Is. 61:1-2a, 10-11
I remember the conversation I overheard as if it was yesterday instead of years ago. I was alone in my thoughts enjoying a cup of coffee at McDonald’s and in the table next to me were four women discussing Advent. We as Church had just begun the Season of Advent and they were discussing what it meant to be “waiting with anticipation.” They were obviously cradle Catholics and it was clear they understood we were preparing for the coming of Christ at both Christmas and at the end of time. It was the “anticipation” aspect of waiting which they had trouble visualizing and implementing in their lives. They have done the same thing Advent after Advent and it was bothering them that nothing changed in their lives. Were they doomed to experience another Advent where anticipation falls flat because they just do not know how anticipation works?
We in silent stillness wait. What are we waiting for? Are we confused as the disciples were when they were told “…behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49). What was this promise made to them and to us and how does that promise change us so we know beyond a shadow of doubt that what we await is the promise of greater revelation about God and ourselves as sons and daughters.
If we could grasp that one concept of our restoration as sons and daughters we would not only understand the concept of waiting with anticipation but we would help others wait with anticipation. I realize in hindsight how my silence that day was a failing on my part to help seekers find an answer that day. I missed one of those opportunities to share the gospel in season or out of season by opening the scriptures for them as Jesus did the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
If we understood the impact of the death of Jesus Christ on our relationship with God we would be bolder in professing our belief in Jesus Christ. But more than a blind faith we would have an active faith feeling the presence of God each moment of every day. We would anticipate the love of God being poured into our hearts and we would boldly seek give expression to his presence in our lives. This absolute knowledge of the mission and purpose of Jesus is faith and faith is the fuel which makes our hearts burn with a desire to make the love of God known to everyone we encounter.
However I am willing to bet that the majority of us have had that same experience of Advent voiced by those four women. We have fallen into a routine as we live out our faith each day. If we are honest with ourselves we must admit what we are doing is not increasing our experience of God’s love in our life. So let us try something different this Advent. Let us invite the Word of God to open our minds and hearts so we experience God’s presence within us and to increase our hunger for him in our lives.
Let the words of Isaiah we hear today be more than a well known prophesy about the mission of Jesus. Let us hear them as words of Jesus to us. Let resonate within us as we remember his words to us in that upper room the night before he died. Unbelievable words telling us “we will do the same works as Jesus and far greater than his works because he is going to send to us the Promise of the Father – The Holy Spirit.” With this understanding of who we are called to be our anticipation of Jesus coming becomes a reality because the Spirit will guide words and deeds.
So let us listen to the words of Isaiah spoken to us and all who come to faith in Jesus Christ. “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God”. This is our mission and why we must listen to Jesus speaking to our hearts guiding us to bring glad tidings, to heal the broken hearted, to set captives free and to aid all in understanding God is in our land.
Understanding how we are anointed and sent out is a key part of having a meaningful Advent of responding to the coming of Christ and experiencing the love of God poured into our hearts as we open our hearts to receive him. We like Mary must always listen for the voice of God and submit our lives to his will understanding we are given all we need to do his will. The scriptures are clear how God is at work within us moving us to do his will. Paul makes this abundantly clear in today’s epistle when he says, “…may the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it (1 Thes.5:22-24).
We must know that our holiness is not something we accomplish but it is the Spirit at work in us transforming us into holy men and women because we invite him into our lives. It is in surrendering to God and allowing him to work in us instead of us working and deciding how to become holy. It is so simple it is difficult to believe we only need to say yes to Jesus. There has to be something we must do and there is something we must do and it is stop trying and become active in listening. That is hard for us who have been taught holiness is spiritual growth therefore we believe we must do more than embrace what is offered us. What we await and anticipate is given to us as gift from God and is cannot be earned by us. Yet we feel that it has to be more complex than just saying yes and believing in the promises of God.
Advent is an invitation given to us to follow him. We are told apart from him we can do nothing. We have been given the Spirit to make the love of God real in our lives. What is it we are to anticipate? Go into that room and pray for the power of God to come upon you as it did the disciples on the day of Pentecost.
Advent is so much more than a time of waiting; it is active anticipation of inviting Jesus to be born in our hearts.