In our first reading today, the prophet Baruch introduces The LORD, the God of Israel, preparing the way for and leading the Babylonian exiles back to Jerusalem. The prophet announces the return of the whole human race to God. This inspires us this Advent to return to God from our own exile in sin.
In our second reading, Paul tells the Philippians to prepare themselves for the second coming of Christ by practicing Christian love and by leading pure and blameless lives.
As always, the second and third Sundays in Advent have John the Baptist as their focus, which reminds us that we need to listen to the message of the Baptist if we want to prepare ourselves properly for the coming of Jesus. In Luke’s Gospel we are introduced to John as the herald of the Messiah during the leadership of Annas and Caiaphas. John appears offering a baptism of repentance. This baptism symbolised turning from the past and turning towards a new life. It was a baptism for the forgiveness of sins and required repentance, a need to turn in a different direction.
John called people to repent as a way of preparing their hearts and lives for the Lord’s visit. He is calling us, too, to get ready for something so great that it fills our emptiness with expectation. A smooth road means nothing to God, but a repentant heart means a great deal. Hence, the truly important goal for us is to prepare our hearts to receive the Lord. By emphasizing the last line of the quotation “All flesh will see the salvation of God,” Luke stresses the universal aspect of God’s salvation. Today’s Gospel began with a list of rulers who did not bring wholeness or salvation, Luke ends it with the expectation of a true Lord Who can bring these about.
We don’t live in a perfect world, and we don’t look to this world to see God’s salvation. For salvation, we must look to Jesus — Jesus present in Scripture, Jesus present in the Sacraments, Jesus present as we come together in Jesus’ Name, Jesus present in the lives of his followers. Perhaps if we began to see Jesus in each other and in ourselves, and started to treat one another (and ourselves), as we would treat Jesus, more of the world might come to see God’s salvation and healing within ourselves and the world begin.