The second in a series of Advent Reflections
This is the second in a series of short Advent reflections, based on the gospels for the Sundays in Advent.
So much of Christian faith in our time is about beliefs. And beliefs are important. They help us to understand what it means to trust in God and to follow Jesus. Beliefs also distinguish us from other Christians, give us a chance to talk about what is distinctive – we might say, “better,” about being Episcopalian. Interestingly, Jesus did not talk much about beliefs except for this: “Believe, trust, in God. Believe also in me.” What Jesus always seemed more interested in was behavior. How do we live out that trust in God? How do we live with and among our neighbors?
On the second Sunday of Advent we hear about John the Baptist. John is a strange figure. He’d be comical except that the message he preached was terrifying. John came preaching about repentance. Behavior, he says, matters. In fact, it has eternal significance. The way we treat one another matters to God for ever. God will not forget.
It doesn’t matter who you are, what your status is, whether you are high born or low. It doesn’t matter if you are one of the chosen. God can make chosen ones from stones. No! What matters is that you know your need for God, that you know you have hurt others and will again, that you know that God wants you to love others even when you don’t feel like it.
God will stand for nothing less. And even now, as we go about our lives, the ax is laid to the old roots, the fire is lit, so that God may sweep away this old world in favor of the new.
John’s conviction, and ours as well, is that Christ is coming, a new world is being born. And therefore our focus is always on the now, on what we do, how we behave, today. Today is the test. Today is the day that matters. Loving God and loving neighbor is our everyday expression of our trust that Christ will come again. It’s the way we prepare for his return.
There is forgiveness, yes. Thanks be to God. We need it. But always so that we may return once again to loving God and loving neighbor. That’s the worthy fruit of repentance. That’s the way we prepare the way of the Christ.