Baruch 5: 1-9; Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11; Luke 3: 1-6
Over the next few weeks, many of us will be heading home to visit family and friends, or coming here to visit, and needless to say, that’s not always a positive experience for all people. There are often unresolved family issues, one person’s not talking to another, at times an “elephant in the room” that no one wants to talk about, and quite frankly, this only raises the anxiety and angst of an already stressful time of year. If we think about it that way, then it should be no wonder why the trip to the eternal home also often does the same thing to us…create anxiety and angst, not knowing what it is that we are going to face once we get there.
When you think about it, though, our entire lives are that Advent season. It is all about the preparation for what is to come and there are ways that we can try to reduce the amount of anxiety that we have not only on our home visits here, but also in preparation for the great homecoming.
One of the great prophetic voices of the season is John the Baptist who we hear from this week and next. Part of his plan on helping us head home is by living a life of repentance. Of course, we have often reduced repentance to “going to confession and forgiveness of sins” but that didn’t even exist in the time of John the Baptist. For John, living a life of repentance is literally going in a new direction by keeping our eyes and our hearts fixed on Christ. It was literally a letting go of what was and becoming what is in Christ. He certainly lived his life that way even upon his beheading; nothing was going to interfere with the greater plan. His eyes and heart were fixed on Christ heading home. Even the litany of leaders that Luke presents in the opening of this gospel points to the great anxiety that the people faced in the leaders of that time. All of which leads people to a greater trust in Christ.
Not many knew it better than Saint Paul who writes a very joyful message to the Philippians today. It is know that this was his favorite community, and yet, despite the current circumstances in his life, imprisoned while writing this letter, he manages to find that home within himself, keeping his heart and eyes fixed on the Christ. He understood that this life’s advent was a continuous process telling the community to put their trust in Christ, and in, they will be brought to completion and life in the eternal home.
Even prior to Christ we meet Baruch in the First Reading. He too finds himself in exile, and yet despite those circumstances, remains fixed on God, telling the people a similar message of repentance of “taking off the robe of mourning and misery, mountains made low and valleys filled to level-ground”. A total about-face, a new direction, with hearts and eyes fixed on the God who saves.
My friends, as we continue through this Advent season and the Advent we call life, we are called to that same life of repentance. Our lives need not be lived in anxiety, stress, and fear, when we too fix our eyes and hearts on Christ. When we do, the anxiety begins to subside and the journey home becomes less stressful. We pray that we each may live that life of repentance each day, fixing ourselves on the Christ so that one day we may truly know, experience, and live from our true home.