So, I've been contemplating the propers for this coming Sunday (the third Sunday in Advent). And, in the Gospel we have good ol' John the Baptist calling the crowd a "brood of vipers!". It's a rather abrupt start to the good news on a wintry Sunday and it leads to some unusual homiletical cud...
When my sister and I were teens (13 and 16) my mother began to use swear words in addressing us. And, it wasn't just mild swears--she used the f-bomb with frequency and sort of evolved from there. When I complained about her language she claimed that nothing else worked to "get our attention". While I'm still traumatized by the amount of cussing my mother continues to engage in (having gotten into the habit) I am also intrigued at the idea of how she felt that she needed to go to this extreme to get us to listen to her. So as I contemplate John's fiery language it occurs to me that it is, perhaps, a rhetorical device used to get their, and our, attention.
Was this device effective? Was cursing the crowd the best way to begin the relationship and spread the good news? Perhaps, perhaps not. And, as scripture tells us, they didn't actually start to wonder if he was the messiah until he enjoined them to live with justice, mercy and compassion. So, it wasn't the anger or cursing that kept them engaged and made them wonder if the world was on the brink of being transformed. Rather, it was his emphasis on the need for change and transformation as they prepared for the arrival of the true messiah.
But, his opening curses are still ringing in our ears and we find ourselves listening--reading on to see what this emphatic and unusual man is about. God does go to such extremes to get our attention, no?
Where is God trying to get our attention this Advent season? Where are we finding ourselves brought up short by unexpected encounters with truth? Where has the miraculous been brought to our attention?
For me, it's the movement within and the combined joy and fear I experience as I contemplate the baby on the way It's a glaringly obvious, for me, experience of the fear/joy that Mary must have experienced with her own pending birth. And this pregnancy serves as a reminder of the depth of love God has for all of us in God's willingness to become vulnerable to the reality of human suffering.
It's a season of already but not yet incarnation. And, I am in the thick of it.
(completely unrelated...who on earth thinks it's okay to tell a pregnant woman that she's looking "fat"! I'm just kind of wondering what planet I was on when I was told this by someone who knows that I am pregnant!!!)