Do you know what the antidote for fear is?” the minister asked. The answer jumped into my head immediately. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:17, NASB). But since it’s generally frowned upon for a member of the choir in an Episcopal cathedral to shout out answers to rhetorical questions from the pulpit, I kept quiet.
On a Sunday when John the Baptist's call
for repentance roars in our ears, we need reminders of the precedence of
gift, the prevenience of grace. For John's sermonic cry to "prepare the
way of the Lord" can seem all task and no gift. It calls out the Pelagian in all
of us, the voluntarist who wants to build the kingdom. Careless hearing leads
us to imagine that if we "make his paths straight," he will come.
On this second Sunday of Advent, perhaps the paraments should be red rather than blue or purple. Red has become our Holy Spirit hue, the liturgical color that accompanies occasions of heightened concentration on pneumatological presence and power. Hanging red isn't like firing a signal flare, as if the Spirit has suddenly been glimpsed after a long absence or concealment.