Year C: Second Sunday of Advent
At first glance, we may be tempted to skip the details of the “Who was Who” that introduces our Gospel today! We have heard of many of the people mentioned but can be left wondering why Luke thought it to be so important to list them... especially, as there are doubts about whether all the various “reigns” coincided quite as neatly as Luke suggests.
He is, in fact, setting a scene - laying before us an image of a country governed by the Roman Empire - by kings - and by high priests. These are the people with power - political - regal - and religious - these are the people whose names carried influence. These are the people who - for those of us who know the end of the story - will feature large in a major confrontation which will lead to the death of a man on a cross.
For today, though, it is not that confrontation we address - but the contrast between such people of power and a man wandering in the wilderness who hears the Word of God and begins to preach it. From other accounts of John the Baptist, we know that he did not have any of the earthly signs of power - but his words carry the power of history and prophecy. He senses that the day of the Lord is close at hand and sees a people lax in their religious practice - a people far from God. He does not go to the city - but speaks in the wilderness, the place where the people found themselves closest to God. This is the place where earthly power gives way to the power of nature - where humanity is forced to confront its frailty and dependence on God. John exhorts people to repentance - to change their ways and to turn back to God.
The challenge is being laid down - the confrontation between temporal authority (as symbolised by the people listed at the start of the Gospel) and spiritual power has begun. Those who, in earthly terms, had all the power were to be faced with something far greater. A way was being prepared for the one who was to come to fulfil God’s promise to deliver his people.
The prophecy of Isaiah echoed down the centuries - and Luke sees John as that voice crying in the wilderness preparing the way of the Lord - preparing people to receive their saving God.
What does it mean for me?
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