Scripture for the day: Malachi 3:1–4; Benedictus (as Canticle); Philippians 1:3–11; Luke 3:1–6
Luke’s gospel announces the imminent arrival of Jesus with words echoing the prophets, whose language is often vivid, strident and striking.
Sometimes it is not easy to discern the strain of peace in scripture; there is plenty of violence within the Old Testament, for example. How does this influence the relationship we have with our God, with our world and with one another in the light of Christ’s life and teaching?
One way to understand this is to appreciate that the arrival of Christ signals a special point of development of humanity and our spirituality. In simple terms, John the Baptist begins to announce a message that might be stated as: “Grow up! Stop fighting! Show compassion! Listen!”
We are challenged to hear these words and make them work in our own lives. Jesus comes to show us a reference point for human development, an example of what we can be, a glimpse of the sheer purity that is the benchmark for all humans created in God’s image. In Jesus, God challenges us to be what we were created to be.
In Advent, these dramatic images of fire, scrubbing, and road-building describe what it is like to prepare to experience the salvation of God and aspire to the model of Christ.
None of this is easy; and so when we see violence in our world, we are tempted to simplistic reasoning that leads to violence in response. But this is not the way of Jesus, who truly walked the path of peace through justice, rather than force, even though it proved costly for him.
That is why John the Baptist announces: “Grow up! Stop fighting! Start caring! Listen!” The journey through Advent is a time to reflect upon this, to appraise honestly the legacy of our scripture and tradition, and to examine how we prepare to model the life of Christ in our own time and place.