December 9, 2007 Second Advent (RCL, Year A) Isaiah 11: 1-10; Ps. 72; Matthew 3: 1-12
You might say that there can be differentiated in the great cosmological scheme of things, from where we stand now, two states of being. The way things are now, and the way that they will be in the future. To repeat that: the way things are now, and the way that they will be. To some degree or other each of us is, all of us are, equipped to say something about the former. We know our worlds, or at least we think we do. We catch a glimpse of reality, from time to time. What we can glean from the newspapers and television. What we see with our own eyes. And the internal realities of our own thoughts and feelings. The reality of the inner universe. The reality of the heart. It’s all around us. We of course don’t see it all. It’s too big, sometimes, or too small. And even the part that we do see will inevitably be distorted by our expectations and prejudices, our assumptions. We have our blind spots. And sometimes we think we see one thing in the distance that, when we get nearer, turns out to be something else entirely. But for all that, the world that is, the world that we are—we see of it what we can. The way things are now.
But the way that they will be . . . . Entirely another question. Political candidates and newspaper columnists, astrologers and preachers, we all have a go at it. And actually, we do ALL have a go at it, as best we can. We make our guesses. We turn to whatever the authorities are that we believe can give us some help, and then we take our best shot. A glimpse of the future. Sometimes making better informed guesses about the short-term future, sometimes missing it all by a country mile. Who is going to win the football game? Who will be president? What might happen if the polar ice caps melt? All short term answers, and as we offer our best ideas, the one sure thing is that on any particular question, some of us will probably be right, and others will be wrong. And then, as the time frame expands, as the stakes get higher, as the themes become more overarching, you almost don’t know quite how to guess anymore. The five year old asks, “where’s grandma now?” The eighteen year old says, “what’s the purpose of life?” The eighty year old asks, “where has it all gone, and will I ever see any of it again?”
And so we welcome the poets, and especially these Biblical prophet poets who have their roots sunk deeply into the soil of God’s word and God’s saving actions, God’s creative love. And we get these images. From Isaiah, and from John the Baptist.
The lion and the calf being led down the lane by a little child, the wolf and the lamb dwelling in the same den, the poison of the serpent and the toxins of the universe rendered harmless, a world united in a common deep knowledge of God’s presence, the Son of David on the holy mountain as a sign and a glorious incarnation of the sacred presence. And the One who is to come, baptizing with Holy Spirit, and with fire. Fire, that agent of ultimate transformation, breaking apart the hard solid matter of the universe and releasing the light of the spirit. The way things are now, and the way that they will be.
All that, swirling around in the background. Powerful images, in the deep water, calling to us generation after generation, century after century. Calling to us, questioning us, drawing us into dialogue. What do you hope for? That word, “hope.” What we really want for Christmas, I guess. Not an I-Phone or a warm sweater so much. Something more than that. The mystery of this season, the memory of this story drawing us into his holy presence, leading us on somehow into his holy future. What do you hope for? What God is doing. The big picture. The root of Jesse and the sign of the Cross, he himself standing as a signal to the peoples. And his dwelling shall be glorious. And we are his dwelling, we are his dwelling--his holy temple, he alive in us. And we shall be glorious.
What we would hope for, in Advent. Deep down. As Psalm 72: “He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, like showers that water the earth. In his time shall the righteous flourish; there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more. Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous deeds. And blessed be his glorious Name for ever, and may all the earth be filled with his glory.”
This Advent, this holy season, this new year, “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.