Our Sacred StoriesLiving and Labouring Between the Two Advents
Here we are at the beginning of the Advent-Christmas season again. The word “advent” comes from two Latin words, “ad” and “venio”. When put them together, the meaning is “come to”. In fact, this is where we are always. Our life is a journey that looks back to remembrance of an advent that has already happened, while looking forward to an advent yet to be. Our present is always between our past and our future. We are ever between two advents, two comings.
As a Christian faith community, the First Advent has us looking back to the birth of Jesus the Christ as one of us. This is God coming to share our humanity and our human condition. It is the Incarnation, God sharing our humanity. It is God walking with us in the challenges and accomplishments, the joys and sorrows that we and our world experience. In the Advent-Christmas season we remember and celebrate this First Advent of God among us.
The Second Advent is yet to come. It is the It is the coming of Christ in Glory. With this we have the fullness of redemption. The reign of God proclaimed by Jesus will come to its fulfillment. With it we become the creation we are meant to be. As we enter the Advent-Christmas season this year, we look forward with expectation and hope to this Second Advent, as yet unfulfilled.
Our life unfolds between these two advents, knowing God journeys among us; and we strive to imitate Jesus’ mission – with him as our model and mentor. We strive to bring creation to what is God’s dream for us. In Mark’s Gospel we hear the clarion call of the prophets: “Keep alert, you do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:33-37)
Now we wait and we work to fulfill creation to the wonder it is meant to be, marked by love and peace, mercy and compassion. Our expectation, our hopes and our labours are for all humanity and all creation. This was the vision expressed by the spiritual writer and Trappist monk, Thomas Merton (1915-68). In March, 1958 he was on a busy shopping street in Louisville, Kentucky when he had a tremendous insight of love, a mystical experience.
Merton’s experience captured what is God’s dream for all humanity: In Louisville,… in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers…. I have the immense joy of being [creature, a person] a member of [humanity] in whom God Himself became incarnate.” (Thomas Merton. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1966))
We might say that what Merton describes is a glimpse of what Jesus has called all of us to. When this fully comes about, it is the complete reign of God, “a kingdom of justice, love and peace” for all humanity. This is the Second Advent, God’s dream. For this we wait, in hope and expectation and we live lives united with Jesus to nurture it in our present world and among all peoples, freely and with great openness and love. For we are all God’s creation. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah speaks for us: O Lord, you are our Parent; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hands. (Isaiah 64:8)