Third Sunday of Advent 14 December 2014
(Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 John 1: 6-8, 19-28)
“A Curious World Indeed!”
Do children still read “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?” The Adventures begins with Alice sitting in a field with her sister. Alice sees a white rabbit and takes off running after the rabbit. When the rabbit goes down a rabbit hole, Alice is right behind it, but immediately begins falling and falling and falling. As she falls she begins thinking all kinds of girl things when suddenly, “Thump!” she comes to a sudden halt upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves. 1 It was quite a long fall!
Alice became convinced she had fallen right through the earth and was destined to come out the other side where people would be upside down. Or maybe she would be the one upside down! Alice was surely afraid of coming out into a strange and different world. But when Alice landed, she discovered that the world she entered was not upside down, but certainly was out of proportion to everything she was used to! First she is too big; then she is too small. Alice is in a very strange world, indeed!
In many ways, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland reminds me of where we are on this Third Sunday of Advent. Although not quite like Alice falling through a rabbit hole, we are moving through Advent, and today hearing, in all three scripture texts, a new world being imagined!
The graced visionary Isaiah prophesies a world where captives are freed, where the hungry are filled, where healers sooth every pain, where all those shackled are set free, and where the naked and the shamed are clothed with justice and dignity.
“This is the one for whom we wait with joy,” Paul says, “the one in whom hope and healing, freedom and salvation will find expression in our lives and in our world.” It is a world turned upside down and inside out!
I am reminded again of the encyclical by Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, where he speaks of living the Good News in a world not always on the same page. Certainly the Pope knows all the evils that plague our planet, yet he encourages believers to live and to preach the joy of the Gospel.
At one point he admits that, “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is with consumerism, is the desolation born of a complacent heart and the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures.” 2 But then he immediately follows by saying [I love this!], “Those who follow Jesus need to evangelize in the face of this with a fierce and unrelenting joy; an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” I think what he is saying is that our vision and desire for what can be must never be clouded over by the darkness we too often experience in our lives.
Paul, in his first-ever correspondence, reminds the Thessalonians and all of us to sustain and support the joy of the Gospel with prayer. It is in prayer, Paul reminds us, that discernment comes, and in prayer what we are more sensitive to the presence of the Spirit in the world.
These scripture texts today excite our imagination to conceive ourselves in new ways, to see what we might become. Paul prays that the God of peace will make us blameless at the coming of the Lord. At first glance, it would appear that Paul is praying for more than is humanly possible.
But what an intriguing Advent idea! God stirring our imagination that the world can be different, and then empowering us through the infant at Christmas!
John’s message appears to be just as convoluted! John the Baptist preaches repentance. He believes people can actually be reconciled with each other and get along with each other. John believes we can be reconciled with God.
His message: rid your lives of greed that impoverishes others. Rid the world of the arrogance that sets us above any other person. Rid the world of the power that makes us abusive, and the selfishness that turns us in on self-seeking concerns.
Imagine such a world, believe in such a world, and with God’s help, make such a world happen!
Today, Advent is about our being awakened to new possibilities for us and for our world.
Today, Advent is about encountering Christ in the most unlikely places our lives. Today, Advent is about believing that God’s mighty deeds are occurring at this very moment.
On this Third Sunday of Advent, we stand in the same place where John the Baptizer stood. We stand in the midst of a world, darkened in so many places, called to be witnesses to the light, witness to new possibilities. We believe there is one among us whose presence among us makes us rejoice and whose saving power gives us confidence, that even in times of uncertainty, we rejoice because our hope is in the One who is stronger than death.
Our Advent waiting is not the absence of hope, or hope dissipating in a dreary waiting room, or dreams that do not come to fruition. Rather, it is the comfort of the living God, who comes to us when ordinary hopes disappear and who is coming to us even now. And the joy of this hope gives comfort even in the waiting.
You know, when Alice comes back out of the rabbit hole and tells of her adventures, her sister does not believe her, or so she says— but then she too begins imagining. She calls Alice’s Adventures, a “curious dream.”
A curious world is what I believe we are being called to imagine and initiate as we move ever closer to the Birth at Bethlehem. In fact, it has already begun!
When a teenager receives the Nobel peace prize!
When more than 500 children receive toys the week before Christmas!
When more than 100 children take home backpacks filled with food each weekend!
When homeless individuals find a warm church in which to sleep on freezing nights!
“Stir up our wills, Lord God, that we may testify to your light.” Amen.
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll.
- The Joy of the Gospel. Pope Francis. November 24, 2013.