You can see all the lectionary readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.
The gospel lesson this week is all about John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus—preparing for the coming of Christ, just as we prepare for the coming of Christ during Advent.
John is a cousin to Jesus whose birth is mentioned in an earlier story in the Bible—his mother was pregnant at the same time Mary was and he jumped in the womb when his mother came near pregnant Mary—fun story. Anyway, in this story he is out in the desert preaching to people, telling them to change their ways because God’s kingdom was near. John the Baptist was quite a character, dressing in clothes made from camel’s hair and eating locusts and wild honey. Camel’s hair is still used for coats today, even fancy designer ones, but John was not wearing the designer variety. He seemed to be living pretty rough and made his own clothes (and presumably caught his own bugs and scored his own honey for meals. He was a far cry from the preachers who draw huge crowds today. He did draw major crowds in his time, though. People came from all over and confessed their sins and then John baptized them in the Jordan River.
The Pharisees and Sadducees (we’ve talked about them for other lessons—religious and sometimes political leaders of the day) came out to see what the fuss was about and John didn’t respond happily. He called them snakes and told them to repent. I’ll quote this part from the Easy-to-Read version for this week. He says, “I know what you are thinking. You want to say, ‘but Abraham is our father!’ That means nothing. I tell you, God could make children for Abraham from these rocks. The ax is now ready to cut down the trees. Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Yowza, dude did not mince words.
Then he predicts the coming (the Advent!) of Jesus. He says he baptizes with water to show repentance from sins, but that someone is coming who will do more—the one who is coming will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Again, I just have to quote this part, no way to paraphrase: “He will come ready to clean the grain. He will separate the good grain from the straw, and he will put the good part into his barn. Then he will burn the useless part with a fire that cannot be stopped.” Yikes, more fire!
So much of this time of year is how we prepare for Christmas, which is a fun time of buying or making presents and wrapping them, decorating, baking, making travel plans. But we often prepare in life for much harder things–like hurricanes, snowstorms, or even rainy days. But how do we prepare for Jesus coming? How do we prepare for Christmas and the coming King? Sure, we prepare for Christmas in all sorts of practical ways, but we can also prepare our hearts. We can take any quiet moments we can get and pray and confess to God any wrong things we’ve done, ask forgiveness, and seek to make things better if we did something to hurt someone else. We can use our time to help others and be kind to others. It is better to have our hearts prepared than just our houses prepared.