Resources - 3rd Sunday in Advent
Year B: John 1:6-8.
19-28 - John the Baptist tells of the coming of Christ - 3rd Sunday of Advent
importance of John the Baptist is acknowledged by the selection of Gospel readings
for both last week and this week. Some might say that one week is enough but there
is something for each of us to learn from this strong brave man. The identity
and who exactly John the Baptist is, is the focus of the questioning by the men
sent by the Pharisees. Specifically the representatives of the Pharisees want
to know if John is a prophet or the Messiah - either figure would dismantle the
power base the Pharisees held in Jerusalem so this information was vital to them.
The nuances of the text may be lost on many 3rd millennium
Christians. It was in the book of Exodus that God promised to send God's messenger
before Israel and guide them to the Promised Land. To "prepare the way"
describes Israel's way back from exile in Babylon and so it became in Jewish circles
a classic expression of God's comfort and salvation. So for John the Baptist to
use these phrases in relation to the coming of Christ, John was making it clear
to anyone who would listen that Jesus was the Lord whose ways John the Baptist
prepared to make straight.
John was having a huge impact
on the people with hundreds gathering every day at the river Jordon. Participation
in John's ritual of baptism expressed the person's willingness to change. He was
clearly going to be trouble to those in power. He was clearly a prophetic figure
in demeanour, message and clothing after the pattern of Elijah. It is also very
likely that John's disciples continued to gather together even when John the evangelist
was writing this gospel around 90CE.
Despite this huge
following and his numerous disciples, John the Baptist insists that he is a witness
- he is the divinely chosen witness to the light, not the light itself. John confesses
his unworthiness even to perform the service customarily done by a slave - that
of undoing the sandal strap.
During Advent we are also
meant to be preparing the way of the Lord and that means that we too are called
to be witnesses to the light, people ready to proclaim Jesus is Lord. We need
not adopt John's fashion sense or dietary inclinations but our lives are meant
to be a contrast to the secular message of individualism, consumerism and materialism.
These messages form a constant barrage of brainwashing especially at this time
of year. See it, want it, buy it! accompanied by weekly offers of a new credit
card or credit limit.
I was speaking with a 'good Presbyterian'
who explained that she would be alone on Christmas day and wanted to offer her
Christmas break to volunteering with St Vincent de Paul. Some young people will
spend Christmas in gaol and others will spend Christmas Day visiting them. This
'good news' rarely gets any press and yet these are the very people Jesus names
as his Gospel option for the poor. What will you do?
Year C: Matt 11:2-11 -
The coming of the Messiah - 3rd Sunday in Advent
is experiencing a reversal of opportunities - last week he was the prophet bravely
naming the sinners and demanding repentance and baptism. This week John is denied
access to the wilderness and open plains because he is imprisoned by thick rock
walls and finds himself in the wilderness of doubt and confusion.
was quite confident that Jesus was the Messiah when he baptised him in the Jordan.
Now he wonders what Jesus is about because Jesus is not a fiery preacher of damnation
and judgement who echoes John's message to repent now. In his confusion, John
sends his disciples out to check out Jesus and report back. There were a number
of expectations of the Messiah and the coming of a Messianic age. One expectation
was that the Messiah would overthrow the oppression of the Romans and the Jewish
Zealots were arming themselves is readiness for this Messiah. Another sign was
the healing of those who are afflicted.
Jesus, as Messiah,
was overthrowing the oppression of blindness and leprosy, poverty and exclusion.
Jesus was different to John, he was a person who sat with women, children, men,
outcasts and marginalised. - hence Jesus' suggestion to John's disciples to "go
back and tell John what you see and hear
" By describing what they saw
and heard, they were able to describe the beginning of the Messianic Age. Jesus
was calling for a conversion of heart for those who heard the Good News - a sure
way to demand that people "harden not your hearts." By calling for a
conversion of heart Jesus was asking people to be open to God's Kingdom of surprising
Jesus proclaims John's greatness as a prophet
and then he reverses John's elevation by bringing the most needy and neglected
to the top of the heap. Anyone, regardless of their circumstances is invited to
God's banquet. In a very structured society this reversal is confronting to those
who feel they are already the elect. We live in the in-between-times of knowing
who the Messiah is, and that he has come, and the time of waiting for the second
coming, the completion of the Kingdom of God. In some ways we sometimes relax
into our baptised state and feel we are the elect and are saved and other times
when we reflect on our lives and see the mistakes and recognise our sins we realise
that we need to make some changes in our lives. Let's use this last little time
of Advent to prepare our hearts for conversion and for the coming of the Messiah
as a little babe.
Ministry Resources 3rd Sunday in Advent
Click the Pope for more Youth