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Advent II – Year A

ADVENT II – year A

In 1911 captain Robert Scott

and four other British explorers

set out on foot for the South Pole.

They travelled 800 miles

through deep snow and bitter cold.

A year later they reached the South Pole.

But on their return journey,

their glorious victory turned into bitter defeat.

Two men died along the way.

The other three froze to death

just a few miles from safety.

When the bodies of the men were found,

the last words that each had written

were still readable.

One of the men was Bill Wilson,

the doctor of the expedition.

Twenty years before,

Bill had attended Cambridge University.

His classmates nicknamed him “the cynic.”

He had a mean personality

and an even meaner tongue.

He once wrote these words to a friend:

“I know I am…proud…bitter…

insulting…and always selfish.”

On the polar expedition, “Bill the cynic”

Became “Bill the peacemaker.”

And just before he died,

Captain Scott wrote to a friend:

“If this letter reaches you,

Bill and I have gone on together.

We are very near it now;

and I should like you to know

how splendid Bill was…everlastingly cheerful

and ready to sacrifice himself for others.

His eyes have a comfortable blue look of hope

and his mind is peaceful.”

Meanwhile, in his last hours Bill Wilson wrote:

“So I live now,

knowing that I am in God’s hands

to be used to bring others to him,

if he wills a long life…

or if I die tomorrow.

“We must do what we can

and leave the rest to him…

my trust is in God,

so that it matters not what I do

or where I go.”

The story of Bill Wilson illustrates

what today’s scripture exhorts us to do.

First, the gospel reading asks us

to take top heart the words of John the Baptist:

“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

And second, Paul exhorts us

to live according to the spirit of Jesus, saying:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement

grant you to think in harmony with one another,

in keeping with Christ Jesus,

that with one accord

you may, with one voice  glorify…God.”

Bill Wilson’s remarkable change

illustrates what the church urges us to do

during the season of Advent.

It urges us to “repent,

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

When Bill Wilson was at Cambridge University,

he never dreamed

how close the kingdom of God was for him.

He never dreamed that in 20 short years

he would be called by God

to give an account of his life.

And Bill Wilson’s classmates

never dreamed how much he would change

in those 20 short years.

The man who was proud, bitter and selfish

became a man

who was splendid, cheerful and self-giving.

The man who was known as “the cynic”

became the man

who was known as “the peacemaker.”

History is filled

with men and women like Bill Wilson –

men and women

who began life as selfish individuals

and ended life as loving, generous people.

The lives of these people

remind us

that we to can turn from our sins

and become loving, generous people.

The lives of these people

remind us

that God wants to do for us

what he did for them.

The lives of these people

remind us

that God wants to give us the same grace

that he gave them.

Advent is a time

when we recall

what God had in mind for us

when he created us.

Advent is a time

when we recall

what God wants us to become.

Advent is a time

when we recall that God wants us

to make something beautiful of our lives.

Advent is a time

when we try to respond to God’s plan for us

as generously

as did men and women like Bill Wilson.

This is what advent is all about.

It’s the season that invites us to

take to heart,

the words of John the Baptist

in today’s gospel:

“Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

It’s the season that invites us

to take to heart Paul’s prayer for us

in today’s second reading.

Let’s close by repeating it:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement

grant you to think in harmony with one another,

in keeping with Christ Jesus,

that with one accord

you may with one voice

glorify the God and Father

of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Welcome one another, then,

as Christ welcomed you,

for the glory of God.”

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