Third Sunday of Advent
1st Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18a
2nd Reading: Philippians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 3:10-18
What a wonderful time of year, in so many ways. Most importantly, though, to believers, it’s a time of anticipation, expectancy, and joy!
The long-awaited prophecy is brought to fruition in the birth of the baby Jesus, the Savior of the world. First, in its literal form, when Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, and then many times over, in our hearts if we choose to participate.
Isn’t that what Advent is? A time of preparation for all to partake, if we choose? I always start this season off with the best of intentions but holding on to my desire to prepare a castle for the baby Jesus gets thrown hither and yon by the secular demands of Christmas. My best efforts arrive on December 25th with barely a shack prepared for His coming. It always seems my heart is less focused on His coming than I had hoped for and a tad unprepared, missing on the inside, the bright lights I so love on the outside.
The first and second readings today speak of the Lord being “in your midst” and “near.” These readings arouse excitement in the reader, an anticipatory bubbling over of emotion. If you’ve ever participated in a surprise party for someone, then you know the feeling that comes when the host finally says, “here he comes!” or “she’s on her way!”
Today’s gospel reading offers a more active than contemplative preparation for Jesus’ coming. It’s hard to be in a contemplative mood when Santa Clause, Rudolph, gift buying, and decorating are vying for your time and attention. But maybe trying to be contemplative at such an inherently busy time is self-defeating?
Luke’s Gospel passage finds John the Baptist speaking to the crowds. Again, you can feel the excitement, but this time it’s peppered with anxiety. The crowds are genuinely seeking guidance. Common folk, tax collectors, and even soldiers, all asking the same question, “what should we do?” John’s response is active and not contemplative in nature. He doesn’t advise quiet time, reflection, or any other introspective behavior. Rather, he instructs action: share, feed, be fair in business, don’t extort or falsely accuse and be satisfied with your wages.
So, how can we apply John’s instructions to this season? How can we prepare our hearts for the baby Jesus despite all the noise and chaos of Christmas?
In the midst of all the activity, can we share? Can we feed? Can we be fair in our buying practices, paying a fair price for the gifts we purchase? Can we speak kindly of family and friends, even if their political views are different from ours? During the Christmas season, there is so much money exchanged in the market. Giving a fair price and asking a fair price is priceless, treating everyone we encounter, both buyer and seller, with dignity and respect, as well as employer and employee. If we look closely, there are plenty of opportunities for preparing castles and not settling for shacks.
As for the quiet time, reflection and introspection? Well, there’s always New Year’s.
Peggy Roach, Associate