Second Sunday of Advent - December 9, 2018 (Thoman)
Baruch 5:1-9 | Phil 1:4-6, 8-11 | Lk 3:1-6
I. “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar when Pontius Pilate was
Governor…Herod was tetrarch…his brother Philip was tetrarch…Lysanias was
Tetrarch….and Annas and Caiaphas” … were running the Temple in Jerusalem…
…all of that long (and actually dramatic) introduction to Luke’s point is a
date! Much like we might say – on December 8/9, 2018… - Luke is giving us a
date in history and says, “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in
And by using this dating system, Luke is also giving us a window into the
world at this time. It was actually pretty gloomy. It was a Roman world with
its vast empire. Most of the men ruling these small places throughout the
empire were puppets under the thumb of the central power in Rome. Rome ruled
this vast empire mostly through fear and intimidation: you had to tow the line and
if you didn’t there would be severe punishment.
But into this world came “the word of God” to this strange prophet kind of
guy i n t h e d e s e r t. The word of God did not come to the powers-that-be in
this gloomy world, but to the insignificant out in the desert.
And it was a word of hope.
And it was a word of promise.
The message of God’s word to John, the son of Zechariah, is brimming with
redemptive judgment, freeing good news and liberating hope.
II. I cannot help but find myself drawing a comparison between this time in history
and what we collectively experienced this past week.
Most of us would agree we live in a chaotic world, filled with tension, discord,
extreme violence, abuse of every imaginable kind…. But into our own gloomy
world came a ray of light. As a nation we remembered and honored a former
president, George H.W. Bush. Memories of his service to our country drew
accolades from both political parties, from people in all walks of life, from young
and old. Certainly there were many comments about the kind of man President
Bush was – his integrity, his sense of decency, his selflessness, his dedication to
service and maybe especially his role as a husband, father and grandfather. There
even comments about his faith and that he was looking forward to the next life. I
recall hearing comments about the messages conveyed in all these reflections,
of how these are messages we need to hear and take to heart. One reporter
said he hoped “they” were listening. By “they” he meant Washington. I hope
“they” were listening he said over and over again. Hopefully our collective
experience as a nation tells each of us of the importance of these noble human
qualities and become an inspiration for each of us to live them more fully.
Hopefully we were all listening.
This whole experience was like a ray of light shining into the gloominess of
our times. And it tells me that such a renewal of hope is possible.
III. The word of God that came to an itinerant preacher in the desert is a word
which tells us – and reminds us – that God steps into the gloominess of the
world. Luke is telling us God steps into the world at a time when fear and power,
terror and death were the norm. Luke tells us today of the power of faith. It is
a faith which gives us the courage to stand up to the gloominess of the world and
see there hope and promise.
IV. There may be many times when we feel like we are living in our own deserts….
- When we engage the daily and weekly grind of making a living, maybe working
in difficult situations, trying to keep family life together, keeping track of all
those appointments and events and meetings.
- Or when we are working to maintain a vital marriage and strong friendships
and a meaningful life.
- Or when we must battle loneliness or depression or worries and anxieties.
All of this can cause us to feel the emptiness of the desert and we wonder if God is
present or even cares.
But the scriptural message today – in all four readings - tells us God breaks into
human history to be present with us, Emmanuel, God-with-us. God’s word – the
gospel of Jesus Christ – comes to the deserts of our lives and makes a sham of those
false gods we are tempted to follow – it pushes aside those forces which seek to
dominate our lives – and proclaims that ultimately Jesus is Lord of the universe
and Lord of our lives.
--- Fr. Dwayne Thoman