We are a week into our Advent observance. For the church, Advent is a season with two themes. The first is preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, whose kingship we celebrated recently. The second, to which we shift from December 17th on, is celebrating the coming of Jesus in history where he became human – Emmanuel – God with us.
So if we are preparing for Jesus’ Second Coming, how might that look? Today’s Scriptures give us some idea. From the first reading from Baruch and the Responsorial Psalm (126) we encounter the following: There will be no more mourning nor misery. We will be “wrapped in a cloak of God’s justice.” There will be a sense of restoration: children returning “borne aloft in glory” after being taken from us by our enemies. We will be laughing and rejoicing, as in a dream. Where we had gone forth weeping, we will come back rejoicing, led by God, with mercy and justice for company.
In the second reading, Saints Paul and Timothy pray that our love may increase more and more, that we may be pure and blameless.
How will this restoration, this unbelievable joy come to us? It is made clear in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 3. In a very specific time and place (lest we are tempted to relegate all of this to a cozy myth), John the Baptist, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, prompted by the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, quoting the prophet Isaiah the whole time: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
Repentance is key. It’s much more than merely feeling sorry. It is a sincere desire to change course, to turn away from what keeps us from God, and making an effort of will to turn toward God. We can ask God for help changing course. He is delighted by every faltering step we take toward him, no matter how humble. Since, as the second reading tells us, God will bring to completeness in us the good work he has begun in us, in his own good and mysterious time and way, we will experience a healing of all losses, all brokenness, all incompleteness, all grief, all mourning.
To get in touch with the enormity of this, and to bring it from an idea “out there” to a reality within, spend some time with the first reading and responsorial psalm. Realize that the powerful emotions prophesied are not exaggerations, nor are they merely symbolic. They are a foretaste of the joy we will experience at the coming of Jesus Chris in glory at the end of time.
This is a lot to wait and hope for – there is real depth in Advent if we’ll let it in. Let’s pray for one another that we can do so! Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!