The First Sunday of Advent has given us the message of the Second Coming of Jesus. On the second Sunday of Advent, the focus is on the first coming of Jesus. John the Baptist is inviting us to “Prepare the way of the Lord.”. God the Father sent his Son to bring us salvation. Salvation is a gift from God, but God gave us the freedom to accept or reject it.
In the Gospel reading from Matthew, we see John the Baptist preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” When Jews heard these words, they might have gone to the prophecies of the Old Testament. Matthew tells us by quoting from Isaiah 40:3 “A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist was preaching in the Judean desert by the bank of Jordan. It was not far from Jericho. Jericho was a significant trade root, so there was an opportunity for a lot more people that could come and listen to John the Baptist. John asked them to prepare for the new exodus. We know the Old Testament ended by the Jordan and they entered the Promised Land. John heralds the coming of the new exodus. People kept coming to listen to John and receiving the baptism of repentance.
John was the new Elijah. The Jews expected Elijah to return prior to the coming of the Messiah (Mal 4:5). The way John dressed was similar to Elijah which we read in 2 Kings 1:8, “He wore a hairy garment with a leather belt around his waist.” Jesus himself affirmed John’s role when he said, "Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things, but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also, the Son of Man will suffer at their hands” (Mt 17:11-12).
John was proclaiming about the one who is to come and invited them to prepare the way of repenting and bearing fruit. He told them, “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” He said, “…the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” In those days, the slave is the one who carries the sandals. Here John was saying he is not even worthy to be Jesus’ slave. John points to Jesus and says, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
The first reading from the book of Isaiah is the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah and speaks about Jesse, who was the father of David. A shoot from the stump of Jesse is a metaphor for the Kingdom of David. The kingdom of David is destroyed by Babylonians and Assyrians, but a branch is going to come from the house of Jesse and that branch is the Messiah. The new king, the Messiah would be filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit. The weapon of the new king is His Word. In revelation 1:16, we read, “A sharp two-edged sword came out of his mouth, and his face shone like the sun at its brightest.” And St. Paul brings the image of the Word of God in Ephesians 6:17.
Isaiah says, in the new kingdom there will be peace and harmony, “the wolf shall be a guest of lamb….” It is an image of returning to the original peace of the Garden of Eden Genesis 1:30). The animals were present in the cave with the newborn king: a kind of new Eden on the night of Jesus’ birth. Jesus is our new Adam who brings back to Eden. He made it possible to have access to the Tree of Life through the Eucharist. Moses led the Israelites from slavery to the promised land,.Jesus is the new Moses, who led us from slavery of sin to freedom.
As we prepare for Christmas and ultimately for the Second Coming, we need to listen to John the Baptist and embrace the invitation for the baptism of repentance. It is a call for a change of mind and heart. Every day, we need to allow our newborn king to be reborn in our minds and heart. We listen to John the Baptist, and at the same time, we are sent out to proclaim the Good News and invite others to celebrate the birth of the newborn king with us.