- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories ~ Waiting Around in Advent
Waiting is never easy. Whether it is in a hospital waiting room, an airport, a bus stop or simply to meet with a long-absent friend. It’s hard to be patient when we do not know when or what is coming. I am sure that first-time parents have a tough time waiting for the arrival of their first (and even later) little ones. There are lots of questions, many uncertainties and a fair share of anxieties. How do we wait and how do we prepare?
Our ancestors in the faith, the first generations of Christians, lived in expectations that the promised Kingdom of God would soon come in its fullness. They were waiting for God’s Advent which seemed to them imminent. As so often, the waiting seemed long and they sought to know “WHEN”.
This is reflected in Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 24). Matthew captures the questions of the disciples and Jesus’s response. In Matthew’s telling of the story, he presents us with many of the Old Testament’s (e.g. in Daniel) apocalyptic images, events of destruction, persecution, threats and challenges. The early Christians were already experiencing some of these images and we can see this expressed in the Book of Revelation.
What the Gospels relate expresses the core message of Jesus – the Kingdom of God is among you. Those apocalyptic images drawn from the Old Testament are meant to promise a transformation of all Creation into the full and completed Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is to be a world marked by love, by peace and by justice, healing and reconciliation for all peoples. The “Coming of the Son of Man” will see for all peoples and generations what Jesus revealed by word and action.
As Matthew puts it, the question of “when” is not answerable. We are told to “stay awake” and “be ready” for the “Coming”, or what is sometime called “the Day of the Lord” when the created world will end and Jesus will come in glory as judge of all the world. This very literal reading is tempting and it leads us, like the early Christians to all kinds of questions of when and how this “Coming” might occur.
But the “Coming” or “Day” may be read in a different more present way. It refers to something much closer to the Incarnation. God has already come and shares our humanity in Jesus. God’s reign is already among us and we live with the spirit of Jesus in each and every human being. To “stay awake” and “be ready” is all about awareness. It is to be open to recognizing this ever-present God that we meet in one another and in every moment of our day.
We live between two Advents. The first was the Incarnation and the gift of Jesus the Christ. With that “Coming” we realized that our humanity and all Creation is filled with the Spirit and life of our loving God. We encounter our life-giving God of love in every person, every experience. This is to live in a way that honours and respects the whole of creation. We are to build a world marked by love, harmony, peace, freedom and justice. To do this is to “stay awake” and “be ready” in our day. Between two Advents, we are in fact, building the second Advent, every moment of our lives. In the last Book of the New Testament John gives us a view of God’s Dream in the Second Advent:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…. He will make his home among them;
they shall be his people, and he will be their God…. He will wipe away all tears from
their eyes; there will be no more death and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone…. Now I am making the whole of creation new. (Revelation 21:3-5)