2nd Sunday in Advent
December 10, 2017
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Responsorial Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
Second Reading: 2 Peter 3:8-14
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8
Many years ago, I was preparing to run in the Chicago Marathon. The marathon stretches for 26 ½ miles throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. I knew I needed to get my body ready for this endeavor and I signed up with a trainer team and practiced every week. I had trained for several months and was able to run for a distance of 12 miles when I had to attend a conference in New Orleans in the middle of June. While Chicago was hot, it was not as hot and humid as New Orleans was that time of the year. Temperatures in New Orleans reached between 95 and 100 degrees, and I remember thinking I could still train in New Orleans if I got up very early (6:00 a.m.) to make the run and had a few small bottles of water with me for hydration. What I didn’t prepare for was the immensity of the heat nor the fact I had not been preparing for a run in New Orleans but had been training in Chicago which has very different terrain, humidity, and weather. The long and short of the story is that I became quite ill after my run, had to be taken to the emergency room, and spent the next day recuperating.
You are probably wondering how this connects with this upcoming Sunday’s readings? The readings for the second Sunday of Advent focus on preparation. How are we prepared to ‘prepare the way of the Lord?’ Both our first reading and the Gospel point to the need for preparation. In the first reading, the prophet known as Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55) is writing to reassure the people who had been in captivity and exile. He reminds them that the God who brought their ancestors to freedom by way of the desert is about to lead them home and they need to get ready for the journey. In the Gospel of Mark, it is not just any voice encouraging the people to make way for the Lord but this voice belongs to John the Baptist who makes his Advent entrance in the proclamation of Mark’s Gospel. We are reminded of John’s voice each Sunday when we say “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you” and we add “Speak the Word and my soul shall be healed.”
The challenge is “are we prepared for the Lord’s coming and are we ready to be transformed and healed?” God comes into the world with a message of justice and peace, as alluded to in today’s Psalm. Kindness, truth, justice, and peace are meeting, and the question becomes for us, are we prepared for what that means? It has been over two thousand years and we are still not prepared for the reign of justice . . . for the coming of the Lord.
Like my unprepared body that collapsed from the run, our world today, our neighborhoods, and even our faith communities are struggling and groaning in pain because we are not prepared to be in right relationships with one another. We are not prepared to do the work of justice and peace that our world so sorely needs.
The time of Advent is a preparation for the Christmas that is to come. Howard Thurman, the great African-American theologian and mystic, reminds us of this time and preparation.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
Advent is a time for us to slow down, to prayerfully reflect and get ourselves ready for the coming of Christ in our hearts. This year, let us not rush through this Advent, thinking we are ready for Christmastime, but instead let us take the time to prepare our minds, hearts, and spirits by a renewal and recommitment to prayer, scriptural and spiritual reading, and healing of relationships, so that this Advent we can truly say we have prepared for the way of the Lord and are ready to bring peace among the people. AMEN!
Dr. C. Vanessa White
Assistant Professor of Spirituality and Ministry
Director of the Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry
and Master of Arts in Specialized Ministry Programs