Advent Day 8 ~ The Messenger of the Son of God ~ You can be his messenger too!

Second Sunday of Advent~ December 6. 2020

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The emergence of John the Baptist, Scripture scholar William Barclay states, was like “the sudden sounding of the Voice of God.” Why? Because the prophets of Israel had been silent for four hundred years and the Jewish people were sadly conscious of that fact. And in today’s gospel, we find large crowds of people coming to hear John preach and to stand in line to be baptized by him.

He gave people hope and challenged people to do what they ought to do; to be what they could be in a time when the world was crazy and mixed up, very similar to our own time. But he also denounced evil wherever he found it, in the state, in among the religious leaders, among the crowd.

The baptist was a wiry character, living on the edge of the desert; he wore a shirt of camel’s hair in the hot sun, which would have been quite uncomfortable according to our standards.   The scriptures record that he also wore a leather belt around his waist and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. (Locusts are like grasshoppers.)   Have you ever had a chocolate-covered grasshopper? Actually they’re not bad. Kind of crunchy, very nutritious, with lots of protein.

People were beginning to think great things about John. Large crowds came to hear him.

His message: “Repent,  for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

(Yeah, I know.  You’ve heard that a zillion times before by street corner prophets.)

In our respectable Sunday assemblies, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Advance Man for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message because it is critical for our own times.)

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias, his wife, demanded his head on a platter.

John was a prophet . . .

Presbyterian Scripture scholar William Barclay offers this commentary on this gospel passage.

The Baptist’s message summoned his people to righteousness. He pointed beyond himself. It was the Jewish belief that Elijah would return before the Messiah would come, and he would be the herald of the coming King (Malachi 4:5).  So, they saw him as the new Elijah.

Then he makes this interesting observation: In ancient times in the East, the roads were bad.  Ordinary roads were no more than tracks. But Solomon built a causeway of black basalt stone that lead to Jerusalem for pilgrims.  They were built by the king and for the king and called “the king’s highway.”

A voice crying out in the wilderness

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

John was preparing the way for the king. The preacher, the teacher with the prophetic voice, points not to himself but to God.

He said he was not fit to carry the sandals of the one who was to come. Carrying sandals was the duty of a slave. John’s whole attitude was self-obliteration.  “He must increase; I must decrease,” John the evangelist would have him say.

Then John warned the Pharisees. he called them “a brood of vipers!” trying to flee the wrath to come. Barclay suggests John was thinking of the possibility of fire in the desert. A river of flame could sweep across the desert and snakes and scorpions and other creatures could be sent scurrying for their lives. (He called the Pharisees “A brood of Vipers.” Jesus said,  ” do not think you can say ‘ you have Abraham as your father.” And it was Jewish thought that the children of Abraham were safe from the “Wrath to come” simply by being Jews. But they were hedging their bets by coming to John for baptism!

Then came the promise. He said that “One would come to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The word for spirit  for the Jews was ruah,  meaning  breath; also meaning wind and, thus, power,  because wind drives ships. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of power.  The Spirit brought truth to God’s people.

And as for the fire, it connotes illumination, warmth, purification.  But there is also a threat.  The winnowing fan on the treshing floor will separate the wheat from the chaff.  In Christianity, there is no escape from the eternal choice.

In John. there is the basic demand: “REPENT!” And that is the basic demand of Jesus himself, “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  The Jewish word for repentance is itself interesting teshuba, from the verb shub, which means simply “to turn.”  Repentance is a turning away from evil and a turning towards God.  In Greek, the word is metanoia, and also means to turn around.  Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that says “God allows U-turns.”  Repentance is always available. No case is hopeless for repentance; no one is beyond repentance. The Rabbis said, “Let not a man say, ‘Because I have sinned, no repair is possible for me’ but let him trust in God, and God will receive him.     (Barclay ~ The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 pp. 43-58.)

And so, the Christmas message is that Love has entered the world.

As we enter this second week of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:

How can I prepare the way for the Lord  (or Love) ? 

By being our own messenger of Jesus (or Love)

at home, at the office, in my neighborhood,

in our country, in our politics,

in our world  ~ during this coming week.

God’s message to us in the Christmas story is Love.

That’s why he was born, entering our world as a vulnerable baby.

And that’s why he died – vulnerable / bound / nailed –

because the Father wanted us to have evidence that he loved us.

And in turn, his message is . . .

Love one another as I have loved you.  

Try it. Be a messenger yourself this week in some little way.

Now, listen and watch Prepare the Way of the Lord  from Godspell. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen .Click here.  (Get a chuckle out of Jesus’ 1973 ‘Fro.)  

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

 

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

The Messenger of the Son of God

baptist3Second Sunday of Advent~ December 4, 2016

He lived in Judea about the same time as Jesus and is supposed to be his cousin. He was very popular. Large crowds of people came to hear him preach and to stand in line to be baptized by him. He gave people hope and called people to their senses in a time when the world was crazy and mixed up, very similar to our own time.

He was a wiry character. He lived on the edge of the desert and wore a shirt of camel’s hair, that in the hot sun, would have been horribly uncomfortable.  I would surmise that he was pretty smelly out there in the desert.   The scriptures record that he also wore a leather belt around his waist. His diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. (Locusts are like grasshoppers.)   Have you ever had a chocolate-covered grasshopper? Actually they’re not bad. Kind of crunchy. And very nutritious. Lots of protein.

Well, anyway, people were beginning to think great things about John. Large crowds came to hear him.

His message: “Repent,  for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

(Yeah, I know.  You’ve heard that  a zillion times before by street corner prophets.)

In our respectable Sunday assemblies, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Advance Man for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message – which we’ll do this week – because it is critical for our own times.)

He preached with exuberance and passion and sometimes with fury.  He raged at many of the Pharisees and Sadducees:  “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (And I’m sure they seethed and you can be sure they were out to get him.

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias, his wife, demanded his head on a platter.

John was a prophet . . .

A voice crying out in the wilderness

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

In today’s readings we find, Matthew has John saying: 

        One who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy carry his sandals.

        He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt 3:10-11).

In our respectable Sunday assemblies, though, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Messenger for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message because it is critical for our own times.)

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias demanded his head on a platter.

The Presbyterian Scripture scholar William Barclay offers this commentary on this gospel passage.

The Baptist’s message summoned his people to righteousness. He pointed beyond himself. It was the Jewish belief that Elijah would return before the Messiah would come, and he would be the herald of the coming King (Malachi 4:5).  

Then he makes this interesting observation: In ancient times in the East, the roads were bad.  Ordinary roads were no more than tracks. But Solomon built a causeway of black basalt stone that lead to Jerusalem for pilgrims.  They were built by the king and for the king and called “the king’s highway.”

John was preparing the way for the king. The preacher, the teacher with the prophetic voice, points not to himself but to God.

Then John warned the Pharisees. he called them “a brood of vipers!” trying to flee the wrath to come.

Then came the promise. He said he was not fit to carry the sandals of the one who was to come. Carrying sandals was the duty of a slave. John’s whole attitude was self-obliteration.  “He must increase; I must decrease,” John the evangelist would have him say.

He said that One would come to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  The word for spirit  for the Jews was ruah,  meaning  breath; also meaning wind and, thus, power,  because wind drives ships. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of power.  The Spirit brought truth to God’s people.

And as for the fire, it connotes illumination, warmth, purification.  But there is also a threat.  The winnowing fan on the treshing floor will separate the wheat from the chaff.  In Christianity, there is no escape from the eternal choice.

In John. there is the basic demand: “REPENT!” And that is the basic demand of Jesus himself, “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  The Jewish word for repentance is itself interesting teshuba, from the verb shub, which means simply “to turn.”  Repentance is a turning away from evil and a turning towards God.  In Greek, the word is metanoia, and also means to turn around.  Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that says “God allows U-turns.”  Repentance is always available. No case is hopeless for repentance; no one is beyond repentance. The Rabbis said, “Let not a man say,’Because I have sinned, no repair is possible for me’ but let him trust in God, and God will receive him.     (Barclay ~ The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 pp. 43-58.)

And so, the Christmas message is that Love has entered the world.

As we enter this second week of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:

How can I prepare the way for the Lord  (or Love)

at home,

at the office,

in my neighborhood,

in our country,

in our politics,

in our world  ~ this week?

God’s message to us in the Christmas story is Love.

That’s why he was born, entering our world as a vulnerable baby.

And that’s why he died – vulnerable / bound / nailed –

because the Father wanted us to have evidence that he loved us.

And in turn, his message is . . .

Love one another as I have loved you.

Now, listen and watch Prepare the Way of the Lord  from Godspell Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. (Get a chuckle out of Jesus’ 1973 ‘Fro.)  

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here. 

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Advent Day 8 ~ Jesus Wild n’ Wooly Advance Man

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Second Sunday of Advent

He probably looked like someone from the cast of the old musical Hair or a hippie.

He lived in the wild in the desert of Judea.

He wore clothing made of camel’s hair, that I’m sure was – um – uncomfortable in the desert’s heat.  (He was probably pretty stinky.)

His scrumptious diet was locusts and wild honey ~yuck!

His message: “Repent,  for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

(Yeah, I know.  You’ve heard that  a zillion times before by street corner prophets.)

In our – um – respectable Sunday assemblies, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Advance Man for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message – which we’ll do this week – because it is critical for our own times.)

He was Jesus’ cousin, born only a few months before the Lord.  The pair may have played together as kids.  And John, must’ve gotten to know Jesus well enough to  perceive what his role would be in history.

As a result, he preached with exuberance and passion and sometimes with fury.  He raged at many of the Pharisees and Sadducees:  “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (And I’m sure they seethed and you can be sure they were out to get him.

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias, his wife, demanded his head on a platter.

John was a prophet . . .

A voice crying out in the wilderness

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

In today’s readings we find, Matthew has John saying: 

        One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to loosen his sandals.

        He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt 3:10-11).

The Christmas message is that Love has entered the world.

As we enter this second week of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:

How can I prepare the way for the Lord  (or Love, if you do not  share our  Christian faith,)

at home,

at the office,

in your neighborhood,

in our country,

in our politics,

in our world — this week?

God’s message to us in the Christmas story is Love.

That’s why he was born, entering our world as a vulnerable baby.

And that’s why he died – vulnerable / bound / nailed –

because the Father wanted us to have evidence that he loved us.

And in turn, his message is . . .

Love one another as I have loved you.

Right now, there’s a lot of hatred going around.

There are hate groups all over our country.  Over 900 documented armed hate groups.

There’s hatred toward Muslims.  I have Muslim friends.  They are devout and wonderful people.

There’s hatred toward gay people.  I have gay friends.  And they’re as decent and often as devout as those who sit in the front pews of our churches.

Some of our kids suffer from bullying ~ even to the point of committing suicide.

Yes, indeed! We have lots of need to repent.

How ’bout you, dear reader?

Is there hatred or love in your heart?

If we hate even one person, we cause hate to have its sway anywhere.

And the opposite is true as well — if we love one person sacrificially, love enters the world in a powerful way.

Let’s do it this week — this second week of Advent,

And then we will truly have a beautiful / meaningful /joyful / authentic Christmas celebration.

We don’t need all the frenzied shopping or frivolous, expensive gift-giving.

Celebrate Christmas  by being kinder, gentler, cheerier.

Hold the door open for the folks behind you when you enter a store.  Smile!

Think about and pray about reconciling with a friend you’re at odds with.  Smooth out hurt feelings.  Give somebody – anybody – the gift of your presence rather than presents.

Recently, as I was taking my groceries to the car I smiled at an older woman who was poorly dressed and who seemed troubled.  Her name was Sylvia, an immigrant from one of the islands.  She called after me and I took the time to listen to her, thereby allowing her to be recognized as a person, if just for a moment.  I stopped to pray with her a moment that God would send her an angel to help with a serious problem.  She said to me: “You are my angel!”  Perhaps I was.  Perhaps I was the instrument of grace to turn her life around.  You never know.

Your children don’t need a lot of stuff ~ especially stuff that makes a lot of noise!   (We’ll get to the need for silence in our lives in a few days.)

And now, here’s my personal prayer on this Second Sunday of Advent:

Jesus,

You have allowed me, your priest/servant the grace

to prepare the way for You in the lives on many people  over 44 years–

children / octogenarians / homeless / guys in jail / those dying /

grieving / celebrating / becoming Catholic / non-believers /

gay / parishioners / mentally ill / neighbors /  friends / strangers.

What an honor, what a privilege!

Thank you, Lord for that awesome grace!

And please forgive me and heal the hurt of anyone whom I have turned away from You by my failures and sins.

I remember and pray for so many of them today.

I am eager to continue doing so in my writing.

Guide my pen (my cursor), Lord.

And what a joy it would be if those whose lives I have touched through my written word or in person realize they, too, can prepare the way for you in our troubled world.

Come, Lord Jesus!  

You might also might like to look over the Mass readings for today. Click here. (Hint: To get back to this page (if your not tech Savvy) at the very top left or your computer you’ll see the word “back”; above it is an (<). Click on it and voila! it will bring you right back to this page and . . .

 

Your light will come dear people of God;

the Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.

You will see his glory within YOU!

The Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.

                  ~ the Advent Liturgy. 

Now before you go, here’s a wonderful surprise video for you. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

This week we’ll reflect on what Jesus’ wild and wooly advance man has to say to us and our times.  You might want to look up the following scripture references over the next week if you have time: (Matthew 3:1-17 / 14:1-12 // Mark 1:1-8. // Luke 1: 39-45 / 1:57 – 80 // 3:1-20 / 7:18-35 // John 1:15-34 / 3:22-30

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer