Advent is my favorite time of the church year. The lectionary gives us exciting readings. They are full of hope for the future while convicting us to repent and prepare for Jesus's second coming. The prophecies form the same basic theme. They maintain that the arrival of the Messiah will bring firm and equitable administration of justice in God's world and, at the same time, result in equitable sharing of resources of God's love.
Hope for us is that creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. However, hope for the future is more crucial to us now than before. We are unsure of the life of our planet, and our health and the future generation's safety have a big question mark.
The first few verses of Isaiah (Isa 11:1-5) describe the Messiah as One who is to restore a peaceful future kingdom and a Kingship. Isaiah describes the Messiah symbolically as"A shoot from the stump of Jesse," and this means he comes with the image of positive sovereignty, harkening back to King David. Historians believe the prophecy is about restoring the united Davidic rule, wherethecomingKing will rule in peace. And this tranquil prophecy echoes in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 34:25) and Hosea (Hosea 2:18): "I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in safety."
The prophecy gives a glimpse of the perfect world where everyone is safe. But the reality of this prophecy has not hit our present world yet. Sometimes, the images are humorous and mind-boggling: babies handling snakes and wolves and leopards passing up a "steak dinner," which makes the prophecy unreal because such a tranquil scene is impossible in our human experience.
John the Baptist typifies Isaiah; he brings good news, but his prophecy but not without debates (v 10; cf Isa 40: 3-4).He brings a vision of repentance because the Messiah will cleansewith the Holy Spirit and fire and give immortality and eternal life to those who believe in him. Execution of this job is like a wheat gardener who will "………. gather his wheat, separate the wheat from the chaff, put it in the granary, and burn the chaff." That requires a lot of preparation and meticulous work.You don't have to be a farmer to understand the seriousness of these prophetic words. Unfortunately, so many Christians have used, and still use, the verses to make horrible errors and feeble judgments. Paul keeps pounding into our heads that the Scriptures are to inspire, instruct and give hope, not to judge (Rom 14: 14).
John had to deal with a stubborn audience of self-righteous leaders. And John's mission is to open their eyes to the fact that having Abraham as their ancestor does not guarantee the wrath of God. Salvation is through those who yield to God in innocence, and they will enjoy the peace and tranquility of the light he brings to the world. It will help if you approach your salvation like a little child.
Advent readings give us a lot to meditate on, and through the lessons, we learn the mysteries of our baptism. The church has grabbed the vision of the mysteries and purposes of the light and love that Advent brings and aims to pass it to every corner of darkness so others also may experience God's providential light, love, and hope.
Let us pray for wisdom and clarity of the prophecies so we can give our children the tools they need so they, too, can be torch bearers and their future manifest the peace, love, and tranquility only known in the kingdom of heaven. Amen!