This Sunday of Advent combines the themes of anticipatory joy with the coming of the powerful Messiah who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire!
The prophet Zephaniah calls on the people of Israel, who have lived in exile and defeat, to rejoice in anticipation of the coming of God. The Lord will rescue them from disaster, deliver them from oppressors, and gather them safely home once more. The judgment against them has been lifted.
In Luke’s Gospel, we hear the preaching of John as he baptizes at the river Jordan, calling the people to a repentance that shows up in a lifestyle of generosity, honesty, and integrity towards others. He describes with vivid images the coming of “one who is more powerful than I,” who through the Holy Spirit and fire will bring the truth of God to bear upon the people.
Saint Paul encourages the Christians of Philippi with the expectation that the Lord is near. They can rejoice and be free of worry, knowing that by their faith and trust in Christ, they can communicate every concern and thanksgiving they have to God. This trust produces profound peace.
Comment: Can joy and judgment go together? Ultimately yes. We do long for the perfect love and truth of God to come among us. We can rejoice to know that God’s word will be the last word that triumphs over all human government and politics, decisions and acts. We rejoice that love – not human love but the love we know in Christ – will prevail and complete all things. We hope for this, even as we know that we ourselves must be held accountable when measured against the love of God. Yet I can rejoice even in this, knowing that the love that judges me is the very love that will make me whole and clothe me in new life.