Third Sunday of Advent - December 16, 2018 (Thoman)

Zeph 3:14-18a | Phil 4:4-7 | Lk 3:10-18

“The Lord is near.”

I. One time a man went to see his rabbi and complained, “Life is unbearable. There are
nine of us living in one room. What can I do?”
The rabbi responded, “Take the goat into the room with you.” The man couldn’t
believe what he just heard, but the rabbi insisted, “Take the goat into the room with
you and then come back and see me in one week.”
So the man went home and did as the rabbi instructed. He returned in a week and
said, “We cannot stand it,” he said. “The goat is filthy and the smell is unbearable!”
“Go home,” said the rabbi, “and let the goat out. Then come and see me in one
So the man dutifully went home and returned to the rabbi in a week – he was
almost jubilant! “It’s wonderful,” he said. “There is no goat! We enjoy every
moment – with only the nine of us!”

II. The man needed a little bit of change of perspective. A temporary dose of hardship
helped him to see blessings which had been present all the time.
That seems to be what John the Baptist is challenging his listeners in the gospel
to do: the crowds…the tax collectors…the soldiers. John has just announced the
coming of the Messiah and so they are all in a frenzy: what must we do? How can
we prepare for this Messiah?
And so John says, look around – dig deeper. Examine your life and see how you
might do things differently.

  • To the crowds, he says – look around at your stuff, maybe you have an extra
    coat you don’t need – or maybe something else you have that someone else
    could use.
  • To the tax collectors, he says – do your job. Don’t be greedy. Don’t abuse your
    authority. Just be honest.
  • To the soldiers, he says – use your power for justice, but don’t abuse your
    power – and thereby people in the process. Don’t ask for protection money.
    Don’t falsely accuse someone.

In these ways – you, the crowds – tax collectors – soldiers – will be doing your part
to prepare for the Messiah.

III. So, how do we prepare for the Messiah?
Perhaps it is a matter of downsizing - divesting ourselves of material things –
looking at our excess and asking ourselves how that excess might be shared with
someone who goes without. Or it might be curbing some vice: for the tax collectors
it was greed, for the soldiers it was abusing their power. How would curbing
some vice – and at the same time building virtue – help me to prepare and
welcome a fuller presence of God in my life? What needs to get out of the way so
that God’s presence is more evident?
Or maybe it is a matter of digging deeper to recognize the blessings in one’s

Some of the Advent devotionals I’ve been following speak of God’s abundance.
God is not satisfied with a little bit of something – just enough to get by. Instead,
God is always showering us with an abundance.

One of the reflections came from a lady – apparently a housewife – who spoke
of teaching her children the importance of preparing for Christ’s coming in this
Advent time. Meanwhile, when chaos seems to take over, she needs to remember
her own teaching for herself. She recalled Jesus saying that those who are part of
the kingdom are even greater than John the Baptist – who heralded Jesus’ own
coming. What an incredible statement! And then she began to notice the smaller
things: a woman ahead of her in line, slowly counting out her money. Cleaning in
the house that needed to be done. The prayer request of an annoying person.
The smile of a newborn baby.

Another reflection came from Dynamic Catholic this past week which spoke of
the God of abundance – of how God creates abundance out of very little. That was
followed by a reflection from an Hispanic man who spoke of how he came to this
country with his family; they had practically nothing except a lot of fear. But their
fear – and poverty – have been turned into an abundance through the loving
hands of so many who have reached out to them.

IV. It is easy to look into our lives and see only the clouds and the stress and the
problems of life. But with a second look we may well see the silver lining around
the cloud…the blessings hidden within the chaos…the God of abundance revealed
in simple things. We may well see…the Lord is near.

----Fr. Dwayne Thoman