December 11, 2012 - Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 96:1-3, 10-13
Matthew 18:12-14

The people of Israel were anxious for the Lord to come and make right all that was wrong in the world. As Isaiah the prophet prophesied, “Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm. Here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.” The strongest argument against the Gospel, against the idea that Jesus is the Messiah, is that the world is still more or less damaged. But Jesus says that he is going to accomplish his task gently, like a shepherd with a lost lamb. The Kingdom of Heaven will grow in the world like yeast in dough. And it is happening. The past two thousand years have seen more progress than the rest of human history combined. Not only progress in technology, but in every area of human life: politics, agriculture, medicine, economics, sciences of every kind.

It is without dispute that there still are failures of our political system, but that does not deny the advances. Sickness still exists, but so do many cures. Poverty still exists, but not like 2000 years ago. Certainly there are still problems in the world, but solutions seem possible in a way that they did not before Christ came. Consider agriculture: for thousands of years, humans farmed and grew very little. In the past 2000 years, slowly methods were developed so that a hamburger is available at McDonalds for 99 cents. And in ethics too: the end of racism and other forms of prejudice, if not achieved, are at least generally agreed upon as goals.

And where did this progress come from? It came from places where the Gospel had gone. Certainly other people had invented and developed great ideas, but it went nowhere in general. In every other part of the world, as had happened for thousands of years, new developments came and faded away. Real progress was only made where the Gospel was. Why? Partly because most religions said that progress was impossible, that the material world was something to be hated or at least ignored, while others said that nature was to be worshiped and not changed. It is certainly not because of any lack of intelligence or ingenuity in other countries. Judaism contained the idea that the world could be better some day. Christianity told us that we were the ones, guided by the Holy Spirit, who were going to make it that way. We wait for Jesus to return, but in the meantime we have a responsibility to make this world better. Not only with the power that comes from technology, but also better ethics and better politics and better ways for humans to live together.