During Advent, there exists a hyper consciousness (and anxiousness) of upcoming events. Christmas is coming, Santa is coming, relatives are coming, a Messiah and kingdom is coming. For all of these reasons, Advent is, without question, a time of hope and anticipation.
In today’s gospel, as in all advent readings, people of God anticipate both the feast of the Incarnation and the Second Coming of Christ. Today, in particular, anticipation leads people of various cities and towns to seek a baptism of repentance and faith. At what is practically the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, John the Baptist appears on the scene preaching a universal repentance. He preaches that, in other words, it doesn’t matter how righteous one perceives oneself to be, or how disdainful others might actually be, each and every one of us (especially the baptised) is called to stop blaming, and to start begging forgiveness.
Drawing us out of self-righteous cocoons, Advent is a time to reach out, to connect, and to reconcile. This time of reconciliation, and an even more reconciliatory time ahead is foreseen by the prophet Isaiah. Predicting the Second Coming, Isaiah speaks of enemies becoming friends, and rivals becoming companions. Fearful only of God, competing creatures (who are now foes), says the prophet, shall live, lie, gaze and play together. One glorious day in the future, according to Isaiah, God will dwell among us, and we will be transformed for righteousness and peace.
So Christ will come again eventually, but a lesser day of peace and justice is sure to arrive much sooner –in just a couple weeks in fact. In practical ways, most of us have already started preparing for that celebration. Decorating trees, setting up wreathes, and buying gifts, we get ready to reconnect with family, friends, and perhaps even reach out to others whom we so often avoid.
I don’t know too much about too many of you but…
Social studies indicate that Canadians, in general, tend to give exceptionally more than usual at Christmas time. Whether money to the needy, food to the hungry, presents to friends or hospitality to family, Christians (and many non-believers alike) are on their best behaviour around this time of year. Even though some of us may get accused of drinking too much on Christmas Eve, we can be exceptionally kind, generous, and welcoming when the day comes to celebrate the Christ’s birth and his return in glory.
(…The cultural effect of Christmas alone, I would argue, is enough reason to uncork champagne.)
This lead up to the feast of the Incarnation is a reminder of God’s generosity, but it is also a real testament to what can happen when a Messiah mixes with us. When inflamed by our baptismal spirit, when activated by faith, we have the potential to transform the world into a new, kind, generous, and genuinely hospitable place.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul prays for the world’s and our, the Church’s, transformation by petitioning the One he calls “a steadfast and encouraging God”. He writes, “Grant you (people of God) to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. To a Divine Messiah, this is a pleasing request, but it can only be granted to willing disciples.
Through the gifts of faith and baptism, God has but readied the world for action on conflict and division; it takes believers to implement the agenda.
As baptised children of the same Lord, may we all repent and believe in what God has planned; May we reach out with joyful hope in anticipation of real reconciliation. And may our Advent mission to reconcile fill us with an unquenchable fire for peace and harmony with all.