The Second Week of Advent this year takes us on a desert journey. The prophet Baruch encourages those in exile in a land far away from their own, devastated by what they thought meant they had lost contact with God, that they musty never give up. They can be as close to God in exile as they could have been in the Promised Land. What they have to do however is to clear away anything and everything which prevents them from seeing and experiencing God in their present environment. So, says the prophet, knock down the mountains, fill in the valleys! In other words, root out anything which hides the presence of God from them. The advice is good for any people, and in any age! John the baptist, cast in the gospel as the voice in the wilderness, proclaimed a baptism for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. It is important to note that the meaning of the word which in English is ‘repentance’ literally means ‘change of mind’ in the original language of the gospel. We can combine this and the prophet’s exhortation to knock down mountains and fill in valleys as a way of taking a new look at our world in the light of God’s plan for all of us!
Advent, the first season of the Church’s year, opens with a striking message. The first words of scripture we hear in the Advent liturgy this year are from the prophet Jeremiah: “See, the days are coming…”, but what days does the prophet refer too? Well, of course he speaks for his own day. Jeremiah is hopeful that despite the near to meltdown political situation of his own time, the Lord will intervene on behalf of his people and his nation. Jeremiah continues: “…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.’”
That was Jeremiah’s dream for his own time, but in Advent, we don’t just look to the past. Jeremiah’s words were fulfilled again and again. Most notably when Jesus was born – the final descendant of the line of David – no king succeeded Jesus! A virtuous branch indeed grew. Not even this was the end of the value of Jeremiah’s words. In our own time, we look forward to the final fulfilment, which will be when the Son of Man (Jesus in his glory) returns and gathers to himself all things and all people in the final fulfilment. As the book of the Apocalypse says, when this happens, there will be no more pain, or suffering or sadness, becasue the Lord “will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness” (Revelation 21:5).
This is the first theme we consider in Advent – a reminder that whatever we have to face in this life will be overtaken by what God has in store for his children. Advent is a season of hope, and from the beginning of Advent, we engage again with this hope and realise that “nothing can come between us and the love of Christ” (c.f. Romans 8:35). Each week, we add an extra lighted candle to the Advent wreath. HOPE could be represented by this week’s candle!