Prepare In Hope

You may have noticed the banner placed in the church last Sunday, with a single word to help us focus our meditation. Last week’s call to “VIGILANCE” is succeeded this week by an invitation to “HOPE”. Hope is much more than optimism. Hope is the conviction that even when the night seems dark and cold, the dawn is near. Hope means we are not alone: God will never abandon us. God hears and answers us.

This Sunday's readings express the many facets of the virtue of hope. Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah as one who will “feed his flock like a shepherd, and gather the lambs in his arms.” John the Baptist proclaims the coming of Jesus as the One who will baptize not with water, but with “the Holy Spirit and fire.” Finally, the 2nd letter of Peter invites the persecuted Christians of his time to stand firm in faith and to live in peace, as they wait in hope for “a new heaven and a new earth.”

Advent speaks to us of three comings of Christ among us: past, present, and future. Christ came among us in history, in the flesh, as a vulnerable child. Christ will come again in glory, at the end of time. But in between, Christ comes among us in the people we meet each day: in family and friend, co-worker and neighbour, in the poor and forsaken. Christ speaks to us in his Word and nourishes us in the Eucharist. Common to each of these comings is our need to prepare. Isaiah cries out: “make a straight path for the coming of God!” John the Baptist preaches repentance for the forgiveness of sins; Peter exhorts us to “live in holiness and peace.” Our recent parish vitality conference challenged us to prepare to move from the passivity of “religious consumers” to the life of active discipleship & the mission of “making disciples” of all the nations.

What can I do to prepare for the coming of Christ in my life this Advent, to nourish my sense of hope? It is so easy to get caught up in the hectic pace of “getting ready for Christmas”, that we fail to make room for the One who comes to meet us: at Christmas, but also every day. What am I waiting and watching for? What helps me remain alert and watchful? Are there patterns in my life that work against that? What needs to be “leveled out” in my life to make a straight path for God? So let us sustain one another in hope as together we prepare for the coming of Jesus: for He is Emmanuel, God-with-us.