Advent is a joyful season as we wait for God in our world and in our lives. Although we can be anxious sometimes, the joy in knowing Christ is with us can never be taken from us.
In the first of our Sunday readings from the Prophet Baruch 5:1-9, the prophet looks into the future, much as we might, and longs for that time when there is peace because there is a real sense of justice throughout all the earth. We can never have peace unless the rights and dignity of people are acknowledged and respected. We long for that day. I think of migrants wanting a better life for themselves and their children. I think of the millions of people on the brink of starvation in the Yemen and the victims of the war in Syria. If we are not longing for a better time, then it will be difficult for us to understand and empathize with the dreams and longings of all those who feel displaced and exiled from their homes and land. If we are not longing for a better time we are comfortable with the status quo.
A Time To Renew Our Longings
Advent is a time to renew our longings. We can desire God’s presence in our lives and desire a good life for ourselves and for others. We can hope for cures from diseases of our time. Some marvelous people devote their lives searching for cures to relieve the sufferings of others. What a gift it is to the world when a breakthrough is made. Where would we be if they had never hoped or longed for such a cure?
We can all desire a better economy for ourselves and for other people in which those struggling to make ends meet are no longer in such a predicament. Where would we be without those who continue to long, protest and struggle for a just society?
We can desire a cleaner and greener environment as so many people do today who are passionate about people and the planet. Where would we be without the efforts of those who work tirelessly to protect the wonder and beauty of our flora and fauna?
We can desire that all children who suffer will be freed from their suffering and know peace, joy and delight. Where would we be without those organizations and people who go out of their way to bring such delight to children?
These types of hopes and desires help us understand the longing of our spiritual ancestors who wanted to return to their own land and worship their own God. Isn’t that what most people want? To have a sense of autonomy, a place to call home and the freedom to express what they truly believe and hold dear. A friend who recently visited the Holy Land met an elderly Muslim man who was being intimidated by the soldiers. His response was, “I don’t hate them, I just want to live my life in peace”. Now that’s a dream worth longing for and for us to stand in solidarity with.
Baruch looks into the future and sees that day when things will be different and rejoices in it. He imagines Jerusalem as once more the centre of the world and filled with people who love God. I know not everyone has faith in God or believes in him but how different our world would be if people looked beyond themselves and acknowledged they were not the centre of the universe.
St Paul’s letter to the Philippians 1:3-6. 8-11 sees him yearning for the good of those who have become followers of Jesus. He wants them to be able to discern what is truly of value. Again, we can ponder how different our world would be if everyone longed only for those realities that truly have value!
And in Luke’s Gospel 3:1-6 today, we have the voice of John the Baptist crying in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths! All our longing and yearning is not so much about our personal salvation but that together our world will be saved and all its peoples, saved from those things that oppress, destroy and divide. Those things Christ came to save us from. On the one hand this seems a foolish yearning and longing and one that will never happen. On the other hand, it is surely the longing and yearning of the heart of Christ himself. We continue to long and pray for that day.
Listen to 'You answered me (Psalm 138)' from ‘Making Music to Your Name’.