Welcome to Advent! In the midst of all we’re dealing with, we begin this season of Advent, as always, with unmistakable optimism. This part of Advent is not yet about Christmas! The readings and prayers first stir our hopes, not for an annual feast, but for the great return of Christ at the end of time—the Parousia, the Second Coming. Early on, the Church saw the opportunity to use this season to stir up this hope, which we recite every week: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” We have a vision of a grand time to come, the end of time, when the world will be ready for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Not that all we know now will be erased, and a whole new structure imposed. “The building of a new world has already begun, and the elements of the present world are contributing to it. We may not wait passively for it to come about, but must work actively and intelligently to bring it to pass.” (Nocent, O.S.B)
The readings of Matthew’s Gospel, used this new liturgical year starting today, are especially directed to see the continuity of Jesus with all that had gone before. And in the first words of the entire 3-year Sunday Scripture cycle, Isaiah proclaims God’s vision for the salvation of all people. With all the growth we’re having, in evangelization, faith sharing, planning, and school etc., it’s good to focus that our reason for doing all this is to make the world ready for Christ.
With all the national turmoil too, it’s good to be sure we’re focused first on Jesus and his return.
So we can use this part of Advent to buy out for now of the hecticness of “holiday” prepara- tions, and renew ourselves in the grand hope and vision God has for our world. This is our careful planning to have a good Christmas in the richest sense, and next week, John the Baptist reminds us what we can do to hasten it. (hint: Reconciliation will be an important part of it!)
Rev. Thomas W. Wyrsch