Here I go, dating myself again! How many of you remember the commercial for Heinz Ketchup? The bottle upside down with the cap off, and the ketchup very slowing coming out with the music of singer Carly Simon’s 1971 song “Anticipation” playing in the background? Perhaps that is the song that would best go with today’s gospel! John the Baptist has the crowds all stirred up and excited. We are told that “the people were filled with expectation” and wondered if John might be the Christ. They were anticipating the someone! So much so, that everyone was asking John what they should do. Basically everyone was told to be fair, be kind, act with compassion. John then told them that the someone they were anticipating was coming after him, that he was “not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” And so John sets the stage for the coming of Jesus – the Messiah they were anticipating after thousands of years of waiting. We too are living in anticipation! Christians have been waiting for over 2,000 years for the return of Jesus. Many throughout the years since the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus have tried to “stir up the crowds” by announcing the exact date they figured out would be the return of Jesus, or stand on corners holding signs “the end is near.” Followers of these so called prophets have gone up mountain tops only to be disappointed. But remember, some day they will be right! So how do we prepare for that day when the Lord returns? We do exactly what John the Baptist told the crowds in his day. John preached an attitude that turns the world’s values inside out. It is an approach to life that both hopes and works for the time when things will be as God created them to be. John was pointing out what that looks like in action.
This brings us to the message of the combination of today’s three scripture readings for Mass. Where John pointed to the sort of behavior that prepares the way for God’s coming, Zephaniah proclaims that God is overjoyed to be in our midst. Zephaniah goes so far as to paint a picture of God partying with the people who have been saved. Paul picks up on the theme by telling the Philippians that their life should be one of constant rejoicing. And why? Because the Lord is near, and there is nothing to fear.
On the Third Sunday of Advent, we as a church focus on our reasons for joy. The readings offer us multiple reasons to rejoice, all of which come down to two basic themes. First, God loves and saves us. Secondly, we are capable of loving one another with the freedom God’s loves engenders in us. When we truly encounter the love of Jesus, we can do nothing BUT rejoice!
Several people ask me how my new dog Chardonnay is doing. Has she adjusted to her new surroundings? Indeed she has! She is really a sweet dog but I’m afraid to let her off her leash outside. She has such a hunting instinct, I’m afraid she wouldn’t come back. She is now being re-treated for heartworm. The rescue treated her, but not adequately. On December 10th she finished a month of pills. Then on January 10th she will have an injection followed by 4 weeks of very limited activity. February 10th she will have another injection, followed by another one a day later, then 4 more weeks of limited activity. Hopefully she will be clear of heartworm by then.