Rather than set us loose and leave us to our own devices, God joins us in the muck. Coming in Jesus, to teach and redeem us, the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.
St. John Chrysostom preached this Christmas sermon in 386. It was preached at Antioch in Asia Minor– during the first year of his public ministry. Later, he became Bishop of Constantinople. It was his skillful preaching that earned him the nickname “Chrysostom,” which means “Golden-Mouthed.” Behold a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to …
This year, like this birth story we hear every year, has not been full of miracles. Nonetheless, God is at work. God works with miracles, and God works without them…From the day of the nativity, God has been at work in the human body, becoming human so that we might become divine. Jesus has come into the world, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.”
Advent grounds us in God’s cosmic reality, the reality in which we are puffs of wind or like grass that fades. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God to whom Moses, Isaiah, Samuel, and Mary say “Here I am Lord!” is eternal. The waiting of Advent is one of faithful hope, waiting to see God’s work in Jesus where the powerful are brought down from their thrones, and lowly are lifted up; where the hungry are filled with good things, and the rich are sent away empty.
Rather than valleys in the wilderness being filled and mountains being leveled to create a road, John the Baptist’s work is preparing people for Jesus arrival, the arrival of the one who frees us all from the slavery of sin. “His baptizing and preaching in the desert was opening up the hearts of humans, leveling their pride, filling their emptiness, and thus preparing them for God’s intervention.” Preparing the way of the Lord for John the Baptist was not passive waiting. It was knowing that Jesus was coming, and stirring up God’s power for Jesus to come among us with great might.
Peter, in this passage, is reassuring those who are reading, that God knows what God is doing. The world has been redeemed by Jesus the Christ, and he will return when the time is right. God is giving ample opportunity for the changing of hearts before judgment, praise, and punishment.
Advent reminds us that if we say we have no sin the truth is not in us. More importantly, though, as we repent we look for God to intervene. To intervene in our hearts, the hearts of others, and the hearts of our leaders. We look for God to give us signs that the world is about to turn, that all is being made well.
You don’t buy your way into heaven, or Jesus’ eternal reward, by being a good person or doing good works. You don’t buy your way into heaven with anything at all. Knowing that Jesus is here, now, among us in spirit and on the margins of society, we are called to love Jesus and one another.
As we move forward in our renewed pledging of our resources, what is the call we are answering? Each one of us – young and not so young. Bishop Rickel reminds us that we actually do not own anything. All things come of thee o lord, and of thine own have we given thee.
Jesus telling his disciples that there may be some delay in his return, is letting them know that following him is a lifelong work of accepting the gospel.