This Second Sunday of Advent we encounter John the Baptist in our readings as ‘one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”’ We sing of John the Baptist and his role in salvation history in our music this weekend. Our opening hymn comes from deep within our hymn tradition in Germany in 1690. Just think about that – how many other tunes are 300+ years old that are still being sung? The original text to the hymn was written in the early 1700’s and re-translated in the 1800’s. Sorry about the digression! The hymn speaks of John the Baptist’s proclaiming that Christ is coming and to make sure that you’re ready for him.
Our song at the preparation of gifts likewise speaks of John the Baptist’s message. Our first Communion song takes us another step forward on this journey. If we are preparing for Christ and ready to accept him in our lives, then we need to feed on Him (remember the part about Christ’s three different comings – one is in our daily life as the Bread that feeds us?), and be led to one another through our actions. Our second Communion song is a rather new piece, “Come, Emmanuel” by Trevor Thomson. He also draws upon the Advent themes of light and being prepared for Christ to enter our lives more fully.
We end our mass with “Every Valley” reminding us once again of John the Baptist and his message for us this week. “Every valley shall be exalted and every hill made low. And all God’s people shall see together the glory of the Lord.” This year, this text has special meaning to me. As many of you know, I went to BSA’s Philmont Scout Ranch in June and hiked in the wilderness for 12 days with 8 scouts and 3 other adults. There were so many times when I reflected on this passage of making valleys exalted and hills made low. Oh how I wished this would have come true, and oh how I prayed that it would as we went up every mountain and around every bend countless times. It would truly show the greatness of God if that were literally to happen – making all of that earth move would be no small task. And ‘seeing together the glory of God’ – while hiking on a mountain with a string of people, not everyone see’s God’s glory at the same time – we all witness it individually as we pass an opening or a crest at a tree line and could see the beauty of His creation. How great will the day be when we can together, collectively, see God’s glory at His Second Coming.
On Wednesday, December 8th, we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which is the patronal feast of the Catholic Church in the United States of America. It is a holy day of obligation – meaning you have to (or get to!) attend mass. This feast was celebrated in the Eastern church as early as the seventh century. Some theology on this feast day from the Catechism:
#490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace.” In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.
#491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.