Life & Soul Life and Soul

The Word this week

Jeremiah on the ruins of Jerusalem (1844), by Horace Vernet

First Sunday of Advent
Jer 33:14-16; 1 Thess 3:12 – 4:2; Lk 21:25-28 (Year C)

The season of Advent belongs to everyone who believes that the best, both for ourselves and the world entrusted to us, is yet to come. The sure hope that Advent proclaims is rooted in Christ and his power to save. Therefore it refuses to surrender to a tired cynicism that remains locked into the negative and cannot rejoice in a future of God’s making.

Such was the mindset confronted by the prophet Jeremiah in the years immediately before Jerusalem’s catastrophic destruction. Over many generations, successive kings had wandered far from the ideals of the kingdom entrusted to David and his successors. They, like the surrounding nations, had become a people whose heart was given to power and prestige. They had become insensitive to the exploitation that underpinned their imagined enlightenment.

Jeremiah resolutely condemned the abuses of his day and warned of the approaching judgment. He refused to abandon hope. Realising that a sinful people could not regenerate itself, he proclaimed a future that would be God’s gift to his people. “In those days and at that time I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David, who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land. In those days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell in confidence. And this is the name the city will be called: The Lord our integrity.”

In many ways our world, like Jeremiah’s Jerusalem, has slipped through the fingers of God. As individuals and as a society, we have wandered far from a kingdom centred on the love of God and neighbour. Advent calls us to a repentance that refuses to remain unchanged. The promise made to Jeremiah has been fulfilled. Christ has become our integrity. Our hope for the future rests not in ourselves, but in the power of his Spirit at work among us.

Repentance is the hope with which we surrender our sinful lives to his healing love. Advent refuses to rest in what we have become as individuals, as a society and as God’s Church. Advent is the hope that cries for healing. “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

This hope’s sure foundation rests in the Christ whose first coming we shall so soon celebrate at Christmas. A commercial world bids us spend the intervening period in self-indulgence. Jesus calls us to thoughtful prayer: “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”

In faith we know that Christ will come again. Let us welcome Advent as the present moment in which we open our hearts to his presence.