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2nd Sunday of Advent, 4 Dec 2022 - Dcn Jim Curtain

A brand-new priest went to the lectern to preach his first homily after ordination. He was as nervous as a kitten. But when he reached the lectern, he broke into a broad smile. Someone had left a note for him. 'What's it to be, man? Will you give us heaven or give us hell?'

Well today, I’d like to share the gospel, i.e., good and joyful news from God, news on God's authority, news of hope, and news of encouragement, news of heaven. The good news that our God is preparing us for Christ's Second Coming by giving us the invitation to change for the better! The good news of our hope expressed in our response to our Psalm today: ‘Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.’

Of course, the action of God for a better world, for a just and peaceful society, the one presented in our reading from the prophet Isaiah, a new state of paradise where wolf and lamb, calf and lion-cub live together, feed together, and play together, this action of God requires our cooperation. John the Baptist, God’s messenger in today’s gospel, tells us that most of all our cooperation requires repentance, requires turning around, changing direction. To the crowds coming out to see and hear him he keeps on saying, ‘Repent.’ In other words, 'To get ready for the coming of the Messiah, give up your selfishness, your greed, your self-indulgence, your dishonesty, your disloyalty, your anger, your nastiness, and your hostility.’ In a short phrase, ‘clean up your act.’

True repentance, John insists, requires practical results. So he says bluntly: ‘If you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit.’ Repentance, then, is much more than sorrow for our sins, even for the best of motives. Full repentance requires a change of heart and a change of lifestyle. It requires a thoroughgoing turn-around in how we think, feel, value, speak, act and live. Paul, in today’s reading from his letter to the Romans, puts a good slant on this. To him, this repentance means: ‘treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ has treated you.’ It involves nothing less than taking on the mind and heart of Jesus.

Clean up our act, and take on the mind and heart of Jesus. What might this look like? Many of us are mothers and fathers. We know what it's like to prepare for the arrival of a new baby. A room might be cleaned out of all useless junk. Maybe washed or wiped clean from top to bottom, even a new coat of paint. A blind to keep the sun out of Baby's face, and pretty curtains put up to decorate the space. A bassinet, a cot, a pram, and a stroller, must be provided. Fresh, soft baby clothes must await the Baby's arrival. Maybe some soft toys must be added to the scene, and some shapes hung from the ceiling to capture Baby's attention and to keep him/her amused. Do you remember the feeling of hope and joy that can sometimes overpower you when you’re waiting for the birth of a child? There is so much to be done.

In ancient times, preparing for the visit of a king to one of his cities or towns was just as demanding. The king would send a courier to tell people to mend the roads, fill in the pot-holes, and level out the bumps so that the king's journey might be as pleasant and comfortable as possible. It is this image that Matthew uses to describe the mission of John the Baptist. The word of God that comes to him as God’s messenger crying out in the desert, amounts to this: 'The King of Kings is coming. So mend your lives, as thoroughly as you would mend your roads for the visit of your other King.' ‘Make the paths straight!’

For our celebrations of Advent and Christmas, both of our King’s first coming at Christmas and of our hope in his Second Coming at the end of time, you and I have a double task:- 1. To rejoice and give thanks that we do not save ourselves, but that our God is coming to save us, and 2. With the help of our gracious God, to fill in those potholes, level out those bumps, and remove those roadblocks, that are hindering God's work of saving, transforming, changing, and renewing us.

What might those bumps in the road be? Of some of them, at least, you and I are well aware. How are people treated in our society, in our world? Recently in this parish we’ve been talking about the future, how we can continue to be the face of Christ to our community. In these discussions I’ve been reassured and heartened by the awareness of those in our communities in need, those who are lonely, those who are addicted, those who are refugees from war, oppression and poverty. In our discussions there has been a genuine attempt to be people of charity the full Christian sense of that word.

If we are to truly celebrate the birthday of the Saviour of the World, the plight of our fellow human beings pleading ‘Be with us’, ‘Support us’, ‘Save us,’ ‘Protect us,’ ‘Take us in,’ ‘Help us to live with dignity,’ must find without delay a broad, humane, compassionate and generous response! To clean up our act and take on the mind and heart of Jesus will mean responding to those in need with the compassionate action of Jesus.


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