Second Sunday of Advent (December 4, 2016)

We have just heard Isaiah announce to us that God will raise up a Messiah from the remnants of Jesse’s clan.

The Spirit of God will give him all the gifts he needs to accomplish his mission.

Justice and faithfulness will characterize his way of living. His concern will be for what is in peoples’ hearts, not for what they say or do. He will stand as a signal for all to see and follow.

John the Baptist enters history to prepare the way for the Messiah. We hear his familiar cry: “Reform your lives! The kingdom of God is at hand.” John’s baptism was to be a sign of life-long willingness to reform - to change whatever is needed in order to be open to the many ways the Lord will come. John’s anger at the Pharisees who approached him to be baptized gives us reason to look into our own hearts.

What evidence do we give each day that we are trying to repent - to change? We can’t afford to tell ourselves: I’ve been a faithful member of the Christian community. I’ve spent years in ministry. That’s sign enough. Is it? The important question is: Am I open to changing any aspect of my life that may still get in the way of Jesus’ living in me more fully?

St. Paul offers us a place to look - the way we live in community as family, friends, colleagues, classmates and neighbors. He tells us: “Welcome one another just as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God.” We know how Christ has welcomed us with all our imperfections, and he has called us his brothers and sisters. Paul tells us that, when we are open to welcoming one another in that way, the God of steadfastness and encouragement will help us to live in harmony with one another, so that together we may glorify God our Father with one voice.

The Baptist reminds us that “every tree that is not fruitful will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” The fruitfulness of our lives depends on our continuing willingness to change attitudes and behaviors that do not reflect fully the love of God.

As we continue our Advent preparation, may each of us be open to the grace of continual repentance so that the Lord can come and live in us more fully.