Second Sunday of Advent
Cycle A. Readings:
1) Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
2) Romans 15:4-9
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12
“Going to church” in the Protestant American South holds a certain amusing lore through which I fondly recall the small Louisiana congregation of my girlhood, although at the time I was embarrassed by some of its quirky traditions at worship services.
One was the singing of a favorite hymn, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,” in which congregants would eagerly remain on the edge of their seats during the organ’s introductory notes then suddenly (with great rustling of arms, legs and hymnals) rise up as one and belt out, “Stand up! Stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross!”
Another was “Roll Call Sunday,” when the preacher called the roll of church members and each family would stand and be counted as their name was called. That annual service unfailingly opened with an enthusiastic (by the pastor, at least) rendition of “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder (I’ll Be There).”
The Scriptures for this Second Sunday of Advent refer to a similar call to accountability at the coming of Christ. But they emphasize a deeper requirement of faithfulness than symbolic acts of loyalty. Isaiah notes, “Not by appearance shall he judge.”
I would never question the true committed faith of the people of my childhood church. After all, they are the ones who first introduced me to Jesus. Today’s Gospel points out what they knew and modeled for me: Producing “good fruit” is the telling proof of one’s relationship and commitment to Jesus. (I’m just glad there wasn’t a hymn about every tree not bearing good fruit being thrown into the fire.)
Jesus came to us in his day, and comes to us now, to re-create the peaceful world the Father intended. Isaiah declares the promise of Christ bearing the gifts of the Spirit — wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge and awe before God — gifts he offers us to serve God’s purposes well.
His overriding purposes are justice and peace brought about through compassion.
As we prepare the way of the Lord this Advent, let us rely on the gifts of Jesus’ Spirit to move beyond the mere appearances of faith. Let us commit to intentional acts of justice and love that will produce the good fruit Christ seeks.
— Jean Denton
What works of justice and compassion will you commit to this Advent? What particular gifts of the Spirit do you need in your efforts to produce “good fruit” for the Lord?