Readings for the Second Sunday in Advent
Malachi 3:1-7b; Philippians 1:2-11; Luke 3:1-14
Many kinds of preparation for Christmastime tend to be rather delicate and dainty – whether it’s decorating the mantle, setting out the fine china or considering the best place for an arrangement of evergreen complete with aromatic candle — how lovely!
For John the Baptist, whose ministry we hear about in this Sunday’s Gospel, preparing the way for Jesus called not for lovely blown glass ornaments, but for mud-splattered bulldozers! Luke’s quote from the prophet Isaiah serves as a reminder that we are not, by nature, ready to offer our Savior faithful worship. Not until we have braved the messy and painful work of repentance. Only then will the advent of One who is “God with us” and “God for us” come as truly welcome – indeed, vital – news (Lk 3).
The prophet Malachi described John’s role in the Church as a refiner’s fire or a fuller’s soap. Fire burns away impurities and fuller’s soap bleaches out stains. In the same way, John’s unabashed preaching of God’s Law set the stage for One whose blood would cleanse us from all sin (Mal3).
In an echo to last week’s epistle lesson, Paul lifts up a prayer to God on behalf of the Christians living in Philippi, that they might “abound in love”, and that their conduct might be “pure and blameless” in anticipation of Christ’s return. We credit this sanctifying work to the Holy Spirit who is like a spiritual fertilizer helping us to bear righteous fruit (Ph1).