As Christmas approaches and the Rose candle is lit on the Advent wreath, Martin Eckersley from the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh reflects on the message of this Gaudete Sunday.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near!” (Phil 4:4-5) “The Lord’s coming will be soon.” (James 5: 9) “Courage! Do not be afraid. Look, your God is coming… the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer.” (Isaiah 31: 4-6)
If we didn’t already know it, this Sunday’s scriptures make it perfectly clear – the Lord is on his way. In just two short weeks the manger in Bethlehem shall be home to the Child Jesus and our time of quiet anticipation, of fasting and prayer, will give way to great celebrations, feasting and thanksgiving. And we should feast! When John the Baptist asks if Jesus is “the one who is to come,” Jesus replies, “The blind see again, and the lame walk, and the deaf hear again.” Jesus essentially tells John, look at the prophecy of Isaiah: see it now being fulfilled. And so once again, if we didn’t already know it, our Scriptures this Sunday make it perfectly clear – Jesus is God Himself. We rejoice at Christmas because we recognise that God has entered the world. He has stepped down from heaven to join us in our humanity, to restore us, heal us and save us! If that’s not a reason to feast I don’t know what is!
Yet, in spite of this very good news, that sense of anticipation that we are experiencing in Advent shouldn’t be lost in the Christmas season. The story does not end here. It doesn’t even end with Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven. Why? Because we know the Lord will come again. What we do by way of preparation in Advent is, in miniature, what our earthly life should be in general. This Advent we are waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Not just as the Child Jesus born in Bethlehem, but the Lord of our lives at the end of time. Our anticipation should be as tangible as it was for the pregnant Virgin Mary, because Jesus’ second coming is just as real.
And how do we prepare for this second coming? Well, first and foremost, by doing everything we can to put Jesus at the very centre of our lives, by having a relationship with him. Jesus is as real to us as he was to his disciples. We can see him at Mass, talk to him in prayer and adoration, hear him in Scripture, and experience him in confession. So we should meet with him in these places as often as we can. And let’s take courage when going to the Lord. Be not afraid. We should never let our sinfulness break our relationship with him. If there was love enough for God to take human flesh, if there was love enough for Jesus to accept the cross, then there is certainly love enough for God to accept us just as he finds us this Advent. If we open ourselves to relationship with him, we will be healed, restored and forgiven. If we open ourselves to relationship with him, we will be able to look forward to his second coming as joyfully we did his first. After all: “The Lord your God is coming… he is coming to save you”.