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Isaiah dominates advent. Almost every day, we encounter the depths of his thoughts along with the complexity of his writings. This is because no prophet before the birth of Christ articulated the expectation of the Messiah than Isaiah. He started off with, “on that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse”, a positive outlook and hope for the better and restored future. He initially referred to the moral degradation and collapse of the past but someday, a flower, a branch will flesh out and emerge from the stump of Jesse - a return to the origins of the Davidic line. The long-expected Messiah, who will bring new life, will come from something that appears dead and ignored. He dreamed the impossible dream. He envisioned the most unlikely. This second Sunday of Advent, we spend a great deal of time in the all-important prophecy of Isaiah in chapter 11: 1-10 describing the charismatic character of the future ideal leader, the nature of his reign and the mythological scene demonstrated in the second section. He will constantly look for the little ones and take care of them. The spirit of the Lord will be with him. He will be filled with the strength that comes God, discern and decide with equity. The spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord shall come upon him. His life and ministry will be heavily immersed with divine life.

The second part talks about an impossible scenario. "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord (Isa. 11:6-9).” It is a time when two opposing religious groups/organizations work in unity to advance the institution’s interest for as long it’s God-given and the completion of the mission of the church exemplified by Christ for the glory of God’s name. It’s a time when those who have strained relationships throw a feast and share meals. It’s a time when people of all denominations and faith traditions come and worship the divine. It is a time when heartbreaks are healed and family animosities written off. If the Prophet's vision fleshes out and comes true, then, the God whom Isaiah consistently prophesied and John talked about like a voice in the wilderness, has arrived in our midst. However, unless conversion of our hearts takes the centerfold, this long-awaited new era won't dawn upon us.  

On Advent, Mother church wants us to look at two biblical figures: John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin Mary. This Sunday, Matthew presents John the Baptizer, an exceedingly popular preacher of his time, dressed in camel's hair, eating locusts and wild honey, poor man's food of last resort, an astonishing combination of word and deed, leading us into the wilderness, an empty place of howling winds, with a hard-hitting message: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mt. 3:2). John the Baptist’s strange clothes and harsh sayings are emotionally touchstone, necessary components in getting across the full extent and meaning of the Gospel regardless of how and what we think and feel about it: "...The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths..." (Mt. 3:3). What is he talking about? He ponders on the depths of life, the stuff of what should keep us busy as the peak of the season comes close than what the contemporary culture suggests. "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Mt. 3: 7-12).”

John's preaching challenges deeply held beliefs and age-old assumptions. His words call us to repentance, compel us to confess our sins, double check and thoroughly examine the inner life regularly. In the daily grind, there are negative forces and energies that surround and influence us. If we don’t take them to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they weigh heavy on us. Advent has a penitential aspect evident in the atmosphere of the worship environment. This Friday, December 13, 6:30pm, please take advantage of the advent penance service offered as we look forward for the reason of the season. The church's notion of preparation for Christmas stands in huge tension with society at large. As we approach the holidays, we're asked to bask in things eternal and heavenly and the wonder of the unknown and not get stuck with hanging twinkling Christmas lights and gazing at the enormity of marked down prices. John’s message sounds scary to say the least but it’s actually a free and open invitation that all of us will be greatly delighted. It’s not something that we have to be afraid of as what we have been waiting for is near and close at hand. This Christmas, Christ welcomes us in the crib. He will be our host which is a huge relief on our end. Amen.