This is a little late but here are my thoughts for the 2nd Sunday in Advent (Year A), 8 December 2013. This is the second of a series of Advent messages. The first was “A Single Light – The Light of Hope” which I posted for the 1st Sunday of Advent.
The Scripture readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 11: 1 – 10, Romans 5: 4 – 13, and Matthew 3: 1 – 12.
We begin with a reading from the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 2: 4,
“But I didn’t write it to cause pain; I wrote it so you would know how much I care—oh, more than care—love you!
In this world of darkness, we light the candle of hope and add a single of light of love.
The Advent Candles (Tune: Away in a Manger)
On the Second Sunday of Advent
A candle is burning, a candle of Peace;
A candle to signal that conflict must cease.
For Jesus is coming to show us the way;
A message of Peace humbly laid in the hay.
A second reading, John 17: 26
“I have made your very being known to them — Who you are and what you do — And continue to make it known, So that your love for me might be in them exactly as I am in them.”
Prayer – O God, in a world full of hatred and violence, You sent Your Son to bring Love back into it. Help us this day, as we light the second candle, the candle of Love, to make love more than a word but a truly feeling and expression of hope in this world. This we pray this day in the name of Your Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN
I begin with the news of the world and how we have reacted. This week, Nelson Mandela died. It was and is interesting to see how people in this country reacted to this man’s death.
For the youngest generations in this country, they had no clue what it was that this man died or why a nation would grieve. But this generation was born after the end of apartheid in South Africa and segregation in this country, so they should have no clue as to the horrors of this social policy that stated that all men were not created equal.
For those who knew of apartheid and segregation, the reactions were mixed. I happened to listen to a discussion on the radio on Friday and one of the “talkers” commented how many people were lauding Mandela in his death but who, when he was alive, worked against him and in support of the government of South Africa and their policy of apartheid.
I don’t know how many of this individuals changed their minds because it was politically expedient or because they finally understood what it was that Mandela worked against and what his goals were.
What bothers me more though is not the reversal of thought but that so many people will not admit that they were wrong and that he might have been right in his opposition to that policy. They will not admit that they could have done more to reverse the policies of oppression and inequality, not only in South Africa but here in the United States and elsewhere around the world.
There is one group that quietly and continually sought to remove apartheid in South Africa and segregation here in this country but I sometimes thought that it was more a social thing that an actual movement. If one is working against wrong, then you have to be involved totally and completely.
There is a group in this country today who will tell you that Mandela was a Marxist, a Communist, and/or a terrorist. They will speak about the horrors that the African National Congress inflicted on the people of South Africa and say that represented the true Nelson Mandela. I cannot support violence of any means by any group but I also know that when violence is been the method used by any group to impose its will on others and is used to suppress any group, it is categorically wrong.
But then again, I also cannot support the argument that many people make that the oppression of a people is sometimes needed to strengthen liberty. The argument was made by many of our leaders that we needed to support South Africa because it was working against communism in Africa but I always felt that it was more because we needed and wanted the gold and diamonds that came out of South African mines.
The problem is that segregation in this country and around the world has not been removed from society; it simply exists in other forms. When Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Memphis in the spring of 1968, it was as much about income equality as it was about racial justice. Even today, the people of South Africa will point out that the great divides in the country are economic in nature. And think about where many of the goods bought in the 1st world and the higher levels of the 2nd world are made. They are made in the 3rd world countries by workers earning, at best, subsistence wages in conditions that are unsafe at best.
The passage from Isaiah is one of those that is often used when speaking out against war. But is the peaceable Kingdom that Isaiah has in mind simply one in which we study war no more? Or is it one where every person, no matter who they are in economic, racial, or sexual terms, has a chance?
What will it take to have the lion lay down with the lamb? What will it take to have a world of equality? It is perhaps a cliché but the answer is represented by the 2nd candle of Advent, Love.
Why would God even think about sending His Son to this place some two thousand years ago? He didn’t send Jesus here to destroy the world or warn us that disaster loomed if we didn’t change our ways? We ignored the prophets before so sending another prophet wasn’t going to do the job. And God certainly didn’t need Jesus to destroy the world; that’s the type of job that He would do Himself and one that He had done in the past.
No, as the disciple John will write, God sent His Son to save us because He loved us that much. He loved us enough to send His Only Son, knowing that in the end, people in this world would kill Him.
Our task is perhaps the most difficult task ever envisaged and that is to take the message of Love into a world that doesn’t want to hear it or even think about it. Our task is to take the message that was given to us some two thousand years ago and make it a reality.
It is difficult to do because it is so much easier to hate people and then use violence in as many ways as we can think because we ultimately think that violence is and will be the only answer. But listen/read this words that Rabbi Michael Lerner wrote about Nelson Mandela,
Some people on the Left reject Mandela’s strategy. “How can one be openhearted toward one’s oppressors?” they say. “Fostering compassion toward oppressors will undermine the revolutionary spirit needed to defeat the evil ones.”
Yet Mandela showed us the opposite—that one can generate more solidarity and more willingness to take risks in struggle when one can clearly present one’s own movement as morally superior to the actions of the oppressors. Mandela’s anti-apartheid movement claimed this moral superiority through being able to respond to the oppressors’ hatred with great love. When Che Guevara said, “A true revolutionary is motivated by great feelings of love,” he was alluding to this same truth. And this is what the Torah teaches when it instructs us to “love the stranger” (the “other”). (Lerner, Tikkun – 6 December 2013)
Every thing that Jesus said and did during His three years in the Galilee were predicated on doing that which no one expected, to show concern and care for all the people, including one’s enemies. Paul points out that what we have to do is hard work. But if you are not willing to do the extra work, how can you expect anything to happen? If you want to change the world, it must be done in ways that build the world, not destroy it.
We look at our Advent wreath with its two burning candles, the candle representing hope and the candle representing love. The world is not as dark as it was before Advent began and we know that there is hope in this world as long as we are willing to walk with Jesus. We can offer the promise of hope because we are willing to love each other as we have been loved by Christ.
Our challenge, once again, is very simple; to take the Gospel message and see that it is carried out and to do so with the same love and compassion that Christ had when He did what He know asks us to do. The world is a little brighter now and the light will continue to grow in brightness and intensity as we get closer and closer to the birth of Christ.