Second Sunday of Advent
2 Peter 3:8-14
Today’s Gospel features the person of John the Baptist … a man sent by God to prepare the way for the One who was to come after him … Jesus. Interestingly, another popular saintly figure at this time is St. Nicholas.
Jolly St. Nick in his bright red suit presents a stark contrast to the austerity of John the Baptist who was clothed in camel’s hair, wearing a rough leather belt and dining on grasshoppers. Saint Nicholas was the 4th century bishop of Myra (part of current Turkey), and the popular story about him centers on a poor man of the area who had three daughters. Unable to provide dowries for them when they married, Bishop/Saint Nicolas secretly left a bag of gold for the father to help take care of each wedding…with Nicholas thus becoming a symbol of the gift-giving which is so much a part of our celebration of Christmas.
The legends about the goodness and gift giving of St. Nicholas have been further symbolized by the Dutch version of his name: Santa Claus. This name represents the delights of childhood and the jolliness and good-natured generosity of a man traveling the world in a sleigh with eight reindeer, clothed in a bright red suit (rather than camel’s hair) and sharing many special gifts.
Saint Nicholas and John the Baptist can rightly "share the stage" these Advent days: By his preaching, John the Baptist encouraged people to move away from their selfish / sinful ways — to lives of selflessness. Saint Nicholas symbolizes selflessness – a giving person encouraging us to be generous…gift-givers, generous and excited about sharing the Good News of Jesus.
As we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, as we grow these Advent days, we’re encouraged to become what St. Nicholas and Santa Claus represent – and what John the Baptist proclaimed: "the Kingdom of God is here! … Prepare the way of the Lord! … Change your lives!" In very real terms, the spirit of Advent and Christmas encourages new lives of justice rather than indifference, love instead of hatred, and peace rather than violence, selflessness rather than selfishness.
Today and throughout this Advent, we celebrate the Hope, the Life that is Jesus. May we be grateful for our faith, and for those personal "voices in the desert" that in many special ways point out the reality of a dynamic faith in Jesus.
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is the local leader of the Passionist community in Louisville, Kentucky.