1 Thessalonians 3:12—4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Looking back with faith, looking forward with hope, and acting today with love.
This week we begin the season of Advent to prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus. However, this isn’t just a time to commemorate an event of the past. That is only one part of what Advent is about. It is not just a time to look backward but to look forward. It is not just a time to remember but a time to anticipate. God has done great things in the past, but He is also preparing great things for our future.
The people of Israel are our model for how we are to live the Advent season. They keep alive the memory of all that God has done for them by choosing them from among the nations to be His special people. They remember how He delivered them from slavery in Egypt and settled them in the Promised Land. But they also hold fast to the faith that God has even greater things planned for them. All the glorious events of their past point forward to something wonderful that God is preparing for their future.
That future event is the coming of the Messiah. In today’s first reading, the prophet Jeremiah speaks of this hope, “I will fulfill the promise … I will raise up for David a just shoot.” Because of all that God has done in the past, the people of Israel live with the confidence that God will be faithful in fulfilling His promises in the future.
Like the people of Israel, we look forward in hope to the fulfillment of God’s promise. However, we know that the Messiah has already come. It is precisely his birth that we are preparing to celebrate.
There are more promises that have yet to be fulfilled. Christ has come, but he will also come again. The first time, he came as a child born in a stable. When he comes again, it will be in glory on the clouds of heaven. The first time, he was hidden. When he comes again, all people will see it. On that day, there will be no doubt that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God and Savior of the World.
Now there is another mistake we can make. While either looking backward to the past or looking forward to the future, we can forget that God’s redemption and justice are meant also for today. Through us, God wants to establish justice on earth. Through us, God wants to free the world from sin and death. All these things God is working to make a reality through His holy and loving people.
However, He needs us to cooperate with Him through our prayer and acts of charity. In our lives, God’s promises must be a reality so that others can share our hope. It is up to us through the Holy Spirit to see to it that the hungry are fed, the vulnerable are defended and the poor are given the opportunity to contribute to society. It is up to us to lead others to faith in the God who always keeps His promises.
That is ultimately what this Advent season is about. Not only looking backward at what God has done, not only waiting with hope for what He will do in the future but working here and now to make all His promises a reality in our world today.
Lord Jesus Christ,
We rejoice that you were born to save us
And we look forward in hope
For the fullness of our salvation.
As we journey toward our heavenly home
Make us increase and abound
In love for one another
Make us blameless in holiness
May our conduct please you
So that your love and justice
Will be a reality on earth
As it is in Heaven.