The Opening Act: a faumily for the Third Sunday of Advent

When I was about 15, my older sister took me to see U2 live in concert. It was their Joshua Tree tour. I had actually only been to one other concert before that, which was the Monkees 25th Anniversary Tour. So, yeah, this was a little different.

I actually didn’t know much about U2 except that everybody else seemed to know about them, and anybody who was anybody was going to see this show. If you asked me at that time how to spell the band’s name, I probably would have spelled it Y-O-U T-O-O. That’s how clueless I was. I think I knew a handful of songs, but that was about it.

So we get to the stadium (it was the Rosemont Horizon outside of Chicago) and the band comes on. They are good… I mean, really good. I’m totally digging it. I didn’t know the music they were playing, but I figured they were saving their most popular ones for the end. However, I was really surprised to see the people around me were talking, going back and forth to get food, not really into it. I turned to my sister and said, “I can’t believe these people aren’t into U2! These guys are awesome!”

My sister looked at me with a patronizing look that only an older sibling can give, and she told me, “This is not U2. This is the opening act.” I still remember how stupid I felt. By the way, the opening band was the BoDeans, which really was a great band.

The BoDeans finished and there was moderate cheering. But nothing could prepare me for what happened next. The lights went out and it was pitch black. Everybody got out their lighters (we didn’t have cell phone flashlights). I heard a keyboard pad through the speakers. The lights slowly got brighter. Larry Mullen Jr. walked to the drum set and started playing a beat. One by one the band members entered the stage. Then Bono, the lead singer, ran on to the stage. The lights blared and the music crescendoed as he began to sing, “Where the Streets Have No Name”. The place went crazy.

So much better than the BoDeans.

Today in the Gospel we hear about John the Baptist. He is to Jesus what the BoDeans were to U2. He is the opening act. And he knows this. People are coming forward to be baptized, and he tells them, ““I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The people of the time were getting really excited about John, but John kept telling them, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

As you can see by our rose colored vestments, today is gaudete Sunday, which is latin for “joy”. We heard the theme of joy in all of the readings that preceded the Gospel. Perhaps the most famous one was from the letter of Paul to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” And Paul tells us why we should rejoice. “The Lord is near.” The one who is mightier than John. The one who will baptize us with the Holy Spirit.

This journey of Advent not only recalls the time when humanity was waiting for a Savior, it also reminds us that Christ will come again and we are in a time of waiting for the Lord’s return. The many beautiful and holy things we experience in this life, wonderful as they are, are just a taste of what is to come. The tremendous love I have for my wife and my children is just a taste of the love of God that dwells within the Trinity. The Eucharist that we receive is, quite literally, a taste of the heavenly banquet that awaits us in eternity.

My brothers and sisters, the source of our joy is that the Lord is near. This life is just the opening act. And eye has not seen, and ear has not heard… what God has prepared for those who love him.

College students have come home. Elementary and high schools are finishing up. Many of you are looking towards taking a week off of work. And everyone is scrambling to finish getting ready for Christmas. These are great reasons to rejoice.

However, Scripture reminds us today that we should rejoice in the Lord, because of what He has done for us, and for what He will do for us when He comes again. Let us come before the altar today with joyful hearts. Let us come forward and taste the heavenly banquet that awaits all who are called to His table. And let us remember to not fix our hearts to this present world, for it will pass away. Something greater is coming. Someone greater is here.

I shall say it again, rejoice!