Second Sunday of Advent
Imagine that you’ve just had a message from God. He wants you to be the advance guard for his Son, who is coming soon to preach a revolutionary message of love for all, and who will ultimately die in the cause of unconditional love. How do you react?
Probably you feel like running away, but you’re too far in now to get out of it. Surely God has made a mistake, there is no way you are the right person for this vital task. But, God’s ways are not our ways, and God doesn’t make mistakes, He knows exactly what he is doing.
St John the Baptist, whose call is recorded in today’s Gospel. Definitely not the sort of person you would have chosen. He wasn’t anyone famous, he was a rough sort of character, who was proved to be abrasive in tongue, if not downright hostile. He lived on a strange vegan diet and didn’t exactly dress in the height of fashion. Humanly speaking he did this strange thing of going out into the desert wilderness to preach – a place where no one lived! Truly God’s ways are not our ways, truly God picks the strangest people to serve his purposes in the world.
Think about our own journey of faith, and the milestones along the way: think about the unassuming saints we have known who have shown us more of God’s love than any number of learned professors of theology would ever be able to do. Who prepared the way for us to know Christ? For many it will have been parents, probably nothing in the eyes of the world, but people seeking to follow Christ in precisely the ordinary things of life in the world of work, the world of the family. Who made the path straight for us? Who filled in the valleys and lowered the hills so that we could see the Lord? Who made the crooked paths straight and the rough ways smooth so that we could see the salvation of the Lord? It is the ordinary faithful people of God who have done this, many of whom would run a mile if you said they were saints. And that is our challenge and our calling, that we should straighten paths, smooth rough ways, prepare the way of the Lord for those whom we meet.
Various Christian thinkers have said there is a God-shaped hole inside each of us. Either God fills it, or the false gods of this passing age will enter. Our challenge is to help people see that Jesus is the answer to the deepest needs and longings of the human heart, and to encourage them to fill their lives with him and experience for themselves how things will never be the same again, new life indeed. We are called even in our ordinariness and unworthiness to know Christ and in so doing to step outside our comfort zones and be prepared to do great things for Christ. There are many ways we can do this, but if we are prepared to be truly open to the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, ordinary, uncertain though we often are, God can do great things through us, and enable us to prepare the way for others.
Fr. Edward Bryant