By NEMS Daily Journal
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
– Isaiah 40:3-5
Tomorrow begins Advent, the season of anticipation. We must remember that what 21st Century westerners call “the Christmas story” began millennia ago in an often harsh part of the globe.
God called Israel to be his chosen people and made immutable promises. As we do, though, the nation often rebelled against God and repeatedly experienced war, famine, epidemic and exile as punishment.
Yet with every judgment, God reiterated his absolute will to redeem that people as his own.
America’s misfortunes of late are but a tiny taste of the bitterness that Israel had to swallow, but war, fiscal fragility, short-fused dictators and terrorists and deep polarization of Americans should be reason enough for us to long for a better world.
Not just for a more peaceful time, but for peace itself.
Not just for more prosperity, but for true abundance.
Not just for a safer world and a cleaner environment, but for “a new heaven and a new earth,” when God dwells with men.
Advent observance can be a way for us to focus on this anticipation of deliverance, of redemption, of the time when God will set us and his creation aright again.
Whether the observance is daily Mass or simple nightly rituals in the home, observance of Advent compels us to carve out time for contemplation and quiet celebration in the hecticness that the season can impose.
Its candle lighting on some of the year’s longest nights reminds us that God’s promises were evident even during Israel’s worst trials.
Its prayers reinforce that God is ever eager to answer the praise and pleas of his people.
Its songs help us not to look at the world with its terrors and temptations but to the Deliverer who was and is promised.
“More than any other activity, Advent can restore Jesus to the center of the Christmas celebration, because on each Advent day the birth of Jesus is read, sung and talked about,” wrote Letitia Suk years ago in “Focus on the Family.”
We would add that Advent can reorient us to what Christianity teaches is the ultimate redemption of humanity: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”