2nd Sunday of Advent (a) 2018
‘John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness…’Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ Someone might say, “hey, wait a minute, isn’t John the Baptist and all this talk of repentance and sins meant for Lent? This is Christmas! Couldn’t we have something a bit lighter, a bit more fun, a bit more, say chrismassy?’ A ‘bit more chrismassy’… “Yes, that’s more like it” says my friend; none of this repentance stuff or confessing sins, that’s too heavy for Christmas, besides, it might frighten the kids!” “Keep Christmas happy, jolly, fun, you know Santa Claus and all that.”
So, no repentance, John the Baptist or confession of sins, keep it light and don’t frighten the kids. However, Advent is, like Lent, also a time for repentance, as well as for kids. Aren’t we adults really children at heart? Doesn’t Christmas touch the child in us? It certainly does me. Christmas is essentially about love, that love that Paul speaks of in the second reading: ‘My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more.’ Christ has come into the world to teach us how to love, to transform our world by love into a better place.
Is such a world possible? Yes, it is. Surely we should want to create a better world for ourselves and for our children, but where do we start. We can say, ‘what can I do, I can’t change the world, even if I wanted to.’ And so we give up even before we start. But, you know, you don’t have to change the whole world, no, that would be too much, you just have to change one little thing, but that can be very difficult, because that one little thing is yourself. So, you see, we’re now back to repentance and John the Baptist and confession of sins.
When John the Baptist cries in the wilderness; prepare a way for the Lord by making paths straight, filling in valleys and laying low every mountain, he isn’t really talking literally; in other words, he doesn’t expect these things to happen: levelling mountains, and hills, filling in valleys. Rather, John is pointing to what we have to do in our hearts; we have to make the way into our hearts much easier for Christ to come in this Christmas, by getting rid of all the obstacles that are in His way. In other words our sins.
Advent is a time to take stock, to look at ourselves, and ask ourselves if we are doing enough to, not necessarily change the world, but simply to change the life around us; it is a good examination of conscience to ask: am I responsible for making other people’s lives difficult because I am impatient or unkind or selfish?
Christmas and repentance do go together; the person who repents sincerely will have a happier Christmas than the person who doesn’t. Christmas is not just for children, it is also for adults, adults who haven’t given up, who haven’t stopped trying, who have never abandoned their hope in God. A contrite heart this Christmas would be the best present you could bring to your homes.