Advent is all about looking forward, about waiting for something great, something awesome – in two different, but related ways. First, we look forward to the celebration of Jesus’ birth at Christmas, of Jesus’ incarnation as God’s Love in the world. Yet at the same time, we are looking forward to Jesus’ parousia or second coming as well; in fact, the Latin adventus, from which we derive Advent, is a translation of the Greek word parousia. And as we wait, how are we to prepare? Our readings this Sunday give us some clues.
First, the prophet Jeremiah announces the future coming of the Messiah: The days are coming, says the Lord… when I will raise up for David a just shoot. Jeremiah hopes for an eternal Davidic dynasty, and we see that promise realized in the person of Jesus – the first coming. Likewise, in this week’s Gospel, Jesus himself reminds us of the second coming, exhorting the disciples to Be vigilant at all times, and to pray. The word vigilance again reinforces that sense of wakefulness (the word vigil refers to the wakeful period on the eve of a religious celebration), as Jesus encourages the disciples to stand erect and raise [their] heads in anticipation of his return to earth.
In between, this week’s Psalm as well as the reading from the Letter to the Thessalonians remind us how to live in the meantime: we must be open to God’s work in our lives, allowing ourselves to be guided by God’s truth, attentive to God’s teaching, keeping his covenant so that we might enjoy full friendship, an intimate relationship, with God (Psalm 25). Paul’s letter echoes this call to openness, particularly insofar as we are called to love, for one another and for all… so as to strengthen [our] hearts.
So, waiting, we love; loving, we wait… and Advent begins! O come, o come, Emmanuel!