December 15, 2017


Waiting in joyful hope, Advent brings out the best in us

“As we come closer to the great feast of Christmas, we’re right to proclaim that our hearts are filled with joy. Yes, there is much pain and sorrow ahead. Yes, evil will assert itself, and great crimes will be committed in the name of righteousness and God’s holy will. But our faith assures us that one is coming whom we do not recognize because our eyes are blinded by sin. That one is Jesus, our Savior, the cause of our rejoicing. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!”
(Archbishop Charles C. Thompson)

In his “Christ the Cornerstone” column this week, Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson writes about the season of Advent. He tells us that Advent has an element of penitence to it because it is a time for watchful waiting and preparation for the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ. But more fundamentally, the archbishop says, Advent is a time of great rejoicing.

Advent calls us to a renewed sense of wonder, beauty and peace. This is what we long for—the truth of our existence revealed in the most unremarkable way, the birth of a little child, the most vulnerable and innocent of all God’s creatures.

How unlike the commercial pre‑Christmas season with all its noise and impatience! How different from the preoccupation with material things, and with the buying and selling of trinkets and gadgets and the latest fashions! None of these things can really satisfy us. What we long for is something far greater. With all our hearts, we long for a person, the Blessed Hope, Jesus Christ.

Can it really be true that what we seek most desperately in our heart of hearts, our deepest and most ardent longing, will come to us in this way? No artifice. No pomp or circumstance. No bravado. Will he really come like a thief in the night, noticed only by outcasts and foreigners, and laid in a manger with an ox and an ass?

Advent prepares for, and makes possible, the Christmas miracle. Christ comes, again and again, year in and year out, because of the eager anticipation of all who want a better life. That includes immigrants and refugees who are desperate to find a new home for themselves and their families. It includes people who are homeless and hungry—here in Indiana and throughout the world. It includes those who suffer from serious illnesses, and whose only desire is to be well again. It even includes people who bicker and disagree with each other about the best ways to make life better for themselves and for us.

God’s promise many thousands of years ago to send a savior who would free us from the consequences of sin was fulfilled by the Christmas miracle. To prevent us from forgetting the meaning and importance of that miraculous, holy night 2,000 years ago, Jesus comes again. And again.

He comes in the daily Eucharist. He comes wherever two or three are gathered in his name. He comes whenever “the least of these, my brothers and sisters” (Mt 25:40), are fed and clothed, visited in prison or in a hospital, and therefore given genuine hope and comfort by one or more of his disciples.

Waiting for things to get better can be very frustrating. That’s why there is so much impatience among us.

It’s true we have to wait for the Lord’s coming. In the meantime, our hearts are empty until they can be filled once again with the grace and mercy of God. So, we are tempted to be frustrated and disillusioned by the current state of things in the Church, in society and in our own homes and families.

Advent is all about waiting patiently—and eagerly—for the Blessed Hope, Jesus Christ, who will come again this Christmas and in all the future Christmases until the end of time. He will satisfy our longing. He will turn our sorrows into joy.

During Advent, we renew this profound hope. In spite of our longing and frustration, life is not as bad as it seems. The hopes and fears of all the years are addressed with radical simplicity in the Christmas miracle: Love comes to us in the form of a child, calling us to throw off all our anxious burdens and cast aside the baggage of our impatient adulthood. 

It is good that one wait quietly for the Lord’s salvation (Lam 3:26). Let’s examine our hearts, but also our actions. Let’s lift up our minds and hearts and hands to the Savior who has already come but who is coming again on the last day. When that day comes, all our frustrations and fears will be wiped away. Finally, we will know peace.

—Daniel Conway

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