Christmas lights are going up around the street, but it’s not Christmas yet. Our Christmas tree will go up on Christmas Eve and stay for the 12 days of the Nativity commemorations. Next Sunday readings begin the four week season of Advent that precedes Christmas. Like the season of Lent, it is a purple season of preparation that involves fasting! To observe Advent in the way it is intended is therefore quite counter cultural. Following the texts of the four anticipatory Sundays of Advent can therefore help us, even if it is for a brief pause of reflection.
Advent is the season where we meet the prophets pointing forward with hope to the culmination of the big picture. They do so from their own context, but with wider ramifications. They are very much “today.” Jeremiah surveys a bleak political scene and points to the rise of days when the balance of justice and peace will be restored.
And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
Psalms are both personal and communal declarations we make towards the Holy One, whose inexpressible name is often rendered through print in uppercase letters as “LORD”, the English translation of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton “YHWH,” the sound of breath, or the action of being. We are always addressing the Mystery, the Ineffable, in Whom we live and move and have our being. To be able to express contrition and hope with such trust and intimacy is a gift that Advent brings us.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Advent preparation involves us as people who are already living the Easter reality. That which we anticipate has already come to pass. This is why Paul exudes such confidence in the joy and love in which the Thessalonian church is called to live. It is possible to simultaneously appropriate and anticipate the realm of Shalom – the Holy One’s perfect reign.
What a scary passage to begin the year of Luke! But we are in Advent, the season of prophets, who tell it like it is. Jesus is speaking to his disciples about the road of service that lies ahead. It’s not going to be an easy stroll – all sorts of obstacles await and events will mount a daunting and discouraging scale. Hope in the vision of what they have witnessed and the reality of the struggle in which they have participated and the union with Christ that is their continuing experience is what will sustain them, even when the world is falling apart.