Second Sunday of Advent 2019
Isaiah, in the first reading, describes a place where there is no strife. Death is not present at this location. Justice is a way of life, and sin does not exist. How beautiful a locale that Isaiah depicts, one where we envision a peace that is present between God, humans, and every other creature.
There was once such a spot as Isaiah describes where humans and every living creature were a part of a perfect world. This location was the Garden of Eden before the Fall, before sin came into the world. With human being’s turn towards sin, the world changed. No longer would the lion be satisfied with hay. The cow would now flee from the bear. The child now would suffer from the bite of the adder.
Yes, with the introduction of sin, the world changed. Justice gave way to greed and envy. Death was the eventual consequence of every living creature. Sin caused a separation between God and humans. Because of our transgressions, we were no longer allowed to reside in the serenity of Eden.
God, however, did not abandon us. He promised a Savior who would come to save us from sin and death. At his coming, we again have the opportunity to return to Eden, the perfect place within God’s loving presence. In the Savior, we discovered the perfect man filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit; wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, awe, strength, and piety who sought only to do the will of the Lord.
Isaiah, in the Gospel from Matthew, identifies the one who will be the prophet for the Savior. The prophet will be
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
This prophet, as we know, is John the Baptist, who appears from the isolation of the desert, after experiencing the purification of ridding himself of any earthly desires.
John’s clothing is of camel hair and a leather belt representing the greatest of the Jewish prophets, Elijah who also wore a skin garment and a leather belt. John ate only locusts and honey representing Moses, the giver of the Law, and the one who would bring the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt. The locust represents the eighth plague that Moses brought down upon the Egyptians in attempting to release the Israelites to travel to the Promise Land. The honey reminds of the Promise Land, which flows with milk and honey. In these representing the two greatest men of Jewish history, John’s prophesy takes on an exceptional significance.
John, the Baptist, the first Jewish prophet in over 200 years, announces that the Savior is coming. He calls for repentance and a return to the Lord as the prophets of the Old Testament repeated over and over again throughout the ages. John baptizes with water for those who want to be freed from their sins. In this baptism, the repentants were publically expressing their preparedness for the coming of the Messiah.
However, not all, as represented by the Pharisees and Sadducees, come to John seeking repentance. John describes these Jewish leaders as being vipers, filled with wickedness. These two self-righteous groups do not come for baptism since they believe they are those without sin. John tells the Pharisees and Sadducees that although they proclaim to be the Children of Abraham, unless they repent of their sins, they will be cut down and thrown in the fires of hell. John tells them that the who is coming will make these events happen, for he is the Messiah. He will be judging all separate the good, which will enter heaven from the evil who will be burnt in the unquenchable fire.
Like those that John baptizes, our Baptism represents our first steps in encountering the peace of heaven. Baptism cleanses us from sin by the sanctifying waters of the font. We then receive grace in the action of the Holy Spirit by purification from sin and encountering a new birth in Christ. We become a new creation preparing ourselves for Day of Redemption. However, we cannot go through life, believing that we are without sin like the Sadducees and Pharisees. Instead, we must be at the work of producing good fruit, as demonstrated by our ongoing desire to turn award from sin and seek God with a sincere heart.
Jesus desires to return us to Eden, the perfect place where we will experience the relationship we once had with God before the Fall. There will be a return to justice and love that is heaven made. As Isaiah states, the wolf will be the guest of the lamb. A child will walk without fear among the calf and the young lion on that day when we return to Eden. On that day, we will walk with God, where sin and death no longer will prevent us from experiencing God as he truly is. And so we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Jesus, our Savior, to take us back to Eden.