Right at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, he situates us historically with the political and religious Who’s Who. Who remembers the most important political leader that Luke lists? Anybody remember any of the names?

This might be a bit easier. Who remembers the names of the high priests?

Isn’t this really how it is? Fame and fortune, position and power are all so fleeting.

What’s the name of the main character of our gospel? Yes, John the Baptist, the one clothed in camel’s hair and preaching in the desert, not the place of power, but on the margins.

Thank you for being here this morning (this evening). Thank you for gathering for the holy day of obligation to celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Thank you for your day to day, week to week faithfulness.

I echo those words of St. Paul to his beloved community at Philippi:

“Brothers and sisters, I pray always with joy in every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I’m confident of this; that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus…How I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

I don’t mean this to be a downer, but it all seems so superficial. Artificial trees and blinking lights. Blowup Santas and reindeers. Happy holidays and Seasons greetings and of course the politically correct “holiday tree” in the rotunda of our state capital building. Holiday tree, not Christmas tree. We must make sure that Christ has no place in Christmas.

Luke cuts through all the superficial sap and political correctness and the high and mighties and says this: “The Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

This is what Advent is about. It is not merely a time to get ready for December 25th, to bake cookies, to go shopping, to make merry and enter into such frenetic activity that people are far from happy. No, Advent is time to prepare one’s heart and soul for transformation, for the true light of life.

No matter how many variations of holiday songs we sing — we really can’t call them Christmas carols can we as that’s not politically correct – and holiday cheer we make, there are still so many things that are off-track in our world.

Despite are having enough food to feed the planet, millions are starving. Even in our country, a land of plenty, countless families and the elderly rely on food banks.

Even though there is new construction in downtown Olympia, the homeless population has soared and tents fill empty lots strewn with trash and human excrement. Happy holidays?

We know we need to care for the earth, our common home, yet we buy too much stuff and fill our world with garbage and pollution and we are the only nation of the G 20 to not be part of the Paris Accord.

Domestic violence is rampant. Physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse are far too common in our homes.

Shootings and killings on the south side of Chicago, where I grew up as a kid, make it one of the most dangerous places to live in our nation. Happy holidays?

No! We need a Savior. We need to be saved from our personal and communal sin that ravages our world. We need to admit to ourselves personally, as a Church and as a nation that we need repentance. As the Trappist monk, Fr. Thomas Merton wrote, “The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ.”

“Of all that is not yet Christ…”

What’s crooked in our lives that need to be straightened out? Is it our finances? Is it our stewardship? Is it our values and our priorities?

What is rough in our relationships that need to be smoothed? Is it the nitpicking and the backbiting that happens in the hallways of our homes? Is it the disobedience our children show their parents by not listening, by not doing what they are asked or cursing or belittling them under their breath?

What are the mountains in our lives that get in the way? Is the mountain of our pride that blinds us to the truth of our inner fears and inadequacies? Is it the mountain of jealousy that poisons our relationships with others? Is it the mountain of greed that keeps us enslaved in debt? Is it the mountain of screen time that keeps us from truly interacting with one another?

What are the valleys in gorges in our lives that keep us separated from others and from ourselves? Is the valley of resentment and holding on to past hurts? Is it the gorge of lust that leads to pornography, fantasy, masturbation, social media affairs or extra marital trysts?

What the prophet Baruch, the apostle Paul and St. John the Baptist, the voice of one crying in the desert, all invite us to is an inner transformation of the heart and soul that leads us to a true joy that the world cannot give, no matter how much pretty paper we wrap ourselves in.

God wants to do something new in our lives this Advent. Will you allow him?

John’s mission has become ours today. We live in an age of anxiety, but for many, the traditional means of hearing God’s voice and finding true peace have ceased to function.

We must be missionary disciples in our words and our actions so as to bring hope and meaning to the challenges that our families, our communities and our world faces.

We are to be a people of hope like the prophet Baruch. We must be a people who live and proclaim God’s mercy and grace. We must be a people of faith. We must be a people who seek the light of God’s glory and truth believing that the good work God has begun in us through our baptism will be brought to completion and that God will use us like he did with Baruch, St. Paul and St. John the Baptist.

My sisters and brothers, let us be Advent people, people of hope – longing and yearning for as well as living the joy of the gospel. Let us not settle for superficiality, for twinkling lights and shining tinsel. 

Let us long for the Messiah, for Truth in all its fullness, for this is He who will save us.