Second Sunday of Advent (Year B)

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Isaiah 40:1-11 | Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 | Mark 1:1-8 | 2 Peter 3:8-15a

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Advent Meditation by Jason Slibeck

Before 2020, the darkness of Advent was easier to ignore. We cloaked the mystery in work parties, social events, white elephant gifts, twinkling bright lights, peppy holiday tunes, marathon shopping, traditional concerts, and shows of smiling soldiers high stepping in sequined heels! Relentless activity preparing for the big finish on Christmas Day. Instead of celebrating Christmas for twelve days starting on December 25, we tried to force Christmas to begin soon after the Halloween decorations came down. Then, we would finish the season as soon as the presents were unwrapped and the pitcher of eggnog was dry. After all, New Year’s Eve was less than a week away.

This year, though…

…the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. … Therefore, beloved, while you were waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.” (2 Peter 3: 8-15)

A voice says, “Cry Out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass. … The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it.” (Isaiah 40:1-11)

Today’s Advent scriptures force us to confront God’s absolute and eternal power. A mysterious power greater than we can comprehend. Beyond time and space. Beyond reason and imagination. Truly apocalyptic. We are simply grass in a field, fading inevitably and withering away despite our multitudes. Talk about darkness! The Scripture goes beyond waiting out a cold night. This is elemental destruction and the quenching fire of Truth exposing everything. Only the patience of the Lord is holding back the destruction. How do we even find a way to an almighty God hidden beyond time and space? Isaiah, terrified, pleads for all of us. ‘What shall I cry?” How can the grass possibly survive? Life has been difficult enough already. And, we have yet to see the Lord in all his hill-levelling and path-straightening destructive glory. Can we possibly be blamed for trying to skip right over Advent to plow straight into a merry Christmas?

And yet…

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1-8)

Mark created a new kind of story for the world; beyond a biography, we now call it a gospel. Mark began with a messenger like us who wore a warm coat and a leather belt, and who ate whatever happened to be nearby. The messenger, John, remembered what Isaiah had seen and was doing his best to tell his neighbors to get ready. God had chosen his time and his place. Power was emerging. Still, Mark started our story with John, a humble person doing his part for a better tomorrow. We know how the story ends now. God fulfilled his promise to bring Light into the world. This year, before I skip ahead and celebrate the good news at the end of the story, I will try to embrace the mysterious darkness of the beginning to experience hope emerging. I anticipate discovering new joy from each person I encounter and each event that unfolds as the abiding faithfulness of God’s Love is revealed again.

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