“From John the Baptist’s time until now the kingdom of God has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”Matthew 11: 12
Once we believe that Christ is the revelation of God, we must interpret all of scripture through the lens of what Christ has revealed about God. Christ Jesus revealed that God is non-violent, yet many today believe in a God of violence. We are bombarded by preachers who proclaim that God is angry, and punishing this group, or that group, through natural disasters. They proclaim a God who is angry, punitive, plays favorites, and whose holiness demands perfection. Early in his ministry Jesus told his followers — John the Baptist marks the end of an era when the people of Israel could hold on to an image of God as a Warrior king fighting on the side of Israel against all others, and marks an end of an era when God is seen as operating through fear and force.
Just as Advent is the hinge between one liturgical year and another, John the Baptist is the hinge between the Hebrew prophets and the dawn of Christianity. John sums up salvation history in his person and his ministry. He ushers in a new era, and new way for humanity to be in relationship with God. Well, not a new way, but a restoration of our original blessing. The golden thread of this relationship with God runs all the way through the Hebrew scriptures, but is made visible in Christ Jesus. God is and has always been the God of all nations, and loves us all.
What does this mean to us? Sometimes following Christ means we will go against the status quo and get ourselves in trouble. For example, I think of the movie, Hacksaw Ridge, the true story of a conscientious objector who was ostracized and abused for refusing to bear arms. I think of Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot for advocating for women’s rights to an education. While most people learn to cooperate with the way things are, Christians are called to stand for the kingdom of God, as revealed to us through Christ, and that can mean standing against the way things are. Sometimes those who do not call themselves Christians follow God’s ways better than those who identify as Christians.
God cares deeply about how we treat one another, and asks us to believe that tragedy and death, even hate and violence, can be defeated by love, forgiveness, and persistent hope. Advent is about preparing people, including ourselves, to accept the crazy, wonderful idea that we call the incarnation – a big word that means putting flesh on God. God spoke Wisdom, also known as Christ, into our world, and that Wisdom, that Word of God, Christ, became a human being, a real person. This human person was so filled up with divinity that he was able to reveal God to us in a way unlike anything the prophets could do or say.
That is why Jesus could say things like, “When you see me, you see God.” In Jesus we see and experience what God is like, and hear what God wants us to know.
Every year we need another Advent because it is still only dawning on us what the incarnation means, and how the incarnation changes everything. We are still learning, still trying to understand what it means that God would make such a commitment to us, to our experience. We are forever mixed up in God, mixed up into divinity, and God is mixed up in humanity. There is no separating us now.
God loves the world. God has loved the world since God created it. Through all the prophets of Israel, and all the prophets of all the world religions, God tried repeatedly to get people to hear Christ, the Word of Wisdom. God tried in many ways to get people to stop hurting one another, to stop hurting what God has created, this beautiful world. Finally, we hear that God tried something new. God entered human life, into humanity, forever. Christ took on our humanity, and never let it go.
During this time when the days get darker and darker, until we reach the darkest night of the year, we prepare to celebrate once again the coming of the Light of Christ into our world. We need the light of God’s Wisdom more today than ever because our world still suffers from violence, grief and misery, from worry, anxiety, fear, hatred, racism, sexism, injustice, and terrorism.
Advent calls us to prepare to receive once again the Wisdom of God in the person of Christ Jesus. When we do, when we accept that God has entered our world and is even now guiding us toward love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and acceptance of one another, we can look forward to the future with optimism and hope.
My beloved ones, let us all seek to understand this holy and sacred Mystery of Christ.