2nd Sunday of Advent
December 9, 2018
Mepkin Abbey, South Carolina
Many of you will remember the name Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Bonhoeffer was a Protestant theologian and pastor. He lived and especially active in Germany in the 1930s and 40s.
Bonhoeffer spoke out strongly against the atrocities of the Nazis. As a result, he was imprisoned and eventually executed.
Shortly before Christmas in 1943, Bonhoeffer wrote a letter from his prison cell. He says this.
“Life in a prison cell reminds me a great deal of Advent. One waits and hopes and putters around.
“But in the end, the door is shut. And, it can only be opened from the outside.”
Our Need for Justice
Bonhoeffer gives us an image of our human condition before the coming of Christ.
In a sense, we were imprisoned in our humanity. The door was shut, and it could only be opened from the outside.
And that is precisely what Jesus does. He opens the door that separates us from God.
Many of our Advent Scripture readings describe this with the word justice.For example, the prophet Baruch in today’s first reading is speaking to God’s people five hundred years before the birth of Christ.
Three times he uses the word justiceto describe what God will do for his people. This word, as Baruch uses it, does not refer to a judge presiding in a court of law or to a district attorney or anything like that.
Instead, the Scriptural meaning of justice refers to a just or good or right relationship between God and us – the relationship that God intends from the beginning of time. The Advent prophets foresee the coming of One who will bring about this just or good or right relationship.
From our perspective today, we know that in and through Jesus, we are in that relationship with God. Our longing for closeness with the transcendent God is now fulfilled.
Our longing for being in touch with the ground and center of our being is now possible. Our longing for fullness and the fullness of life is now within reach.
Jesus has opened the door and satisfied the longing that lies under all of our other longings, our longing for God. That is the justice,the just or good or right relationship with God that the Advent readings promise.
Our Need for Everyday Justice
Now, there is another dimension to this justice.
We need to do what we can to align our human relationships and our world with this relationship with God. Luke’s gospel and, again, the prophet Baruch use some images that guide us in our efforts to do this.
For example, “every mountain and hill shall be made low.”
These mountains might be our pride when we hold ourselves as persons or ourselves as a Church above others, instead of humbly walking with them on the journey of life. Or they might be the mountains of waste caused by our failure to use renewable sources of energy and to recycle whatever is possible.
Then the prophets say that “Every valley shall be filled.”
This may be the valley of depression of a person who could really use some of our presence and time. Or it could be the valley of poverty that requires us to re-think economic structures and how the fruits of the earth get distributed.
And again, the prophets say that “The winding roads shall be made straight.”
This may be the winding way of talking about someone who irritates us, instead of respectfully talking with that person. Or it may be the winding way of racism or xenophobia, where instead we need to see others who are different from us as human beings who are really very much like us.
So, justice – a key word for Advent.
A just, good, right relationship with God – Advent promises this. And Christ has made this possible.
And then, allowing the justiceof God to flow through us into our relationships and our world. That’s the calling of this very special Season.