The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents
Baruch, which means one who is blessed, was the son of Zabbai and a leader in Israel, a strict Torah observer meaning one who kept all of the laws, and one who shied away from contact with non-Jews. Baruch is a relatively minor figure found in the Book of Jeremiah (Eerdmans: op cit.). He was believed to be Jeremiah’s scribe and the book to be written circa 582 BC (Wikiquote). We don’t know much about him, although in the reading we heard this morning, his devotion comes through.
Advent is meant to be a time of self-examination, as well as one of waiting, longing, anticipation, and expectation of great joy at the arrival of the Savior of the world. Instead what it has become is a time of great materiality, loss of the religious meaning of the season and a time of me, me, me. One of the reasons I like the Episcopal focus on Advent is because it brings me back over and over again to the spiritual values in this season and in fact, it enhances the joy of Christmas because the long wait is over and we can now truly celebrate the birthday of the greatest gift God has ever given us, His Son. Advent is meant to be a time to worship the coming of the King. Instead it has been turned into a time of avaricious consumption. Oh dear, I am beginning to sound like a stern 18th century preacher. I had better turn this around to a more positive note.
Prophesy plays a role in the readings for this second Sunday of Lent
and in many of the readings about the birth of Christ.
First, we have Baruch who was believed to be a scribe for the
prophet Jeremiah who was also known as the weeping prophet. He tells us to “put on forever the beauty of the glory from God…God will give you forever more the name ‘Righteous Peace, Godly
Glory’…For God has ordered that every high mountain and the
everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level
ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.”
And then we hear in the Gospel according to Luke the words of the
prophet Isaiah as told in The Message translation:
“Thunder in the desert!
Prepare God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!
Every ditch will be filled in,
Every bump smoothed out,
The detours straightened out,
All the ruts paved over.
Everyone will be there to see
The parade of God’s salvation.”
Clearly, we are to make things right for the arrival of the Savior! We could take this passage literally and understand it to mean that somehow the “paths will be made straight, every valley will be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be make straight and the rough ways made smooth and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” But this raises questions for me. Does it for you? Who will do this? I have a couple of thoughts about who should do this. Perhaps it is you and me; and how should we do this?
Isaiah says in the quote in Luke that we read earlier: a voice is calling out in the wilderness. That voice is John the Baptist. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Is this a way of making paths straight, preparing for the way of the Lord? If we think more metaphorically that Christ should be welcomed into a place that welcomes him, is that not preparing for God’s arrival by making his paths smooth and straightening out the detours? Who does Jesus have except us to proclaim his arrival? How can we say to the rest of the world: do you know who’s coming as we celebrate his birthday and anticipate his second arrival? This is part of what is missing in this Advent/Christmas season is that sense that we are welcoming a baby into our midst who is the Savior of the world. Imagine that!
Now if we take this passage from Isaiah as found in Luke, we can ask a second question. How should the world prepare for the arrival of Jesus Christ? What would happen if people took this seriously and started to look around at what needs to be changed? Brother David Vryhof of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist which is an Episcopal Order of Brothers located in Cambridge, Massachusetts
has written a column which addresses this question and I would like to read it to you. It is entitled Injustice.
Brother Vryhof writes: “The poor do not exist to supplement the wealthy or the powerful. Wealthy corporations who depend on the labor of underpaid employees, many of them in third world countries, are padding their pockets with the sweat of the poor. If we are serious about repentance we must be prepared to speak up, to challenge political injustice wherever we find it.”
Something to think about…
And finally, how do we as individuals “Prepare for God’s arrival?
Yesterday at the Advent retreat we spent some time on this question. The question we asked is: How can we stay sane in this crazy season? It’s so easy to get caught up in the frenzy of buying, cooking, decorating, sending cards, wrapping, drinking, eating, and partying that we become exhausted, angry, worn out, thinking that this Christmas has to be the best one ever. The best Christmas is the one that puts Jesus at the center of the celebration. The best Advent ever is the one that prepares us during these four weeks for
worship, adoration, acceptance and the celebration of the birthday of the King.
So here are some of our suggestions.
Listen for the thunder in the desert even if it is metaphorical, prepare for God’s arrival, and look for the parade of God’s salvation. And as much as you can, stay out of the stores, the mall and any place that will make us forget what this season is.
Some other suggestions are to:
Treat yourself well, take care of yourself, eat fruit, get enough sleep, and put on makeup.
Buy premade items, every wreath does not have to be made by hand nor does every dish on your Christmas table have to be made from scratch.
Cut back on or postpone activities that don’t need to be done before Christmas. For example: the cat does not have to be groomed before Christmas.
Ask for help if you need it.
Set aside 15 minutes every day for devotions. Focus on the Baby and your readiness to have Him appear anew in your life. Actively seek to take him into your heart and make Him your beloved again.
Most of all prepare yourself for the parade of God’s salvation.