December 5, 2021
Revised Common Lectionary
Baruch 5:1-9 or Malachi 3:1-4
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6 (3)
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
Is real change possible? This question was surely on the minds of delegates to the recent climate summit in Glasgow as well as of protestors crowding the streets there. Can the nations of the world agree to meaningful, concrete actions that will actually preserve the earth from dangerous levels of warming?
When John the Baptist receives the word of God in the wilderness, he proclaims not only that things must change, but that they will change. He preaches a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 3:3), calling his hearers to a change of heart and of life. At the same time, Luke identifies the ministry of John with Isaiah’s vision of a new order: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (3:5-6; see Is 40:3-5). Change is coming—get ready!
In an Advent sermon a few years ago, Lutheran Pastor Barbara Lundblad likened John the Baptist to the oboe. Before the symphony orchestra begins to play, both musicians and audience members fall silent as the concertmaster stands facing the orchestra. The penetrating voice of the oboe alone is heard. All the musicians attune their ears to its sound and make the changes necessary to their own instruments so that they will be in tune to that one voice. Only then does the conductor appear; only then does the composer’s vision unfold in the music of the orchestra.
John the Baptist is the oboe of Advent. John proclaims that salvation is coming, and we are to attune our hearts and our actions to his message. We are to prepare both ourselves and the world around us for the transformation that God will accomplish. The preaching of John the Baptist brings together the spiritual changes that we must make as individuals with the social and cosmic change that God has in store for the world.
As we hear John’s oboe call, “Prepare the way of the Lord” (3:4), we are to respond as members of the orchestra. We are to change our tune, our hearts, our lives—and prepare to join in the masterwork in which God is about to lead us. Yes, change is possible.
A Hymn for Today: “A Morning Star Draws Near”
This hymn by Mary Louise Bringle, FHS, responds to the preaching of John the Baptist, drawing in part on Psalm 126, which is appointed for today in the Roman Catholic Lectionary. The text’s pairing with the tune MORNING SONG draws attention not only to John’s call to repentance but also to his proclamation of the coming day of salvation.
A morning star draws near the earth
To hail the rising dawn.
“Prepare a pathway for our God!”
Proclaims the servant John.
All you, baptized in cleansing streams,
Repent and turn from sin.
A Living Fountainhead now springs;
New heav’n and earth begin!
We shall not sow our fields in vain,
Nor tend, that others reap.
Our vines shall bloom, Jerusalem.
Our hearts, no longer weep!
On all the holy mount of God,
No evil shall destroy.
Our mouths shall fill with laughter’s grace;
Our tongues, with songs of joy!
“Prepare a pathway for our God!”’
Proclaims the servant John.
Our long-awaited Daystar breaks,
And soon shall come the dawn!
Text: Mary Louise Bringle, b. 1953, © 2006, GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-729857
Tune: MORNING SONG
Image Credit: John the Baptist preaching in the desert, JE
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.
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