Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
December 14, 2014
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Third Sunday of Advent
“A man named John was sent from God.” John 1:6
A very vivid memory from childhood is Saturday morning excursions to old churches in the area with my parents to do genealogical research. These were the days before computers and “familytree.com.” Even extensive codified volumes of genealogy records were a rarity. You did research the hard way. You went yourself to the archive, paged through old record books, and had information copied by hand or issued on official certificates. It was fascinating to see all of this data on family history being compiled, reaching back to persons and events as far as the 18th century.
I recall those moments when my father would discover a connection. Some record would bring together two pieces of information that up until that moment had remained just two isolated parts of a puzzle.
In Advent we are seeking to make a connection. Two separate family trees must come together. In Advent we are introduced to one side of the family in the Old Testament. Today’s first reading is a good example, because Isaiah was the herald of the Messiah’s coming. Speaking about the restoration of Zion, Isaiah says, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me” (Isaiah 61:1). Messiah, by the way, comes from the Hebrew word for “anointed.” Jesus will quote these very words when speaking of His mission (Luke 4:18-19). With Jesus who is the Messiah, the “year of favor” has arrived.
This Old Testament side of the family—the prophets—meets the New Testament in persons like St. John the Baptist. When John is asked whether he is the Messiah, John answers, “I am not the Messiah” (John 1:20”). Neither is he Elijah or any other prophet. John is someone entirely new. He is “the voice of one crying out in the desert” (John 1:23). And to whom is this a reference? John is paraphrasing the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3). The old and new meet, Isaiah and John, and they shed light on Him who is truly a fulfillment, Jesus Christ. There is something about making this connection that brings me back to the days when my father and mother would find some elusive ancestor in some forgotten baptismal register and say, “This is it. We’ve found it.”
This is what we should be saying in Advent. “This is the one we’ve been looking for. We’ve found Him.” The one “whose sandal strap [John is] not worthy to untie” is coming. In fact, He is already here. To me this is the great energy of Advent. We are preparing for someone’s coming who is already here. It is like inviting an important guest to our home. The guest arrives and we usher him to the guest room where he can freshen up after his trip. We return to the living room to await his return to us, but he is already in the house. He is here. He is there. He has arrived but we are still awaiting our opportunity to see Him fully.
And when the guest enters the room, we are seized with emotion and an overwhelming sense of consolation that now He is with us. Like making a connection with an ancestor of long ago, He makes a connection. He brings together the past and the present, the old and the new, and gives us hope for the future. But remember John’s words. “[T]here is one among you whom you do not recognize” (John 1:26). Sometimes we risk not recognizing the object of our hope. That is a frightening prospect.
Let us not arrive at Christmas without having recognized Jesus as the One who pulls it all together for us. Let us recognize the prophecies of old that prophesied His coming. Let us see in someone like John the Baptist the person who turns on the light for us to see the object of our search. “This is the one we’ve been looking for. We’ve found Him.” The prophets represent our longing and John tells us where to find the fulfillment. He is Christ the Lord.