Christmas is just around the corner and we may be feeling like the busyness is just too much. In the midst of it all we can lose sight of what we really can celebrate. This feast is the Feast of the Incarnation – God takes on our humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. God comes among us. This is the great truth of our Gospels. This is what we celebrate … and live. How can we tell that God is among us?
Last Sunday, the 2nd in Advent we heard John the Baptist as he called for repentance as the way to “prepare the way of the Lord”. Repentance is really a change of heart. Such a call means that we look at things differently. The same old attitudes that seem so much a part of our lives served us well. But in a new time, they call for change, rethinking and reimagining. John call for repentance is for a renewal so that our world, local and global may prepare for living with “God among us”.
In the reading from Luke’s Gospel (Luke 3:10-18) we again meet John the Baptist. John is often seen as the last of the Old Testament prophets and at the same time, the first of the apostles of Jesus. As prophet, he calls on people to change, to prepare for the advent of God into our worlds. As apostle, John calls for us to recognize and acknowledge that God is now among us.
Listening to this prophet and apostle on this 3rd Sunday of Advent, we hear him respond to a very practical question that we all have about this repentance and change of heart. “What then should we do?” How do we live as persons, communities and a world where God is among us? Is it really possible? John offers several responses but they have a consistent focus. They call us to live and build a life, a community, a world marked by real values that are life-giving, open and conscious of others. They are not about self-preservation, self-centeredness and closed to others.
John the Baptist’s proclamation calls for values of compassion, respect, reconciliation, justice and peace. This are the values of God’s love translated to our own lives and relationships. Paul, writing to the Philippian community of Christians (Phil.4:4-7) reveals the same message in his prayer: live with gentleness to all, that God’s peace may be with you.
As we continue to move closer to the Feast of the Incarnation both John and Paul help us to find a response to our question. How can we tell that God is among us? It is by revelation. We can reveal this wonder when we live the values of God’s love in ourselves, our community and our world. That is what the Incarnation is really about.
The Old Testament prophet Zephaniah (Zeph.3:14-18) presents us with the ultimate result of celebrating and living the Incarnation vision of God’s active presence:
Rejoice and exult with all your heart. The Lord, your God is in your midst.
God will rejoice over you with gladness. You will be renewed in God’s love.
Do we really want this vision in our life, our community, our world?