Advent is a time for people who need hope. Advent is a time for people who know that all is not well, who feel it in their heart of hearts, who wake in the night sometimes with a cry. All flesh is grass! My life is dried up; I do not know what it means anymore. Our lives are gone astray in all the holly jolly, and I cannot hear, I cannot see what is good.
Does it make sense to invite us to immerse ourselves in our deepest dissatisfactions? Yet, for 4 weeks in Advent, this is exactly what we do as a people.
While all around us, the lights, the bells, the “good cheer”, telling us to feel happy and spend money; all is well with the economy and with us. But for 4 weeks, as a Christian people, we say, “in our souls we know better: it is not well with us”.
We must decide to love even when our circumstances are not in favour of us. We must decide to love even when we do not agree with the other person. We must decide to love no matter what. We make a judgment to do what is best for those we decide to love, and we promise to stay in love unconditionally. Such a love is an art, making time to share the burden of the other person, creating space to see the inner beauty of the other person.
Like Babel, the Church today lies in ruins divided between different families. Unable to communicate with one another, we are not a great nation. And that’s because Christians are no less tempted to “make a name for themselves,” like the Babylonians, rather than receive a name like Abraham.
Joy is so elusive when we seek it for ourselves, when we seek it in ourselves, when it is something we try to make by our own efforts. It doesn’t last; it doesn’t satisfy. So we buy another car, or a bigger TV; we get a better job, a bigger job. Joy as product, something that we should grasp. This joy does not last.
We are saved as we are found in Christ, as we forsake our security, our achievements—all that we have and all that we are—to know Christ because they are worthless before him. Suffering comes with this recognition first because it invites us into the truth about ourselves and then because it invites us onto the self-sacrificial way of Christ.
Angels directly read the blueprint of creation as it is in God’s mind. They therefore see God’s purpose as a whole picture and in a single instant and are filled with praise. Humans, like children, take time to learn. They don’t come to know all of God’s plans in an instant. We have the Bible, which is a transcript of the divine mind, but it takes a lifetime to read and digest.
We are called out every bit as much as the Israelites were in the days of Pharaoh, called out of bondage to gods that are no gods, called out of the pagan city, into the worship of God. By the great grace of God Israel’s salvation has been made ours too, so that we too may worship the one God, Lord of all. So that we too may be God’s people, grafted in Christ Jesus into the chosen people. And that means being God’s people. It means leaving behind the old gods, discovering a new home.
If we would love God, if we would try to speak God’s love in this world as it is, the cross is the only way. It is the necessary shape of our lives…For all of us, this is a word of hope. The cross—wherever it meets you, is the good thing. Never forget that. The cross is the good thing.
“Present your bodies as living sacrifices”, St. Paul says today. Well, who does that? “Here’s my body, Lord, it’s yours.”
We can think of servants, of transplant donors, literally, of soldiers, of firemen and policemen, of parents in a way, of martyrs. But what of you and me?