IS 40: 1-5, 9-11 / PS 85: 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 / 2 Pt 8 – 14 / Mk 1:1-8
Today’s readings kind of appear to send a mixed message. In the first reading we hear “Comfort, give comfort to my people!” then in the second reading we hear “the heavens will pass with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire” and then in the Gospel we are given the image of John the Baptist wearing camels hair, eating locust and calling people to prepare the way of the Lord. I don’t know about you but destruction by fire, wearing camels hair and eating locusts is not exactly my idea of comfort but perhaps today’s readings do not sound like our idea of comfort because God’s ways are not our ways and He is not content to give us simply passing comforts. No He desires that we have true and lasting happiness.
Happiness seems to be the one constant desire of everyone in our world. Everybody in our world is searching for true and lasting happiness: thus, while we may not realize it, all of us are starving for God. Now I’m sure many of you are asking how can that be, there are countless people who don’t seem to care at all about God. Well, while people may not think that they are searching for God they are searching to be fulfilled and as St. Augustine famously surmised our hearts are restless until they rest in you O Lord. If we look at the world around us we see this endless pursuit for lasting happiness in man’s desire for material pleasure, in the explosion of addictions and in the rampant consumerism that plagues our country. No matter where we look no amount of material pleasure will bring any of us lasting happiness because material things can never satisfy spiritual needs.
If no material needs can satisfy our spiritual desire for God, why do so many people continue to seek happiness in passing things? I think one of the reasons is as simple as the economic theory of supply and demand. If we do not supply for the world the happiness they are looking for they will go and look elsewhere. Simply speaking we are not doing a good job spreading the message of the Gospel, the only message that can bring us true and lasting happiness and so people are turning to the message of the world. Just look around us, how many people even know that Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ? My friends the advertisements are doing a great job of selling the consumerism of Christmas, we must step up our game and tell the world the true meaning of Christmas.
If we truly believe the story of Christmas we cannot help but become John the Baptists and announce the coming of the Lord. Our entire lives must give witness to Christ; no matter who we are, where we are, or what we do in life, people must look at us and say “he is a Christian” or “she is a Christian” People need to be able to recognize us as Christians because we love no matter what, because we endure no matter what and because we bring joy and truth to others regardless of the circumstances. People need to be able to look at us and say “there must be a God because here is one of His children.” Now if we want to have that joy which manifests ourselves as Christians we must have conversion for “the root of all our unhappiness is the result of sin and its effects. The sooner we are free from the distortions and crippling of sin the sooner we will experience fuller joy and freedom as sons and daughters of God and be able more and more to be a blessing to others.” If we first order our own lives into conformity with the Christian way of life we will find joy and that joy will radiate out into the world attracting others to the Joy of the Gospel.
Now many of you are probably sitting there thinking something like, “well deacon that is beautiful, if only it was so easy.” Well nothing worth pursuing come easy but perhaps it becomes easier when we take time this advent to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. One of the most difficult adjustments I had to make in the seminary came at the end of my 4 years of college when I began my theology studies and I started to dress like a priest wearing the Roman collar. I was pretty sure God was calling me to be a priest and I loved my faith, but their was something about literally wearing my faith around my neck that scared me. Previously I could be an anonymous Christian, I could live my Christian faith without anyone in public really knowing. As I struggled with being public about my faith I found myself asking a very simple question. Do I believe in the Christmas story? In a short time it became apparent to me that if the Christmas story is really true, I have no choice but to proclaim that great news to the whole world. If God truly became man how can we not share that news with the world?
My friends when we have a personal encounter with the Lord in the Nativity scene our lives cannot ever be the same. Our “faith is joy, therefore it makes beauty.” “Our faith, too begins with wonder at the very fact of creation and at the beauty of God who makes himself visible.” This advent, take some time wonder at the great Christmas mystery and then go out into the world and become another John the Baptist, and share the good news of Christ birth, through the witness of your life.
 Martin, Ralph. The Fulfillment of All Desire. Steubenville: Emmaus Road Publishing. (2006). pg 352.
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Church Fathers and Teachers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. (2010) pg. 31.
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Church Fathers and Teachers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. (2010) pg. 103.