Yesterday was the Second Sunday of Advent, when we heard about the Peaceable Kingdom in Isaiah. St. Paul also reminded us that we ultimately live in hope, not fear, which was good to hear, since the Gospel was about John the Baptist's ministry in the desert. He especially had problems with both the Sadduccees and the Pharisees, which was interesting, since it's possible that John, being from a priestly family, was apparently estranged from the Temple establishment. If he were an Essene, as some claim, his beef with the Pharisees could have been that they weren't rigorous enough.
But the key to the Good News here, I believe, lies once again in John's message, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near." Three things to note here: "Kingdom of heavean" is a euphemism, esp. in Matthew, for God or the Kingdom of God. So what St. John is really telling us is that God has come near. And the second thing is that the sense of the original Greek verb [enggizo, I can't get the Greek font to copy into Blogger] "has coming near" is in the perfect tense, meaning an action complete in the past that has continuing effects now. And finally, notice the that awful R-word "Repent," is conditional on God's coming near - we repent as a result of God's arrival, not in order to bring it about. It's a wonderful encapsulation of the entire message of grace.
In other words, God has arrived and God's arrival is continuous. It happened once for all in Jesus Christ and it continually happens today. It's all-Advent, all the time! Each of us has the opportunity to re-appropriate John's message, to accept God's continuously-acting grace in our lives right now. And as a result of that grace, we begin to change our hearts and minds and souls as we re-orient ourselves to God and to each other and to ourselves and to the world around us. that's all Repentance is anyway. Especially in the season of Advent, we re-orient ourselves to Jesus, who Has Come and is Coming Again. That's not primarily an orientation toward buying stuff and going to parties - it's an orientation of the interior. In fact, sometimes all those decorations and stuff gets in the way.
How are you getting ready for Christ this Advent? Feel free to add comments and let us all know, if you'd like.
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.