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The Second Week in Advent or Managing Expectations

Sharon Norton, CND Associate

In the reading from Isaiah, Israel hungrily awaits a Messiah. In words of comfort and tenderness, the great prophet tells Jerusalem that in spite of “her sins,” or maybe even because of them, God is coming in glory and will rule with power and a “strong arm,” with reward and recompense. The valleys will be filled, the mountains made low, the rough terrain made plain and he will care for his people. And tell your friends!

Certainly, in the historical context, Israel was looking for muscle, and not necessarily a Prince of Peace. So the fact that a strong and powerful God was coming to move mountains and to make the playing field even was not just good news, but great news; but, as it turns out, not the best way to manage expectations. It is no wonder that it was difficult for Jews to believe that a carpenter’s son from Nazareth, with a message of peace and love, was the tremendous ground force that was foretold by the prophet Isaiah.

By the time of the second reading, Jesus had come and gone. Peter writes a letter to remind the “beloved” to be patient in the face of the “scoffers” who claimed that nothing had really changed. Peter says while it could take a thousand years or more, there will be a Second Coming that will move the heavens to roar and all elements to go up in flames. He pleads with them to stay ready – to stick with the Lord’s plan and not to be caught with “spot or blemish” before earth is “found out.”

So, essentially, the first coming was not as broadcast. God does not live up to human expectations in human time. But Peter preaches that there is a long range plan. There is a sequel that will make all clear. Yet, I am left asking, how are the beloved expected to manage to live in Christ in the moment and not in expectation.

That is why I love John the Baptist and why the gospel is truly the good news. If Jesus was the stand-in for us, John was the understudy for Jesus – personifying his humility, his forgiving and healing nature. John never promoted himself. And more importantly, he did not preview a mountain mover and earth shaker. He foretold a baptizer, like himself – a cleanser, a healer, someone who would immerse all people in love and forgiveness. But while John washed and dedicated with water, he proclaimed that the one after him would dedicate with the Holy Spirit. And He did.

Those expectations have indeed been realized. His spirit lives in me and I am not left wanting or waiting any longer.

 

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