O Come, O Come, Emmanuel / and ransom captive Israel / that mourns in lonely exile…
“Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.” Baruch 5:1
Our lectionary readings for Advent 2 deal with two themes: comfort and proclamation. In Baruch 5, the Lord’s comfort comes to the Israelites as divine glory. Jerusalem is to trade the garments of sorry and affliction for the garment and diadem of glory. The comfort of glory is also a comfort of peace, for God will give Jerusalem the name of “Righteous Peace,” a peace that is marked by the return of the exiles. Even creation is brought into this peace by obeying God’s command making the path for the exiles straight and level.
Zachariah’s song in Luke 1:68-79 reiterates the message of comfort but suggests that the return of the exiles is not the end of God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants. From David’s house, a might savior will rescue Abraham’s children from their enemies that they “might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness.” Here, Luke shows how proclamation and comforting often travel hand in hand, as Zachariah then dedicates his son John to the proclamation of Israel’s salvation, “to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
We catch up with John, now an adult, two chapters later. John, as his father had intended, has become Isaiah’s “voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” Luke then brings the Baruch passage into conversation with Isaiah, for now instead of the path being made level and straight for the returning exiles, John calls out for the Israelites to make the path of the Lord straight.