Life & Soul

In Advent, let’s surrender ourselves afresh to God’s future

The Prophet Isaiah (1726-1729), by Tiepolo, at the Patriarchal Palace in Udine, Italy

First Sunday of Advent
Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44 (Year C)

The season of Advent summons us to both joy and wakefulness. Joy, because it prepares us for the celebration of the Lord’s first coming at Christmas; wakefulness, because it invites us to live in the confident expectation of his Second Coming at the end of time: “Therefore, you too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

The prophet Isaiah, speaking from the experience of Jerusalem’s headlong decline and its destruction in 597 BC, rallied a broken people to renewed hope. Each and every generation, our own included, inevitably experiences times when the darkness threatens, when we cannot see a way forward, when both faith and hope feel spent.

To such a people the prophet Isaiah proposed a future that would be of God’s making. “In the days to come the mountain of the Temple of the Lord shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. All the nations will stream to it.”

The soaring conviction of these words summoned broken spirits to a new beginning. They embrace every generation, and every Advent season, with the same invitation: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”

The fulfilment of this vision had its beginning in the birth of Christ. At Bethlehem he was revealed as the way, the truth and the life for sinful people. Despite the many differences that divide the nations today, we still long for a world in which swords are hammered into ploughshares, and spears into sickles. We continue to desire to be at peace with God, with ourselves and with each other.

To acknowledge our frailty is to confess that we cannot secure such an outcome ourselves. Advent invites us to surrender ourselves afresh to God’s future. It calls for the humility that willingly confesses that a sense of God’s presence is all too easily lost in busy and distracted lives.

What we cannot imagine in ourselves the Lord gladly offers in his continuing presence. May this promise renew our strength during the days ahead.

In the words of St Paul, “the time has come; our salvation is even nearer than it was when you were converted, it will be daylight soon. Let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark. Let us arm ourselves and appear in the light.”