to pay close attention to this text from the gospel of Luke. I think it offers some insight into our present situation.
Before he recalls the public life of Jesus, Luke records the names of those who at that time planned and controlled the various spheres of political and religious power. The Roman political leaders were Tiberius, Pilate, Herod, Philip and Lysanias. The Jewish religious leaders were Annas and Caiaphas. They are symbolic of all then and still today who embrace the politics and violence of the nations. Luke tells us, “the Word of God came, not to Imperial Rome, not to the sacred precincts of Temple or Synagogue, but to John in the desert.”
John is the precursor of all who are called to follow and imitate Christ. Luke makes this subtle theological point. What is essential, what is important, is not in the hands of those who hold power! That was true as Jesus began his public life. It remains true today. As Jesus traveled around Galilee teaching and healing, he proclaimed an alternative to the power and violence of the dominant cultures. He named that alternative “the Kingdom of God.” The “power people” of his time were oblivious to that “new reality.” It is always such!
Christians are people who are convinced that because of Christ –all creation, everything is different! Christians are those among us who trust that in the Risen One “God’s new reality” has already come! That “new reality” defines our journey. It shapes our present, pulling us into a future of hope. It is like a seed whose blossom or fruit we cannot yet see.
Yes, “God’s new reality” still appears as a distant horizon. Many of those who plan and control the various spheres of political and religious power are oblivious to, or resist that “new reality.” An enormous proportion of humankind is exploited, lives in poverty, and is engaged in or experiences violence.
That ought not surprise us! The majority of our fellow citizens are not “Christian.” That is not to judge or condemn anyone. It is simply a fact! Many of those claiming to be “Christian” have embraced a “cultural Christianity” but not the gospel. They engage in the shopping, the music, the cards and the gatherings of this season, but have little understanding of or little to do with the Christ Mystery. They belong to “the church called America.” Even some of our leaders, like the present Archbishop of New York, are adherents and/or proponents of America’s “civil religion.”
So Advent is extremely important. Advent provides opportunity for us to redirect and refocus our minds and hearts to the Christ Mystery — “God’s new reality.” That “new reality” is emerging among us even now as we each allow God’s love to transform us into Christ.
John was an unknown individual far away from the limelight. Luke reminds us the essential and the important are not in the hands of those who hold power! So don’t be discouraged if you perceive the leadership in our household of faith as inadequate. God is with us! God’s love for humankind is inclusive and unconditional. When Paul wrote his letter to the church of Philippi, he said to them, “this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more . . . and that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” That is my prayer for you as well. Look! Listen! You will see and hear “Cultural Christmas” with the shopping, the music, the cards and the gatherings. Advent calls for more than that! Advent calls us to go deeper into the Christ Mystery.