Advent 2A: Advent Peace and the Reframing of Hell

Jesus is coming to set this world of oppression, inequity, and apathy on fire.


“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

Peace be with you, you vipers!

The second Sunday of Advent is traditionally the Sunday of Peace. Yet John the Baptist doesn’t seem to be extending peace to the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him in the wilderness, where he was baptizing repentant followers throughout the region in the Jordan river.

Just as we are today, John was living in a time where peace for some came at the expense of others, or at least indifference to their suffering. The land was under Roman occupation, the people were subjugated, and there was extreme poverty and punishment to those who challenged the cruelty of Roman rule. At the same time, some of the religious and political leaders were enriching themselves off of the climate of fear, oppression, and extreme inequality. 

Jesus is coming to set this world of oppression, inequity, and apathy on fire. Not the fires of hell, which is really the condition of helplessness and despair that some already find themselves in. No, Jesus is coming to awaken us to our connection and responsibility to each other, to set our hearts aflame with compassion and desire for action, so that when we see each other in need, we are inclined to help and befriend. Jesus is coming to help us realize that until the most vulnerable are at peace, none of us are at peace.

That radical shift, not only in mind but in heart, from individuality and disconnection from our suffering neighbors to complete empathy and solidarity with them, is what repentance is. John the Baptist calls on the Pharisees to bear fruit worthy of that kind of repentance, or face the wrath not of God, but of people uprising to break the chains of their oppression.

Lindsey and Adam reflect on how this hard and sometimes painful path to peace really is the only way, as long as our brothers and sisters face hardship and pain. They consider some of the challenges we face today that require repentance, such as racism and climate change. And they are thankful that they do not have to walk this hard road of repentance alone. The grace of God, and of each other, is with us on this journey. 

The Olive

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