Sunday, December 17, 2017

Third Sunday of Advent, Year B: December 17, 2017

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Bob Pierson, OHC
Third Sunday of Advent - Sunday, December 17,2017

NEW! Listen to Br. Bob preaching

Br. Bob Pierson, OHC  
It occurred to me just the other day that, at age 62, I have experienced Advent in a conscious way for about 55 years. That's a lot of Advent. And my approach to the season has changed a bit over the years. 

What used to be an excited anticipation of the celebration of Christmas and all those presents under the tree, morphed into a desire for a “nice” time with family and friends. And now I find myself hoping for more global things like justice and world peace and the elimination of poverty and hunger.

And as my desired outcomes have changed, I have become a bit more jaded about the real possibility that I will never fully experience what I am hoping for.

 I mean, after 55 years you would think the longed for Messiah would have come and actually set us free. Of course, as Christians we believe that the Messiah HAS come and we ARE being set free. But it seems to be happening on a different schedule than I had hoped for.

I have been praying a lot for our brothers at Mount Calvary Monastery and all my friends in Ventura, Carpenteria, and Santa Barbara, CA, this week as they have to deal with the ferocious Thomas Fire that began almost two weeks ago. I know that the fire will be put out, but I don't know when that will happen, and what will occur in the meantime. In a similar way, I believe that God will triumph over injustice and war and poverty and hunger, but I don't know when and how that will happen either.

But there are several things that I DO know. I know that the fire will burn uncontrolled unless firefighters continue their efforts to keep it at bay. While there are many aspects of the fire beyond their control, the fire fighters can make progress if they hang in there because I believe that God is with them, calming the wind and eventually sending the needed rain. They will ultimately stop the fire.

And I also know that injustice and war and poverty and hunger will continue to thrive if we do nothing. But if we do what we can, knowing that there are many aspects of the situation beyond our control, we can make progress toward a better world because God is with us, too, helping us to slowly overcome those forces that work against us.

It is this kind of faith and hope that inspired the prophet Isaiah to say, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me....he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the comfort all who mourn.”  Isaiah knew that Emmanuel, “God with us,” was acting on behalf of the people of Israel. And so he could say, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God.”  He was completely convinced that “the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.”

And Isaiah was not alone in his hope. The apostle Paul had a similar hope, inspiring him to write to the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Giving thanks in all circumstances seems very foolish unless we know that God is with us, working everything for our good. Paul believed just that, and his words call us today to that same kind of faith and hope.

And finally we have John the Baptist, the great prophet of the Messiah, who came “as a witness to testify to the light.”  What does that mean—to testify to the light? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  John came to testify to Jesus, the light of the world. John'a hearers would have remembered two passages about the light from the prophet Isaiah. The first is from Isaiah, Chapter 9:  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. The second is from Isaiah, Chapter 60, and we will hear it on the Feast of Epiphany: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

John is telling his hearers that “the light” has come, that the long awaited Messiah is in their midst. But many of them paid no attention to him. They didn't recognize who Jesus was and what he was doing for them. As we prepare to celebrate his coming into the world once again, will we recognize him? Will we let him shine through our lives to bring light to our world?

Last week, Br. Bernard began his homily with a few choruses of “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” At the risk of looking like a copy cat, I want to suggest a different song, that supports the point that I am trying to make. It's number 490, “I want to walk as a child of the light.”  I've never thought of it as an Advent song before, but I think it fits very well. Please join me in singing the first verse of hymn number 490:I want to walk as a child of the light,

I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world.
The star of my life is Jesus.
In him there is no darkness at all.
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

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