Isaiah 63: 16b-17,19b; 64:2-7 – 1 Corinthian 17:3-9 – Mark 13: 33-37
As Church, or when we assemble, as we do now, as Church, we have a significantly different approach to this time before Christmas than we experience around us. Obviously things may not be the same as in past years, but, nonetheless, our approach to this particular time reflects a distinct understanding.
In the life of the Church, the Season of Advent is a time of longing and anticipation. It is not the same excitement associated with the days leading up to Christmas. However, I consider the Season of Advent to be the richest and most intense times in the Church year. It is more than just a historical recollection of the centuries the Chosen People of old awaited the coming of the Messiah in the same way that Christmas is not simply a reenactment of a past event. Advent calls us to prepare for Christ to come again. It is a powerful reminder to us of how we must prepare ourselves and our world for Christ’s return.
This preparation for the Lord to come is not done with fear. Rather, it is to be accomplished with a positive sense of expectation. More than anything else, this is the true sense of Advent. We await the Lord’s coming again to right what is wrong, to do away with what is hurtful and to fill us with joy. Advent is a time of expectation that we can be joined with our loving God in the full restoration of all of creation.
Listen to the words of Isaiah. Behold, you are angry and we are sinful. We have become like an unclean people, our deeds are like polluted rags. What Isaiah states is an honest admission of what we are, a sinful, ungrateful people. But he also cries out with hope and repentance. He looks for God to come into our world in order to lead us to what is good and right.
Isaiah looks for God to come and transform the world. Do we not want this as well? Where nations would truly live at peace with one another; where all people can share in peace and the abundance of created goods; where feuds and factions give way to a common kinship with our Father, whether we call him God, Yahweh or Allah; are these not to be our hopes? Is this not the life we want? A life that is rid of that sinfulness which brings ill-will and hatred; a life rid of fear and anxiety and filled with peace and tranquility; a life rid of selfishness and experiencing God’s loving presence in its fullness. How much more ought Advent be a rime for us to cry out as well and call upon God to restore the world as a whole, to rend the heavens and come and be among us.
Amidst all that the commercial world puts before us during this time before Christmas, let the Season of Advent also be fore us a time of prayer and reflection, a time for eager longing as well resolve to be transformed, a time for a genuine restoration in peace for our lives and for our world. It is in this way that the celebration of Christmas will truly be a declaration of our faith in a good and gracious god.