2nd Sunday of Advent (A)
By Rev. John Timmer
Danish writer Kierkegaard tells a parable of a vandal who broke into a department store one night. But rather than steal things, he rearranged all the price tags. The next morning the sales people and customers came upon one surprise after another: diamond necklaces on sale for a dollar, and cheap costume-jewelry earrings costing thousands of dollars.
The gospel is like that vandal, Kierkegaard says. It rearranges all our price tags. It calls black white and white black. It says we must love our enemies and not hate them. It says we are not to resist one who is evil but to turn the right cheek to someone who has struck us on the left cheek. It says we must give generously to people in need, but without telling a single soul that we did. It says that, though we see weakness and wrong in others, we must refrain from judging them. It says we must pluck out our right eye rather than look at someone lustfully. It says we must forgive others their trespasses and not cultivate feelings of anger and hatred. It says we must live as free as a bird and not worry about the future.
By Leonard Vander Zee
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories, Eustace commits an act of betrayal that makes him turn into a thick-skinned dragon. (Lewis has such wonderfully imaginative ways of picturing Christian ideas.)…
God wants to turn us into real people, whole and good and joyful, with lives filled with meaning and purpose. Repentance is letting God’s Spirit peel away the gnarly skin of our sinfulness, layer after layer. And baptism is the bracing splash of new life, along with the power of the Holy Spirit to start afresh. John points to Jesus and says, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” He will make things happen.
Like Eustace, we’re afraid of looking squarely at our sins, the habits, the memories, the emotions that keep us stuck where we are. We feel we’ll be overwhelmed by them. But, the reverse turns out to be true. The more we see the depth of our sin, the more we realize the height of God’s love. The constant companion of repentance is not sadness, but gratitude. Seeing ourselves as we are in the light of God’s grace becomes, to our surprise, an occasion for joy. We’re free. Free not to hide any more, not to conceal or impress or make excuses for ourselves. Free to love God with abandon, and to love others without bargaining and conditions. Most of all, we’re free to turn around, because this is not merely our work, which only brings despair, but the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.