III SUNDAY OF ADVENT
zephaniah 3:14-18a; philippians 4:4-7; luke 3:10-18
on 17 october 1989, moments before the third game of the world series in san francisco, there was an interruption during the telecast. television screens blinked and went blank. the telecast resumed with a special news bulletin. san francisco had experienced a major earthquake. the telecast showed scenes of the devastation. in one place, in the midst of the destruction, there stood a group of people looking at the rubble and watching fire-fighters try to put out a blazing fire. suddenly a cop came and yelled out to the group: «what are you doing just standing there? getting going! go home and fill your bathtubs with water. be prepared to live without city services for 72 hours. your time is running out. get going and get prepared.»
roll back the clock two thousand years to the region around the river jordan… and we have a similar scene. instead of a cop, there is a dishevelled john the baptist. but the situation is the same: there was no geological earthquake in israel, but definitely a political and moral one. there was destruction caused by foreign occupation, and rubble caused by moral and religious corruption. the message is the same: «why are you just standing there? get going and get prepared!»
today’s gospel continues from last sunday and has the people’s response to john’s call; various groups ask him: «what should we do?» john’s response may be summed up thus:
- be loving by sharing our resources
- be just and honest
- be content
and when we are LJC (loving-just-content), we will be ready for the coming of LJC (our LORD JESUS CHRIST)!
john announces the coming of the LORD as a judgement… but one we can joyfully meet if we have loved, and have faithfully done our daily work.
we find this theme of «joy in unlikely situations» in the first two readings, also.
the prophet zephaniah invites israel to «shout for joy» and «sing joyfully»… against the background of the «day of wrath»!
paul calls the philippians to «rejoice in the LORD always»… and he writes to them from prison uncertain whether he will live or die.
can one be joyful in situations in which it seems impossible to be joyful?
one can… because joy is a fruit of the SPIRIT. it comes – as zephaniah prophecies – because «the LORD is in our midst»; and – as paul writes – because «the LORD is near». our task is to get moving and prepare ourselves for the LORD’s coming.
let each one of us ask and answer the question: «what must i do?»
with whom will i share myself and my resources this advent? are there areas in my life in which i need to be just and honest? will i be content with what the LORD has given me?
may each of us get going and get prepared… so that we may experience the joy that the coming of the LORD brings. amen.