The Second Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 22:1-14; Matthew 3:1-12 or Mark 1:1-8 or Luke 3:1-20 or John 1:1-34

Prepare the Way of the Lord

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  Here in Isaiah 22 we see this in glaring fashion.  The situation that Isaiah foresees in his vision is a day in which Jerusalem is surrounded by her enemies on all sides.  One would think that such a time would cause one to seek the Lord with weeping and mourning and (for that day and time) baldness and sackcloth.  But no!  What do the people do instead?  They shout and exult.  They care not for the “daughter of my people” who are prepared for slaughter.  Instead, they kill the oxen and sheep and drink wine saying, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”  The Lord is not amused: “Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for until you die.”

How is it that people can be so willfully blind?  How is it that people can sin themselves to death caring not for every warning sign that is screaming in front of them.  Because the human heart is so deceitful and desperately sick.  When one is in the dregs of sin, the eyes are blind, the ears are dull, and the heart is hardened.  That person refuses to see the catastrophe that awaits because he refuses to turn from his sin.  Of course, he knows that death awaits us all.  But he laughs at it: “May as well live it up while time lasts; tomorrow will be too late!”

So this brings us to the passage for this second Sunday in Advent.  The Lord fulfills the prophecy from Isaiah 40:3-5 by bringing the one who would prepare the way, the forerunner of our Lord.  In Isaiah it is a message of comfort, and so it is in the gospels, but also mixed with warning.  It is primarily a call to repentance, as that was what John’s ministry was about: preparing a people for the coming of the Lord through repentance – a deliberate turning from sin and self towards the Lord and others.  Such repentance involves self-reflection and examination.  It requires taking stock of where we are in relation to God in the light of His word, for any other standard will only reinforce our false sense of security.  NEVER listen to friends who enjoy the same lifestyle as yourself; they will only affirm you and “let you off the hook.”  The person who repents hears the word of urgency in John‘s message: “Repent!” Why?  Because the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, that is, at stake.  The person captured by this message sees clearly, his heart is laid bare, and he has no illusions about the fleeting charms of this world.  Indeed, tomorrow we die.  Repent and believe the good news.

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