First Sunday of Advent: Jer 33:14-16; Ps 25; 1 Thes 3:12-4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
“See, the days are coming, it is the Lord who speaks, when I am going to fulfill the promise I made to the House of Israel and the house of Judah.” The Prophet Jeremiah leads us into Advent with the assurance that God is faithful, fulfilling the promises made to his people throughout their history.
Within the context of Jeremiah’s own day, this assurance of salvation must be understood as a call to fidelity. The people had, in the words of Jeremiah, abandoned God, the fountain of living water, only to dig cisterns for themselves – leaky cisterns that held no water. While Advent leads us to the fulfilment of Jeremiah’s promise that Christ would be raised up as a virtuous branch for David, it calls us to become a people worthy of the salvation promised for that time, a people of honesty and integrity.
Jeremiah did indeed promise salvation, but not without the inevitable cataclysm when, for the first time, Jerusalem would be laid waste and her people carried off into exile. For those who remained faithful, longing to return to their Lord, the promise would indeed be fulfilled. “In those days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell in confidence.”
Advent reiterates the hope that Christ continues to be with his people. At the same time we are called to the prayerful honesty that confesses our own sinfulness. The Lord’s ways are indeed “faithfulness and love for those who keep his covenant and will”, but we cannot pray the psalmist’s words without a careful consideration of where our life stands at the beginning of Advent.
Luke’s Gospel follows Jeremiah with its unshakable hope in the salvation promised for the end of time. At the same time, it calls us to reflection: “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen.”
Jeremiah had not allowed the approaching destruction of Jerusalem to overshadow the promise of salvation. In similar fashion Jesus prepared his disciples for the approaching collapse when Rome would once again lay Jerusalem waste.
The language used by Jesus went beyond the imminent destruction of Jerusalem to describe the end of life as we know it. “Then shall the nations be in agony and the powers of heaven shaken.” The stylised language describes the seeming dissolution of every security afforded by life as we know it. Finally only one security would remain, the promise that “then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.”
Advent calls us to the hope that, even when life’s inevitable ending has stripped us of every security, Christ’s second coming shall be our sure and certain hope.
If we are to keep that hope alive in our hearts, then we must follow the counsel of Jesus. “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened.”
Many cares and preoccupations take our thoughts from the Presence of God that awaits us at the end of time. During Advent let us discover afresh the presence of Christ in our lives, and, held in his love, learn to abandon the false securities that rob us of his presence. This was the advice that Paul gave to the Thessalonians: “May he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.”