Second Sunday of Advent – Zephaniah 3:14-18; Isaiah 12:6; Philippians 4:1-7; Luke 3:10-18
The readings today are full of commands. Do this, don’t do that. And one of them is really hard, I think, really unfair: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!” Zephaniah instructs us. “Sing joyfully.” And Isaiah: “sing praise, shout with exultation.” And Paul: “rejoice in the Lord always . . . Have no anxiety at all.”
What if I don’t feel like it?
And what about all the many reasons there are for anxiety in the world?
Can the people in Paris rejoice? In San Bernardino? In Roseburg?
John the Baptist is a lot more reasonable in what he tells us to do, because he tells us how to act, not how to feel. I like how specific he is, and how modest, how proportional: don’t give away all your clothes, just your extra cloak. Don’t give away all your food, just share what you have. Don’t quit your job and become a monk but do your job better and more fairly, not collecting more taxes than you should, not extorting or falsely accusing.
In a way the fact that these instructions are so doable makes them harder to dismiss. We don’t have to be spiritual heroes to do these things, just good people. So what’s our excuse?
But still: there’s nothing mystical here, and nothing abstract. These are things we can do.