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Homily for the second Sunday of Advent – John the Baptist

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

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Good morning bus riders!


I hope everyone received the email I sent, with the link to the lectionary site; and, I hope everyone read the readings set aside for today – this second Sunday of Advent. There are five this week. If you want, you can now pull that site up on your smart phones, for references as we go along.


As usual, I will talk about all five, although only one of the first two would be read aloud in an Episcopal church. I am not affiliated with that religious organization; so, the only donations you are expected to give are to the bus driver, when he arrives.


So, with that disclaimer, let’s get started!


The first two readings for today are similar, in the sense that both are messages being delivered that offer encouragement to frightened people. Baruch took the message to the captive Jerusalemites in Babylon, saying, “Don’t worry, be happy!” Malachi was a similar message, sent to the returned Jews of the Second Temple, telling them something similar.


In the reading from Baruch, we have a noncanonical or Apocryphal author, much like we read not too long ago from other unapproved works – from Solomon’s Wisdom, for one. That means its original language is not available to analyze. It is a book in the Septuagint, meaning it is a Greek translation; and, Greek translations of Hebrew become paraphrases that demand closer inspection.


I was unable to find a way to very closely inspect Baruch, but I did see how he referred to “God” often; and, the Greek word written there was “Theos,” in some form. It was capitalized, meaning it should be seen as a reference to Yahweh.


Baruch is said to have been a secretary of Jeremiah. What we read today was actually told by Jeremiah to Baruch, for the purpose being for Baruch to deliver the message to the captives in Babylon. This means Baruch was a messenger.


The book called Malachi is believed by Jewish scholars to actually be a writing of Ezra, where Malachi is not a name, but an identification that says, “Messenger of Yah.” So, we see a messenger as a theme between these two readings.


An alternative translation, and what some Jewish scholars use to translate Malachi, is “Angel of Yahweh.” The same word in Hebrew that translates as “messenger” – “malach” – also means “angel.” This says Ezra was a true prophet, as a Yahweh elohim, where elohim means “gods” that are “angels.” Thus, Ezra was married to Yahweh, which transformed him Spiritually into an angel in the flesh that served Yahweh.


Remembering that Advent is a season closely associated with pregnancy, especially that of a first time, the dawning of parenthood is often enough to make mature children cry. The days of being carefree and reckless are coming to an end. When a baby comes, one has to grow up … fast; and, having never been in a position of total responsibility before … something one cannot stop doing, if one gets tired or bored … that fear can be overwhelming.


Thus, Jeremiah sent Baruch with the message that offered hope. Jeremiah was led by Yahweh, so the message he gave Baruch came from above. If Ezra wrote Malachi, then what we read is the voice of Yahweh speaking through a prophet.


The messengers are carrying the encouragement of Yahweh. Everyone they spoke to was a first timer, with no experience in what to do. The worries and tears flowed freely.


Back in the eighties, when my first wife and I were pregnant with what would be our son, neither of us knew what to expect. My wife read books on being a mother. Her mother helped her prepare. We registered for Lamaze classes at the hospital where our son was planned to be born.


This is how we should read the words of Baruch and Malachi. The promise is, “Everything will be okay … as long as you have Yahweh with you.”


Of course, after my wife’s water broke and it was time to rush to the hospital, she began to panic. When we were checked into the labor room, another couple was admitted and put in a room just down the hall from us. Within thirty minutes, they were wheeling that woman and her husband down to the delivery room. I thought, “This is going to be a piece of cake.”


Eighteen hours later, after trying to induce my wife to dilate and go into labor, it was time for a caesarian section.


For all the planning we did, what could go wrong went wrong. We lived to laugh about it all later; but it seemed everywhere we turned, something unexpected came up.


That is what Baruch and Malachi are saying. You need Yahweh to get through all the twists and turns, ups and downs.


In Canticle 16 we hear the Song of Zechariah. Zechariah was the father of John. Because Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, had been barren and was beyond childbearing age, when the angel Gabriel came to tell Zechariah to expect a child, Zechariah laughed. Because of that doubt, Gabriel made Zechariah mute, so he could not speak.


When John was eight days old and it was time to circumcise him and officially name him, Elizabeth told the priest his name would be John. Because she was just a woman, the priest asked Zechariah what the name would be. Zechariah asked for some paper and a pen; and, when given that, he wrote down “John.”


Once John was named – a name that means “Yah[weh] Is Gracious” – Zechariah immediately burst into this song we read today. This means Zechariah became a messenger, like Jeremiah-Baruch and like Ezra-Malachi.


In this song, Zechariah prophesied that John would also be a divine messenger, who would “go before the Lord to prepare his way, To give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.”


That means Zechariah was like a Lamaze teacher, where all who heard him sing this lesson believed, “This is going to be a piece of cake.”


Everything sung prophetically by Zechariah was the truth … but nobody would have foreseen John losing his head preparing the way for Jesus.


Twists and turns, ups and downs. You have to have Yahweh guiding your soul.


Paul knew that, certainly. Paul knew the pains and suffering of childbirth, even the pains and sufferings of raising a child so it will be able to take care of itself (with God’s help) were worth it. Paul always kept the faith, once he also became a messenger angle of Yahweh.


The Epistles of Paul are him being a servant of Yahweh, just like all the Prophets of the falls of Israel and Judah.


Paul was another like a Lamaze teacher. To read his words is like doing some simple breathing techniques, which are designed to bring calm … which works great when one is painless. When labor pains come – as my wife screamed, “Give me the epidural!!!” – being told then, “Relax. Breathe slowly … in, hold, then out” is difficult to do.


So much of what Paul wrote is just like the nine verses we read from his letter to the Philippians today: “You guys are so great. It was such a pleasure to teach you all how to have baby Jesus be born inside you. I think of you all each and every day. You are like my children.”


The same can be said of every prophet of Yahweh. That is because the surface meaning from the words written seem to drone on, saying the same things, over and over again. You have to dig down and read Scripture slowly, methodically, with prayers to be led by Yahweh to see His truth.


That is why the reading from Baruch is tainted, by being only available in translated languages: Greek and Latin. The original Hebrew has been lost.


To read nine verses of Paul – from any of his letters – nine verses is so deep with meaning that it takes quite a while to discern so much being said. Most of that is lost in translation. So much is lost that way, few people want to take the time to reach the goal that is the truth.


Most Christians are like I was when I saw a couple come in, have a baby in an hour, and then go home with a new baby the next day. They do not approach Christianity with the experience of Paul, or Jeremiah, or Ezra. They laugh like Zechariah at the impossibility of miracles coming. Most do not expect, nor want to go through eighteen hours of labor pains, before your new baby is torn from your womb.


We like things simple and easy; but that is not the way life works.


When I was looking at what Paul wrote, I saw so much that I decided to take the ‘short route’ and do like I did before with one of Paul’s letters, focusing only on the capitalized words written in these nine verses. There are thirteen.


Those thirteen words line up together as a divinely elevated synopsis of these nine verses, saying: “I Thank God of Anointed of Jesus Just as God of Anointed of Jesus Kai of Anointed of Jesus of Anointed of God.”


That can then be stated as: “I Thank God - - - - of Anointed of Jesus - - Just as - - God of Anointed of Jesus - - Kai - - of Anointed - - of Jesus of Anointed of God.”


That can then be read as saying, “I Thank God … as being one of His Anointed from my soul receiving the resurrection of Jesus with it … According to … the same God who makes all disciples be also of Anointed of Jesus … this Most Importantly … makes me of those Anointed in kind … all alike are the truth of the Trinity – of Jesus of Anointed of God.”


I then went a step further, because one of the capitalized words is “Kai,” which is a marker word that needs no translation; and, I found there are seven uses of “kai” in these nine verses. I then took those important segments of words and put them together, like I did the capitalized words, and found they say this:


“in this thought-out response - validated of anyone good news, here I pray – remain more

– more to overflow in discernment – every kind of understanding, in order that you might

exist pure – not causing to stumble towards time of Anointed, towards renown – approval

of God.”


Every part of that is important to know, just as all of what seems to be simply repetitive, Jesus Christ God or God Christ Jesus. It is doing the work necessary to give birth to the truth of Yahweh.


That is symbolic of the Advent season, when the point everyone should be going to … here at this bus stop Lamaze class … is giving birth to oneself as Jesus. To do that one has to have married God and become His Anointed wife … pregnant with His Son.


As easy as it is to hear the words of one of Paul’s letters breeze across one’s face … often putting one to sleep, like listening to the calming gurgles of your mother’s womb … when it comes time to realize the truth it comes with pains and work expected.


This ignorance of the complexity … simply stated as far as translations go … is found in the Gospel reading from Luke, which tells about the coming of John. Luke is writing a message as an angel of Yahweh (a Yahweh elohim) that seems to be (yawn) a history lesson about when John’s ministry began.


The typical Christian has no clue what “In the year fifteenth of the reign of Emperor Tiberius” was. The scholars who use the annals of history (known facts) to judge if Scripture is true or untrue (in their opinions), they see the fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign as hard to swallow as true.


If Josephus had written Luke’s Gospel, the scholars would be right in their assessment, because the fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign was 28 A.D. (or C.E.). To put that in perspective, 28 A.D. was the forty-eighth year of Herod’s beautifications on his Temple. In the first visit of Jesus to the Temple of Jerusalem, as he began his ministry, he said he could rebuilt that temple in three days; and, he was scoffed at, because that Passover marked the forty-sixth year of that restoration process. That was the thirteenth year of Tiberius’ reign. John would be dead soon after; so, John’s ministry could not have begun in the fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign.


Because Luke was divinely inspired to write what he wrote, as a messenger of Yahweh, one needs to read how what he began the first verse with says this: “In year fifteenth of this prince’s of Tiberius of Caesar.” Because that is divine language being spoken by Yahweh, “year fifteenth of this prince’s” must be heard as saying “In the year of our lord [the meaning of A.D. – Anno Domini],” where Jesus is the measure of the calendar.


Keep in mind that Yahweh is omniscient, so even though Luke wrote his Gospel [according to scholarly guesses] somewhere around 85 A.D., Luke knew nothing about a system of dating such as that. That would come hundreds of years later, after the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of one calling itself holy. Still, according to the later calendar dating systems that have the scholars adjust the Caesarian Calendars to the Christian Era, the “year” numbered “fifteenth of prince Jesus” [15 A.D.] would have been the first full year of Tiberius’ reign.


Because John was born in a year designated as B.C. (I say 9 B.C.), this first verse in Luke is saying John began his ministry around the age of twenty-three. With Jesus beginning his ministry in the thirteenth year of Tiberius’ reign, John’s ministry began in 15 A.D. and lasted until the year of this of Jesus’ (of prince or prince’s), while Tiberius still was Emperor [in 28 A.D.].


Everything that follows in verse one – there are five segments of words listing names and titles – states further chronology that becomes an amazing set of truths that need to be seen to believe. I encourage everyone to go to my website and look up what I wrote about Luke 3:1-6. It becomes a precise confirmation of how, when, and where John’s ministry took place, more than simply being who ruled what region of land.


Verse two then places focus on the timing of who was the high priest in Jerusalem, with that being a separate statement of John’s trips there during festivals, when he was made known to them.


Then Luke shows how much he was a divine messenger of Yahweh by quoting from one he was like: Isaiah. Luke prophesied that John the Baptist was the one Isaiah promised, when Isaiah spoke as the messenger of Yahweh.


Both Luke and Isaiah then prophesied that John would be the one who would prepare the Jews of all those lands that had once been ruled by Herod the Great, but was subdivided and placed under subsequent rulers. Jesus would then walk those same lands, when his ministry would begin.


This means Luke wrote like a Lamaze teacher who spoke from experience. By the time Luke wrote, John had come and gone, as well as Jesus in the flesh. Luke spoke from the experience of knowing what was expected to come, as well as what came and why.


When Luke ended with Isaiah saying, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God,” this is the birth of Jesus in “all flesh,” not just his own. It says Isaiah spoke for Yahweh about all times, so John was always the Lamaze teacher that says divine pregnancy is necessary for Jesus to be reborn.


As easy as that is to hear, one still has to experience the labor pains of giving birth to a new person. One’s soul must be transformed; and, that means living a life in ministry like John, like Jesus, and like all the Apostles. Pain and suffering for a higher cause is never easy and simple.


I know the bus is not long from arriving; so, I will end here and let you have some time to ponder the importance of this lesson. Salvation is there for all souls to find; and, it is simply put by saying all you need to do is marry your soul to Yahweh and give birth to His Son Jesus. It is easy getting to that state of realization: read a book.


The hard part is doing what it take to understand the book. The pains and sufferings that come from personally experiencing that rebirth of oneself comes with screams and tears.


Once you reach beyond that and become experienced, it is the most amazingly wonderful feeling in the world.


Think about that this coming week. I look forward to seeing everyone again next Sunday. Until then, take care.


Amen

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