In the gospel texts for this second Sunday of Advent, we see John the Baptist’s role in preparing the way for the Lord. (Lk.1:68-79, 3:1-6) He was prepared and expectant, ahead of his time, but his end was jail and death.
Even those who took John’s message to heart often expected of Jesus an earthly kingdom and freedom from oppression in their lifetime – a hope that ended in bitter disappointment when this Messiah they would make king suffered the humiliating death of a common criminal.
So what are we to do when the expectation that Advent calls us to doesn’t seem to come to fruition?
On this day 150 years ago, the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, officially banning slavery, and yet modern-day slavery still exists. Earlier that year, upon passage of the amendment in the U.S. Congress, Frederick Douglass rightly declared:
Slavery has been fruitful in giving herself names … and it will call itself by yet another name; and you and I and all of us had better wait and see what new form this old monster will assume.
In any of its forms, we know this is not God’s intention for His creation, and so we prepare and expect the Year of the Lord’s Favor, as outlined in Isaiah 61, proclaiming good news, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming freedom and release from darkness, comforting all who mourn. In this time, He promises “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair.”
We at Araminta stand in expectation of a region free of trafficking. We recognize that this can only become a reality as we walk humbly with our God in His timing and provision.
As we continue in this spirit of preparation and expectation, recognizing that God’s hand in history usually does not look like we anticipate, may we realize with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that “[t]he answer lies in…our acceptance of finite disappointment even as we adhere to infinite hope.” (Shattered Dreams, sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 1959)
When God first freed His people, they knew their destination was the Promised Land, but the journey was not what they expected. Perhaps this is the first model of trauma-informed care! Too often we are focused on the destination when God is focused on the journey and relationship that prepares us for His ultimate destination.
Indeed, the author of Hebrews reminds us that this earthly destination was a promise seemingly unfulfilled for generations on end:
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. …All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13)
Returning to the ultimate preparer, we see John the Baptist, when in prison, sending his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Mt. 11:3 / Lk. 7:19) Jesus’ response points not to the earthly kingdom some expected, but to God’s kingdom made manifest on this earth through restoration.
May we continue in this path of preparing the way of the Lord, that we all will be ready for His second coming, which we eagerly anticipate!