Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, a way of life

A Series of Hope / Advent week 2

Click to watch video


"Comfort my people; John the Baptist the messenger, baptizing with fire."


Thanks for joining me for a second week in this Advent exploration of hope.


I suspect that most of us do not expect Jesus to return any time soon. In fact, after 2000 years we are quite accommodated to his absence. Our lives are not shaped by the expectation of a new heaven and a new earth, but by the woes of the present moment, right now by the heavy conflicts in Ukraine, and in Israel and Gaza. One of the risks of such a lack of expectation is the likelihood that what expectations we do have are reduced to looking for the baby in the manger at Christmas. We all know babies, and we like them.


But the Gospel for the second week in Advent shatters any such sentimentality as we are introduced to the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist.  “Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist… and he ate locusts and wild honey.” John is a strange and wild figure, untamed and untameable. And he points to a dangerous God. “The one who is more powerful than I is coming… and he will baptize you with fire.’’


Sweet baby Jesus is part of our expectations, yes. A human baby, born of a young girl. A Jewish baby, born of a Jewish mom. But a baby who portends the transformation of all creation into a new heaven and a new earth.


How is it that we miss that? How is it that we forget that God is not content that his children be born homeless, in sheds? How is it that we forget that God sent the Son for the rising and falling of many? How is it that we forget Jesus has come that we might have abundant life?


The purpose of Advent is not to reconcile us with the world as it is, but to stir up in us the desire, the yearning, and the hunger for something better. John the Baptist is the sign of our discontent and the messenger that something better is coming.


The difficulty, of course, is that a new world means that we, too, have to let go of the old. That we may experience Jesus’ coming as fire, as we are invited to open our hearts to the many whom we have never before considered our neighbors; [as we come to terms with the truth that God does not choose as we do, and has children who are Jewish and Muslim and Hindu and Buddhist. The hope we have for a better world may pinch as we come to terms with the possibility that what we imagine is not what God has in mind.]


Yet our hope is that, despite the pinching, despite the fire, God is creating something better for all of us, something new where we too will have a place and a home. My prayer for us is that we will let hope come among us dressed in camel's hair and eating locusts, that we will see hope in the wild things as well as the quiet.


May it be so.