Second Sunday of Advent
Every Second Sunday of Advent, we are introduced to one of the most important persons associated with Advent, and he is St John the Baptist.
John the Baptist is very important because he is considered the forerunner of Jesus Christ. John’s birth was also associated with miraculous events. The angel Gabriel came to see John’s father Zechariah while he was serving at temple. Unfortunately, his father doubted the message of the angel so he was made dumb, and therefore couldn’t speak. His mother Elizabeth became pregnant even though she was considered by many people to be barren. Then when he was born, his relatives wanted him to be named Zechariah after his father but his mother insisted that he should be named John. When Zechariah was asked, he requested a writing tablet and he wrote “His name is John”. And after that, his tongue was loosened and he was able to speak and praise God for the blessing that he and his wife had received.
It is quite ironic that when we are preparing for all the celebrations of Christmas, the gospel for today introduces us to someone we would now call a “stirrer”. John the Baptist, came into the scene, a person who dressed like the prophets of the Old Testament and also ate locusts and wild honey. His message was also the same as the prophets of centuries past, a message of repentance and turning back to the Lord. Almost immediately, he became popular all through Jerusalem, Judea and the Jordan. Perhaps the people during his time were craving for a fire-brand preacher like him. Perhaps the people were not satisfied with the old order and a preacher like John the Baptist might be the start of something new. True enough, when the Pharisees and Sadducees were coming to him for baptism, he refused and addressed them as a “brood of vipers”. Could you just imagine the anger and fury of these Pharisees and Sadducees when they were called such insulting terms? Yet, John the Baptist wouldn’t back down. He warned them that they shouldn’t be presumptuous. They should stop believing that because of their status in society and because they considered themselves as “children of Abraham” that that would be enough to be saved. If they were repentant, the fruits of their repentance should be seen in their lives. For they were like trees that did not produce good fruit and the axe was already at their roots ready to be used to cut them down.
Then in his message, he emphasised that he was not the Messiah and that somebody else more powerful than him would come. The Messiah is so great that John doesn’t even deserve to carry his sandals, a duty that was reserved to slaves. And he will baptise everyone with the Holy Spirit and he’ll separate the wheat and the chaff. The wheat will be stored into barns and the chaff will be burned with unquenchable fire.
The role of John the Baptist is not just to prepare for the coming of Jesus but also to make all of us very uncomfortable. John the Baptist criticises the current social order. During his time, society was generally divided into commoners and the elites. John the Baptist challenges the elites to reform their lives and to help the poor and the needy, a message that would be repeated again and again by Jesus Christ. Also, his naming and shaming of the Pharisees and the Sadducees is also his criticism of the division that exists between priests in urban and elite Jerusalem and the priests in the more humble rural areas in which his father Zechariah belongs.
The Second Sunday of Advent makes us again look at ourselves. Are we part of what John the Baptist calls a “brood of vipers”? If I have truly repented, is that seen in my actions? Have I become a kinder person or am I worse than before? Time will come that the axe would be used on us if we don’t produce enough fruits to show that we have really repented and reformed. Let us continue to ask for strength to repent and reform our lives and hopefully when Jesus returns either at the end of time or at the end of our lives, we can present Jesus some fruits to show our effort to heed the call of John the Baptist to repent and reform.