#GreatExpectation is the podcast for December 16, 2018, the Third Sunday of Advent. Our Great Expectation is the Great Motivation. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke3 #Advent #JohntheBaptist #HolySpirit #Thong #Sandals
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 12/16/2018 The 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 3:7-18.
If your boss calls and says that she will meet you in your office in the next few days, wouldn’t you tidy up the place? If you were going on a first date, wouldn’t you make sure you looked your best? If you were meeting God in person, wouldn’t you make some changes to your life?
This is the purpose of John the Baptist. John is established as a part of the larger prophetic ministry of God. As a priest, I hear a lot of complaining about how God is judgmental and bad and inconvenient, etc. etc.. Yet, if you read the scriptures, God never looks at our bad behavior and just zaps us. He sends someone to call to get back to what we should be doing. We have major and minor prophets in the Old Testament. They are “major” because they have more pages, not because their message is any more important. Every one of them came to warn people to get their act together in preparation to meet their maker.
In other passages, and here in Luke 3:4, we see that John is the one who is crying out in the wilderness that we should prepare for the Messiah, as told to us by Isaiah in chapter 40:3 and following. The Lord is always sending prophets so that he does not have to hold us to account for what we have done wrong. Wouldn’t it be nice to have our bosses, our parents, our spouses, and other people in respected positions in our lives give us a fair warning? The mercy of God is shown in his sending someone to tell us to turn it around.
So, one of the first things we need to get from this is that God loves us and doesn’t want to shock us or trip us up. He wants to be straight up with us, honest. He isn’t an insurance company that says that he will cover us and then when we have an injury send private investigators to our home to record us so that he doesn’t have to pay the claim. [Not that any of us have experienced that around here.] God is honest. He wants us to be ready.
Ready for what is important. I am troubled every year by the smallness of the baby in the manger in one sense. God makes himself so vulnerable. The baby in the manger belies the remarkable event. The God of the universe is coming to us as a human being to save us. (Again, please keep the Christ child out of your nativity scenes until December 24, and leave him there until January 6!). This kindness and goodness of God make us familiarize and domesticate the Feast of the Nativity of God to the point that it can be characterized as “cute” and “sweet”, and thus, insignificant; a mere satisfying of our fancy.
In one way the unassuming Lord, comes as a baby for us to ooh and ahhh all over him. This is very savvy on his part. Who doesn’t want to greet a baby? He comes to us as a child to live our life, experience our joys, our laughter, our tears, and our suffering. So, this sweet, unassuming, little bundle, of whom we will observe a joyous greeting in nine days, is the one who will die for our sins. He is “God with us”. He is “The Word made Flesh” who leads us to salvation. He is our Great Expectation.
John comes and greets everyone to win friends and influence people: “You children of snakes!” (that is what ‘Brood of vipers’ means). He tells them, as the prophet, that the proper preparation for the coming of the Messiah is a big party with spiked egg nog, lots of shopping, eating beyond our appetite, gossiping about relatives we cannot stand, cookies, candies, endless parties and…oh, sorry, wrong list.
For a few, repentance is about an entire life change. They need to change friends and places they frequent. Other times, repentance is more like what John tells those who were actually cut to the heart by his approach. Currently, warning people about possibly going to hell is very unpopular. We are encouraged to not use the word “Wrath” when speaking of the Good News of the Gospel these days. Yet, the repentance about which John speaks has to do with the way we conduct our business more than it has to do with us making wholesale changes to our place of living, place of business, friends we keep, and places we frequent after work or school.
He says simply, stop embezzling, cheating, blackmailing, committing fraud, telling lies, and overall, stop being dishonest. That is repentance. Stop treating other human beings badly. That is repentance. Stop being greedy and self-serving. That is repentance.
John is the equivalent to a guy who goes to the office Christmas party and says, “Repent! Stop using your expense account to pad your pay check. Stop stealing office supplies. Stop telling little white lies or omitting facts to the prospective client. Stop giving vacation days that will never be used over an actual increase in pay. Stop charging more to some and less to others with whom you need favors.” I encourage each of us to adapt this message to our life situation. If we find ourselves in work systems, friend systems, and family systems where we cannot be honest, truthful, and good, then either we need to be the same, or we need to get out of our job, our family situation, or our friend circle. We will come to find that there are some of these systems where honesty, trustworthiness, and goodness are not welcome. Please see John put in prison. Please see the Crucifixion.
Yet, our motivation for getting our houses in order is the Great Expecation Himself. It is the Christ child, God With Us, who comes to seemingly unassumingly rock our world and save our souls. We are to be filled with longing for the suffering of our lives to end. We are to be filled with a great expectation of a better world, a new heaven and a new earth. Advent, or “coming”, means that we are preparing for the end by celebrating the beginning. He is our Great Expecation.
I had the honor of administering last rites twice this past week. Families gathered around the loved one, our sisters in Christ both. They had the advantage of being prepared. They had a priest to come to them and give them the Apostolic Pardon, which I am only more than willing to do. But what about us? What are we doing to prepare the way of the Lord? How are we adjusting our lives to be more honest, more trustworthy, and good? How are we changing one thing or two to make Advent and Christmas more about our salvation, our repentance, than about our gluttony?
Even more, how are we filled with great expectation as we await the celebration of the birth of the Great Expecation? How are we allowing the joy of the holy season to overcome our fear, our resistance to change? How are we repenting and how are we letting the joy of our motivation, Jesus Christ, energize our faith?
So, your boss is coming. You are going on a first date. And God is coming in person to meet you. So, let’s change some things about how we live our lives, shall we? Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian