“The One Who Is Coming”
Matthew 3:11-12 — “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” -NRSV
On this second Sunday of Advent, millions of Christians from diverse traditions across the globe gather for worship. As we worship, we focus on hope. We focus on the hope that does not disappoint. We focus on the One who is coming. We focus on the One who has the power to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. We focus on the One who is coming to clear his threshing floor and who will gather his wheat into the granary. We focus on the One who will take the chaff and burn it in unquenchable fire. We focus on the One of whom we are unworthy. We worship in preparation to celebrate his birth. We worship with familiar songs and hymns of old, which draw us near to our experience of Christmas time, however lovely or however trying it might be. We worship with the hope that just as he once came and revealed his glory in the midst of the darkness of our world bringing true light, he will come once more to redeem all things. We worship asking the Spirit to help us realize the truth: that he brings the kingdom of heaven closer to us daily.
As we worship and prepare, focusing on the hope the the One who is coming inspires within us, we shift our attention from Palestine to the border region between Mexico and the United States. A region of great contrast. A region where hope is often met by despair and where need is often met by abuse. A region where those who have come to seek the safety of asylum in the mightiest nation of the world have been received with rubber bullets, with detention in inhumane conditions, and with the abuse of corrupt institutions and predatory human smuggling operations. A region where children have suffered by the enactment of zero-tolerance policies that have led to thousands of children being torn apart from parents. A region where children have suffered to the point of death in the custody of the United States of America, the most prosperous and most powerful nation in the world. A region in which asylum-seeking families are being made to wait in Mexico or are being returned to Central America placing them in grave danger of abuse, extortion, and kidnapping; a danger from which they had fled from to begin with. A region in which, precisely because of that danger, parents are now having to hand over their children delivering them into this nation’s now infamous immigration detention system.
As we enter into this second week of Advent, the Spirit invites us to reflect on these questions: Where and how is the Christ Child manifested in the humanitarian crisis that continues to unfold in the border region between Mexico and the United States? Can we find/identify the manger at the U.S. Mexico border? Can we perceive the light that emanates from it challenging us and confronting us daily?
The One who is coming has the power and the authority to burn the chaff of political, ideological, and theological postures that rationalize and justify the abuse, neglect, and death of immigrant children at the U.S-Mexico border. He has the authority and the power to throw them into the unquenchable fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand and he comes to clear his threshing floor.
Come, O desired of the nations, come…
Prayer: We pray with hope in preparation for the coming of the One who is greater than us. We pray with hope in preparation for the coming of the One who will baptize us with Holy Spirit and with fire. Come, O Lord our hope. Come and set all things in their proper place. Come burn away those things that stand in the way of your mission to redeem our world. Open our eyes. Call us to repentance one again. Give us hearts of flesh instead of stone. May the story of your birth become our reality. May your manifest presence in the migrant children who are persecuted, neglected, abused, kidnapped, and left to die in expensive cells at the U.S.-Mexico border challenge us, inspire us, jolt us out of conformity, and transform us into the human beings you have dreamt us to be. May it be so.
Edgar A. Vergara Millán