Second Sunday of Advent
Sunday, December 9, 2012
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
It was another long week filled with too much to do and too little time to get everything done. Getting ready for our time together this morning was among the many things that remained to be done as the day came to an end and the sun fell below the horizon.
On the drive home to Wailuku I popped a CD recorded by Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm into the player on my dash board. The beautiful “Hilo Hanakahi” came up on the fourth cut. Raiatea’s voice soared in a gentle arc above Keola’s guitar music.
“Hilo hanakahi, i ka ua Kani lehua.” Hilo land of the chief Hanakahi and of the rain that gives drink to the lehua flowers.
I thought about the numerous times I have heard the song over the years and about the occasions when I have seen it performed as a hula. I often imagined what it may have taken for a hula dancer to learn the Hawaiian lyrics and to understand its interpretation from the Hawaiian into the English.
I also imagined the amount of time and energy it took to learn the choreography for the hula – the movement of not only hands and feet but also the movement of the kīkala or hips, the arms and the head. I imagined the decisions that had to be made for the proper dress, its design and color and the decisions that had to be made about wehi or adornments of flowers and lei.
Nothing was left to chance. There was much to make ready before even a single step could be taken. Once everything was set the dancer had but a few minutes to convey his or her love for the song and for the hula.
Getting ready, making ready is something we do every day. Getting ready, making ready for hula requires a level of intensity that a dancer cannot take lightly.
In a way that is the message of this, the Second Sunday of Advent. We are getting ready, we are making ready. As difficult as it may be for someone who dances hula, our time of preparation to remember and celebrate the birth of the Christ Child requires an intensity even more difficult. It is an intensity most of us would rather avoid.
In our reading from The Gospel According to Luke, we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord!” It is through an unlikely prophet that the proclamation of a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” is made. (Luke 3:3)
John is the one who came out of the desert to proclaim the advent or the coming of the Kingdom of God and the need for a baptism of repentance. (Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:4-8 and Luke 3:1-20) In our reading from The Book of Malachi, the prophet Malachi compares a refiner’s fire or a fuller’s soap as metaphors for purification or cleansing. For John such purification or cleansing will come through the waters of our baptism.
John’s challenge to us is to repent – to turn away from our sins, from all that would cause us to turn away from God – prepare. Get ready. Make ready.
True repentance - from the Greek metanoia - literally means to change one’s mind, turn around, reorient oneself. John’s invitation is to turn to God and turn away from sin and in doing so the promise is that God would forgive us; God would let go of our sins.
In this season of Advent what becomes clear is the message of repentance cannot be avoided or ignored. For those of us who have grown up in churches and heard the message of repentance as one of condemnation, it is understandable that we may want to avoid or ignore John’s challenge to us.
Some of us have grown weary of the shrill voices who seem preoccupied with the message of “hell, fire and brimstone.” But the message of repentance is not about condemnation but about forgiveness and starting our lives anew.
We hear John’s voice cry out down through the centuries, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” John makes us uncomfortable . . . uncomfortable enough truly to repent and prepare for the coming of Jesus.
When I was a little boy, it was easy to get dirty playing in the coffee fields of Kona. There were trees to climb and dirt to play in. A day at the beach was no different. It was easy to get dirty even with so much water around. The salt from the ocean water would leave a sticky residue and there was sand everywhere.
My mom or my aunt or my tūtū would always remind me and the rest of my cousins that we needed to wash up before entering the house. “You folks are so lepo. Go clean up.” And if we were really dirty they would say “You folks are so moe lepo!” – which implied we were beyond dirty to the point of being filthy.
The cleanup came. We had no hot running water only cold water from the well at the beach or the water from the catchment tank at home. A good bucket of water did the job.
Advent is a time for cleaning up. It is a time when we look not at what is external to ourselves but to what is internal. It is a time when we look at the lepo, the hewa or sin within ourselves – an unkind word that was spoken and an unkind deed that was done - and to turn to God’s mercy and grace for forgiveness.
It is a time to make ourselves ready so that as we remember and celebrate the coming of the Christ Child, we will be prepared to stand before him purified and refined. The rough ways will be made smooth and we shall see the salvation of God once more.