Saturday, December 05, 2009

Homily / Sermon for Advent 2

A voice cries in the wilderness (Luke 3:4)

We have a clock in the sacristy which is always exactly correct. It is regulated by a radio signal which is broadcast from Rugby. When the battery goes flat you put in a new battery and the fingers spin round till they get to the right time. When the hour changes the clock immediately corrects itself. We always know exactly what the time is.

In the ancient world it was not so easy. Time was much more general and vague, depending upon the the phases of the sun and the moon. There was no universal system of dating.

So the beginning of today’s Gospel is not just a list of kings and rulers, a collection of obscure and difficult-to-pronounce names. The only way of giving dates at this time was to relate to the years of a king or governor’s rule, and the more officials you could name, the more accurate your date.

In other words, Luke is taking his time to make a very important point: here you are witnessing a very precise, a very definite moment in history. It is not ‘once upon a time’ but ‘precisely at this time’. We know that this happened, we know where it happened and we know when it happened.

Luke is telling us that John the Baptist appeared and began his preaching at a definite point in time, a carefully chosen moment in history, a moment in history which will change history itself. It is what the prophets called ‘the fullness of time’, a time when the maker of time enters into time itself.

It is almost as if we see the curtain drawn back and the great drama begin; it is as if the bell chimes and we all stand to pay heed. Nothing will ever be the same again. Everything starts here. From this time forward we set dates not by the reigns of governors, tetrarchs and pontiffs, but by the Birth of the King of Kings.

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