2.Philippians 1:3-6,8-11
3.Gospel: Luke3:1-6

The color purple is the color for Advent. Unfortunately, purple is also the color for Lent. This  makes us sometimes to think of Advent as a kind of Lenten season. But advent is very different from Lent. Whereas Lent is marked by penitence, sorrow and self-denial, advent is a time of preparation, a time of glorying in the Lord and rejoicing in the Lord. It is the time the people of God are invited and even commanded to look good and feel good in the Lord. This is the message of today's first reading from the prophet Baruch.

Baruch was a prophet at a time when Israel was at the lowest point in their existence as a nation. The nation had been reduced to a shadow of itself with the Babylonian and Assyrian conquests and deportations. Anybody who was somebody was sent into exile. The Temple in Jerusalem, the visible sign of their faith and commitment to God, was ransacked and destroyed. Both those who were deported and those who were left behind lived their lives in lamentation, sorrow and mourning. Humanly speaking , there was no hope ever of a national revival or restoration. Then comes the prophet Baruch, equipped with only one thing, the word of God. And this is the message he had for the people of God :

Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God. Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting ( Baruch 5:1-2)

But why would the Israelites dress up and celebrate when nothing had changed on the ground? Their nation was still under a crushing oppression from the Assyrians, their kings, priests and leaders were all in exile and there was no sign of return. How can you sing and dance with such a heavy cross on your back? The prophet Baruch tells them why. It is not because the situation has changed but believe we stand on God's promise that it will change.
" For God will show your splendour everywhere under heaven. For God will give you evermore the name, ' Righteous peace, Godly Glory'"( Baruch5:3-4)

Like us today, the people of Israel to whom Baruch preached were living in an Advent time. It was a time of waiting for the coming salvation that God had promised. Baruch tells us that this waiting has to be done not with sorrowing and trepidation but with rejoicing and celebration. We should not postpone our celebration till the time when God makes good on His promises, as if we are doubting God. 

The word of God challenges us to let the celebration begin. Anyone can rejoice and celebrate when the conditions are right. The people of God rejoice and celebrate before the condition changes because we know that when God gives you a cheque it will never bounce.
The second Sunday of Advent may well be called " Sunday of the Public Works and Highways" The prophet Baruch in our first reading and Christ forerunner John the Baptist talk about road building and repair. " Make the ground level," "Straighten the crooked ways," and "make the rough road smooth," ( Bar5:8, Lk 3:5)

Both prophets are not, however, concern about road repairs, although their words serve well to remind our land transport ministry to fix our present bad roads. The prophets are conveying a message that the morally crooked ways must be eradicated, the rough edges of our conduct must be made smooth and warped attitudes straightened.
Poetically John uses image of the road to show how we can either encourage or impede God's entrance into our lives,(The primitive roads and nameless path traveled by the Baptist were a great contrast- winding, rough and mountainous John understands, like the present day  highway builders, that the more hazards removed, the better the road.

The Advent Season invites us to self- examination leading to self-reform. God's kingdom is a rule over man's hearts and to belong to it means a change of heart manifested in a change for the better. Advent is a challenge to repentance. It is a challenge to do something for God.
We have some crazy ideas about repentance. One is that repentance is feeling guilty or feeling sorry for having offended God. This is part of repentance but not the total essence of repentance at all.

True repentance is:
1.We are sorry to God because we have sinned against Him. We are not sorry because we got caught or we are going to be punished. We are not sorry because we have hurt someone else. We are sorry because of God, because he loves us more than we realize and we have played a dirty trick on Him when we sinned. We have unfaithful lovers in return( Ps51:4)
2. Don't just feel guilty, don't just be sorry, and don't just make promises to repent, show me!"(From: My fair Lady).
3.Honest acceptance of our sinfulness. Even psychologist will tell you that the beginning of all real conversion and change is the acceptance of what we have done. Only in truth can repentance begin. Do not justify your sins,( Prov. 28:13).
4.A turning away from sin and turning towards God.
How to do it? practice it minute-by minute, hour -by hour-day-by-day. Practice the beautiful, loving, caring person God made you to be. You can be sure that the " morally  crooked ways" in you will be straightened and the " rough edges" of your character will be smoothened.

Making his paths straight
In many ways, John the Baptist is an image of the church. At a later time, John pointed  to Jesus, and encouraged his disciples to follow him, and become Jesus' disciples. During this Advent season, the church concentrates on preparing us to celebrate  the coming of Jesus as our savior. We must heed that call, and prepare our hearts for this great occasion.

We are called to straighten our lives; to fill in the valleys, and to level the mountains and hills is about ensuring Justice for all of God's people. In today's language, the Baptist wanted a level playing field for all, so that everybody has access to the goods of this world. The final words of Isaiah in today's gospel tells that  "all people will see salvation  sent to us from our God." This is the direct result of making straight the ways of the Lord, filling the valleys, leveling  the mountains, straightening the curves, and making smooth the rough places. We can all identify these areas in our lives. 

The gospel has a message for me. I am the one who is asked to turn from my sins, to turn to God, and to prepare the way for him to make his home within my heart. I am the one who is asked to ensure fair play and Justice for others, so that I can see the salvation sent from God.

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Chapisha Maoni