Hear ye! Hear ye! Welcome to the Third Session of the Advent Preservation Society, (APS for short). The first week we talked about how Christ came and died for us all to make us ready for His new Advent, for His second coming at the end of time. Last week we discussed how we wrap up things that are worth giving away, and these gifts are unwrapped if we really love them we wrap them again. This is especially true of weddings which is the very thing that Christ is coming for – to marry us and to cloth us in His glory. Today, we rejoice because although He is not here yet, He is not an imposter – nor should we be caught posing. Now, speaking of Advent and “arrivals,” I’ve had hundreds if not thousands of guests in the last few months – maybe you’ve had a few of them yourself: ladybugs. Ladybugs everywhere. People have told me that the rectory gets more than most places – that is like ladybug paradise. It might have been fitting that I describe ladybugs while I’m wearing this rose vestment, but then I found at that these ladybugs are all a fraud. That they are posers, pretenders – that they are actually harlequin ladybugs and they smell bad if you smash them. Not very ladylike if you ask me. Reminds me of an old beer commercial. There was this guy getting off a plane in a big airport and there were the various chauffeurs and greeters with signs. So, this guy goes up to one of the chauffeurs and asks if there is Bud Light in his limo. The driver replies that there is, and so the guy says the name as phonetically as he can, “Well, then I’m Mr. Gal-ee-week-ech.” The Chauffeur eyes him and says, “You mean, Dr. Galackowitz?” to which the man straightens up and confirms, “Yes, I am.” Then you see him in the back seat of a limo drinking the beer and playing with all of the limo extras in the back. “First time in a limo, Doctor?” The imposer replies quickly, “In a limo this small.” The message is drink Bud and you can be a poser who gets what you want. Posers are a dime a dozen.
Rejoice! Today is not a day of posing….even while today is not the feast of Christmas and the Real King of Kings has not yet shown His infant face, it is Gaudete Sunday and we rejoice for the true Christ is near….and we rejoice because for once we have a representative in John the Baptist, who has the chance to assert himself and pretend he’s someone he’s not and he lays off. He doesn’t take the bait. Because John does not play messiah, he will get the opportunity to baptize the Messiah. In the Gospel we read that John testified “so that all might believe through him.” How does that work? Well, if John would have pretended – some would have believed him as the messiah – but not all. But everyone can believe that John is not the messiah.
Today John goes on to testify the Pharisees that there is one among them who they do not recognize who is coming after him. And in our own age, Christ is hidden. And yet He is coming. This period of time where God seems absent goes all the way back to the beginning. In God’s apparent absence for some period of time, Adam and Eve were tempted to bridge the gap by acting as if they had a right to something they didn’t – they were tempted to pose. They wanted to raise their status and equalize things a bit with God. The serpent says if they eat the forbidden fruit they will be like God. On the other hand, consider the strange testimony of John the Baptist: I’m not him, not the Christ, not Elijah, not the prophet, just a guy in the desert thank you…his message is simple: I’m not God! It takes the self-humiliation of John to identify Jesus for the Word was made flesh in such a humble fashion – the lowly foster son of a carpenter.
If Advent is the season we need which is why we’ve forgotten it, Gaudete – this command to rejoice is the crown jewel that has been lost. Why? Because today we celebrate not that Christ is born, but that while He in not born yet, while He is nowhere to be seen, He is near. Our prayer is simple: I don’t know how you’re going to fix things, Lord…I can’t even see you – but not only do I know you will make this all work out, I am rejoicing even as I stay humble. So I don’t have to pose. I don’t have to fix it myself. Jesus, I trust in You.
John the Baptist actually teaches us how to love in our situation: that is we are still fighting the good fight. John always loves from the heart of Christ – with the Love of the Holy Spirit. He never tries to love with his own love. It’s perfect that he is always near the water, because Christ describes His love as living water. He tells the woman at the well that believers would have in their bellies fountains of living water springing up to life everlasting. John had this. Imagine this pitcher is the capacity to love your neighbor. John loved his enemies. You might think not. He called them a brood of vipers. “Who told you to flee from the coming wrath.” Ahh, but he is admonishing them because he loves them. As a common man he would have no patience to waste his breath. But he does not try to love them with his own love, he holds the pitcher to the heart of Christ and has enough love to tell them how to prepare: “Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’” John shows us how to love with the unfailing merciful love of Christ.
But then John does even better. He shows how to gain true happiness by loving always and only from the heart of Christ not only our enemies, but even our friends, those dearest – who we think we have something exclusively good enough from ourselves. Here we are tempted to take the vessel of love of neighbor and carry it away in a carefree manner, but as we drink in the love we share it gets low ….you can tell this when and we have not the means to when our love feels pain when it seems our neighbor does not satisfy or return our love, when we our sad when our neighbor’s conversation turns away from us, or we sense that another is loved more than us. This never happens with John. Because he never took the vessel away from Christ’s heart, but only loved even those closest disciples of his with God’s love (meaning He always saw them as God’s and not his own in his prayer and in his hopes for them)…because of this John cries out “Behold the Lamb of God” and sends St. John the Beloved Disciple and St. Andrew off to follow Christ and leave him alone. He is happy. They will learn to drink from Christ’s love and he will receive an undying spiritual love from them even if it is from a distance. We have not love in us naturally. To think so is to pose.
Rejoice! If we remember that we are not gods, then we can pray the APS prayer: God, I have no idea where you are, but I know you’re coming and you will fix this. Here is my heart, fill it constantly and let me love all others in communion with You constantly – seeing that You the Greatest Reality: the reality of Love.