Homily 3rd Sunday of Advent Cycle A December 15, 2019

Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

               We’re all here because we know in our hearts that he is the One to come, and if we look for another, we’re looking in some place of darkness.

               Jesus is explicit in his words that were proclaimed in a Gospel this past week when he said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Even those who raise families; those of us who work all sorts of overtime like a UPS driver at this time of year; all you run around throughout the day trying to accomplish this, that, and everything else; and those who sit back in later years without thinking about our final destination quickly arriving. Rest in Jesus through your faith and good works. Because, he is the one to come, and don’t dare go looking for another.

               Poor John the Baptist finds himself in Herod’s dungeon in this Gospel. All for telling Herod the truth about his ungodly marriage. We see where the truth might get us against worldly forces who don’t like hearing God’s teaching. Anyway, there the Baptist sits below the earth, being cared for and waited on by his disciples. And this image of John in prison is useful for us, less than a couple weeks away from the birth of Christ. How so, you may ask?

We are to never grow tired of preparing for our Savior’s birth. Because prior to his birth, we too were in prison. We were locked up, underground, in the Netherworld, in the prison of our souls, with no hope of freeing ourselves from the wages of sin and death.

               Except unlike John, who remains in prison, and dies in prison, we anticipate in the birth of our Lord to be set free. We have been set free. We didn’t sneak out of prison; we didn’t escape; we didn’t have to dig any tunnels, climb barbed wire fences, run past any guards, or hide in any forest. We sat there in prison, right about this time, waiting for the answer to the question, “Are you the one to come? Are you the one who is to open this dirty dungeon door where we are imprisoned in all our spiritual misery, and set us free into your Divine mercy and love? Or, should we look for another? Should we choose another? Should we hope that Herod will have a change of heart and decide to let us go?”

               From those two options, one option is pure love and truth. The other option is pure hatred, evil, and lies. The first option blows up the entire dungeon without doing us harm. The first option of love and truth, of breaking free from the dungeon built by Beelzebul with some help from Adam and Eve; the first option is standing at the gate. And he’s judging we don’t belong in there. He loves us too much to stand there and watch us melting away like a POW. He must open that chained gate. And not just open it, but shatter it to pieces. And what breaks that prison door to smithereens, is his birth. The Word becoming flesh. Making his dwelling among us. Not in a prison, but in the freedom of his love and mercy.  

               We, my friends, have no business walking back into that prison. Yet, many do. Making decisions in their lives like his birth never happened. So tied up in the world of bad relationships, the world of greed, the world of politics being their false god, the world of materialism and individualism. They walk right back into the prison, sit next to John the Baptist, awaiting their spiritual execution. The people who look for another.

               That’s not us. We’re about to be set free, again, for the 2019th time since his original birth in a stable. We prepare, again and again, for the birth of our Savior for the proper and correct reasons. The kids receiving toys are nice. A white Christmas is nice; Bing Crosby thinks so. Company profits for this season are nice; the one and only reason for the profits being the birth of Jesus Christ. But these, and much more, are mere distractions from the proper meaning of why it’s essential to prepare for his birth.

               His birth is a celebration of our being released from the prison of sin and death, knowing we had no power to release ourselves from such torment. But there we are, sitting in prison, conversing with John, asking the same question as John, “Are you the one to come, or should we look for another?” In other words, “Are you going to accept his free Christmas gift of being set free, or, are we going to stay with John and be executed by the forces of evil?”

               The Judge is standing at the gate. He can see right into your cell, your dungeon. He’s going to open that wretched door for you. That ugly gate. But, it’s our decision as to whether we walk out into his merciful life, or stay in there with death and its misery. Staying in there means we live like he was never born. Walking out is to celebrate his upcoming birth, again.