Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44
Advent is a time of waiting. Waiting with hope. Waiting in eagerness. Waiting with suppressed excitement. Waiting with anticipated joy.
Waiting is a common human experience. We wait for buses or trains. We wait for rain or shine. We wait for mail or phone call. We wait for friends or dear ones. Prisoners wait for release. Patients wait for recovery. Young people wait for employment. Brides wait for their husbands. Mothers wait for their children. Women with babies in their wombs wait for the day when they would bring forth their young ones.
Waiting is always charged with emotion, be it hope, joy or impatience. Waiting always has the object waited for as the centre of attention and expectation.
What, then, are we waiting for in Advent? The most superficial answer may be that we are waiting for the feast of Christmas. But then it would indeed be a worthless wait, an empty Advent, a barren season. We know from experience and observation of how empty and barren our Christmas can be. Crass Commercialism, empty ritualism, unbridled hedonism, artificially whipped up mirth and merriment all combine to rob our Christmas celebrations of everything that is holy, human and wholesome.
That is why the liturgy of today and indeed of everyday of Advent seeks to focus our attention on something nobler than mere eating, drinking, decorating and dancing, that we are tempted to reduce our Christmas to. The focus of Advent has to be the coming of Christ in our midst; the salvific intervention of God in human history; the incarnation of the Word of God. Hence there are three comings of Christ that we are led to focus on during Advent: First, the coming of Christ in Bethlehem; Second, the coming of Christ into our hearts and into our homes every moment of every day; and Third, coming of Christ at the end of time.
Christ’s coming as a tiny Infant of Bethlehem was God’s answer to the world’s pain. The Triune God looks out at the world peopled by men and women of all races, religious, colours, creeds and cultures and is moved with compassion for them and resolves g redeem them, “Who shall go before us? Whom shall we send?” is the clarion call that sounds from the heart of the Trinity. And the second Person of the Blessed Trinity responds : “Here I am! Send me.” And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. God becomes human in order to open the doors to us to the heart of the Divine. Jesus shares with us the life of God so that we may die to sin and live in God. “I have come so that you may have life and have it in all its fullness.” Being fully active in Christ is the true meaning of Christmas. It is the fullness of peace, joy and love.
It is this peace, joy and love that are the hall marks of true Christian life. Everyday and at every moment Christ comes into our life to fill us with His own peace, joy and love. He comes into our life through the Word of God we relish. He comes into our life through the sacraments we receive. He comes into our life in the selfless service we render. He comes into our life in the communities we build, the companionship we enjoy, the compassion we show, the forgiveness we give, the healing we bring and reconciliation we achieve. He comes into our life as we struggle against forces of evil and sin, as we fight for justice and brotherhood; as we work for unity and freedom. Above all, He comes into our life in the Eucharist we celebrate on our altars; the Eucharist we live in our homes and the Eucharist we do in our society.
If, then, Christ is allowed to come into our life daily, if He is allowed to take possession of our hearts, rule our desires and control our passions, then, everyday becomes Christmas. And if everyday becomes Christmas for us, then our lives will be marked by the peace that nothing can take away, the joy that nothing can destroy and love that nothing can quench. This in fact, is the deepest desire of every human heart. This is our hope. This is our longing. This is our hunger and thirst. And it is the final fulfillment of this deepest desire of our heart that we are waiting for, hoping for, praying for and working for. This indeed is the true meaning of the final coming of Christ. He comes to gather all nations into God’s Kingdom. He comes to build all of us as one family of brothers and sisters, breaking the barriers of caste, creed, colour, class, culture, community and country and establishing perfect peace, justice, freedom, unity and fellowship, where all conflict will vanish, all violence will stop and all vengeance will cease.
It is this final fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation that is the focus of our ardent hope, eager expectation and joyful waiting. That indeed is the focus of Advent spirituality. Our prayer, our work, our life itself has to be geared to the achievement of this goal, if not fully or in a perfect measure, at least partially. Then only our Christmas will be worthwhile and meaningful. Otherwise Christmas may come and go, but humankind will merrily march towards ruin and destruction.
Only in this context will the words of Paul make sense: “Night is over. The day has dawned” The night will dawn when weapons of violence and vengeance are turned into tools of peace and progress; when swords become ploughs and spears become pruning hooks. So let us pray that our longing for Christ may increase as we grow in love and spend our days doing good so that we wait for Christ’s coming with hope and joy.
Anecdote on Second Coming:
On During his 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy often closed his speeches with the story of Colonel Davenport, the Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives: On May 19th, 1780 the sky of Hartford darkened ominously, and some of the representatives, glancing out the windows, feared the end was at hand. Quelling a clamor for immediate adjournment, Davenport rose and said, “The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought.” Rather than fearing what is to come, we are to be faithful till Christ returns. Instead of fearing the dark, we’re to be lights as we watch and wait.